My family has had to cut back a lot since I started staying home with my children. One of the first areas we looked to cut was our food budget. We went from buying a lot of convenience foods to making our meals from scratch. Not only did we save money, but the meals were better tasting and we were actually eating healthier. One way I have saved on our food budget is by serving a meatless meal once a week. For most meals, the biggest expense comes from the meat, but you can still have a delicious, tasteful, and healthy meal by going meatless. One thing I like to substitute for meat is lentils. I buy lentils for about $0.89 a bag, so you can see the budget benefits. If you have had them and you didn’t like them then you need to give them another chance. I think the right recipe makes all the difference.
What are Lentils?
Lentils are a member of the legume family and can be found with other dried beans in your grocery store. They have health benefits such as lowering cholesterol and preventing blood sugar levels from rising rapidly after a meal. Lentils also provide six important minerals, two B-vitamins, and protein, all with virtually no fat. The calorie content is 230 calories for a one cup serving. Lentils come in green and brown colors among others.
How Do You Prepare Lentils?
One of the great things about lentils is unlike other types of beans they do not require soaking and therefore are quicker to prepare. Sort through your lentils to make sure they are free of any stones or debris and then put them in a strainer and rinse thoroughly under cool water. Place the lentils in boiling water, this helps the lentils to digest more easily. Use three cups of water for one cup of lentils. Next, turn the heat to simmer. Cover and cook for 20-30 minutes. Some recipes will recommend cooking the lentils differently based on the texture that is desired for the recipe (such as the Lentil Tacos below), so make sure you read your recipe.
I found that these two recipes are the easiest way to get your family to enjoy lentils. So, try these with your family this week and save some money on your meals.
3/4 cup dry lentils(brown ones)
3/4 cup dry brown rice
4 cups water
4 beef bouillon cubes (substitute chicken or vegetable, if desired)
4 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
2 teaspoons onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
Dump everything in a medium pot and boil. Turn down the heat to a little lower than medium and cook covered (just like rice) until done. I usually stir every 5-6 minutes, but you probably don’t need to once the spices are well mixed! Use just like regular taco filling.
Note: You can eat this on soft tortillas or hard taco shells and add tomatoes cheese lettuce and sour cream as desired.
Lentil and Brown Rice Casserole
3 cups broth (chicken or vegetable)
3/4 cup lentils
1/2 cup brown rice
3/4 cup chopped onion
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 cup grated cheese
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Mix all ingredients except the cheese in a baking dish (I use an 11 x 7). Cover with foil and bake for 1 hour 10 minutes. Then remove the foil, add the cheese, and bake for an additional 20 minutes.
Note: You can jazz this up by adding barbeque sauce, spaghetti sauce, or salsa.