Despite the fact that recently it may appear that I’ve been subsisting on a steady diet of creamy citrus pies or cookies stuffed with breakfast cereal, I can assure you that it’s actually quite the contrary around these parts.
Sure last weekend I managed to eat dinner out at three decadent restaurants in as many nights, sat outside on my deck lazily sipping sangria, and really only got my rear end to the gym once (and…errrm…spent most of that ‘visit’ perched poolside, trolling Pinterest, and sporting my sunnies).
(Hey, at least I refrained from ordering a beer.)
((And yes, they do serve beer at the gym pool. Cruel, no?)
But I promise you that not all has gone to hell-in-a-holiday-weekend-hand-basket here. There has been some healthy answers to all of that…..unhealthy three-day weekend-ing, and those answers come in the form of little red lentils, kale plucked out of our garden, and a big old pile of carrots.
This easy lentil bowl is a very realistic snapshot of what our little trifecta winds up eating most nights. It is meat free….which I know can be a hard sell for a lot of you. But it is also really satisfying, totally filling, very flavorful, and extremely budget friendly – four attributes I think totally negate and bargain for this bowl’s lack of any carnivorous traits.
We have made a definite shift away from the easy-to-fall-into trap of meat for supper every night, and as you find yourself spending more time in the produce aisle and relying less on simply defaulting to “chicken again, darlin’?”‘ in one form or another, it becomes easier and easier to adjust your family’s expectations. Though we do eat fish a lot here (much more so than meat), true meat (of the landlubbing type) only makes its way into our dinner schedule when cooking at home once or maybe twice a week, on average.
Don’t get me wrong – I do enjoy meat very much (and I actually have some fried porkchops waiting in the wings for you) – but along with veggie-based meals being much more economical, steering away from consuming mass–produced and poorly-treated meat many times a week, and instead toward a diet full of more vegetables, fish, and sustainably raised and organic meat less often, makes me feel better, all around.
Vegetarian meals are usually easier to digest, they are inherently healthier (with vegetables generally containing less saturated fats and calories than meat), they are better for the environment (no gas emitting feedlots needed), and by saving your money to buy well treated, happily raised organic animals, you’ll get better tasting hormone and antibiotic-free meat. As a self-professed animal lover, knowing the animal that I am fortunate enough to consume didn’t lead a tortured or pained life is something I feel very strongly about, and I feel that I owe it to that animal to support farming methods that at least provide them with a decent life.
Though there are a thousand debates, conversations, and reasoning for other ways of thinking, this is just how I feel. Being conscious of these things is very important to me, and though sometimes circumstances don’t always allow me to dictate the provenance of my food, I try my best.
And besides costing peanuts compared to a feeding a family of four a meat-centric meal, you’ll only sully one dish – which automatically makes a recipe angelic, in my eyes. This lentil bowl is super simple, and in about forty minutes (with twenty of those being hands-off simmer time), you’ll have a warm, slightly spicy thick stew-like bowl of tender lentils, silky carrots, wilted strands of vitamin-rich kale, and the most lovely coconut milk based sauce binding it all together.
It might not seem exciting….but an iteration of this truly is what we end up eating a lot around here, and it always ends up being one of meals we look forward to most. If you get yourself in the habit of keeping coconut milk, canned tomatoes, broth, and canned and dried legumes on hand, it truly is amazing what you can do when “there’s nothhhhh-ing to eaaaa-ttttttt!”
Topped with a dollop of yogurt, the final dish tastes very rich, and is surprisingly filling, thanks to the lentils, chickpeas, and coconut milk. The type of curry powder you use will determine how spicy (or tame) the final dish is, and I like to customize each bowl with a drizzle of hot sauce, rather than set the whole pot aflame with a dose of cayenne or squirt of sriracha.
(However, you can totally set your pot aflame if you like….be a sadist, I say!)
I’ve been leafing through a few cookbooks determining the best way to prepare a piece of the local porkbelly I’ve been eyeing up at our farmer’s market, but after all of my recent indulgences, I’ll be tucking into this for a few days. Which is a very good thing, considering that it is probably safe to assume that the new bathing suit I’ve got doesn’t exactly seem like the type to get along so…..swimmingly with aforementioned pies, cookies, or porkbelly.
In my calendar, Summer kicks off with Memorial Day weekend – and that means lots more one-pot-hardly-any-dishes-healthy-and-filling-vegetarian dishes like this one right here.
Easy Lentil Bowl with Kale, Curry, and Chickpeas
Serves 4, with leftovers
This is less of a soup, and more of a really hearty stew-like bowl; it will not be very loose or brothy, and will thicken up even further when left to sit overnight. This tastes better with each passing day, so don’t be afraid to make more than you think you need. It reheats really well, and makes great lunches, snacks, or quicky dinners in the days that follow.
I love to top almost everything with Greek yogurt, and this is no exception. With a bit of 2% yogurt and some hot sauce of your choice (I like Frank’s), this bowl is taken to another level entirely. If you choose to omit those things, it will still be delicious….but I highly recommend them!
You can use any color or type of lentil, but I think that red blends the most nicely with the other ingredients. I used a flat-leaf variety of kale, however any type you prefer will work great. If you find that the stew is much too dry after the lentils are cooked, add in an additional splash (1/4 cup or so) of broth to thin it out. The stew is best super thick, so keep a light hand if you decide to do so.
This recipe does use a good bit of canned ingredients – however that is what makes it so great for spur of the moment dinners. There are still enough fresh ingredients here to keep it from tasting ‘canned’ at all, and (in the summertime) if you can get fresh tomatoes & juice go for it! The same goes for cooking your own chickpeas – the canned variety is just easier, but feel free to cook up your own. Finally, you can sub in chicken broth for the veggie broth, but that will render this unsuitable for vegetarians.
1 cup red lentils
5 carrots, peeled and chopped
6-8 leaves kale
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 large or 2 small shallots, minced
1 14 oz can diced tomatoes
1 14 oz can light coconut milk
1 14 oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 cup vegetable broth
1 Tbsp curry powder (I used Madras curry powder)
~1/3 cup roughly chopped cilantro
kosher salt to taste
2% Greek yogurt
In a large heavy bottomed pot, heat just enough oil to cover the bottom of the pot over medium-high heat. When the pot is hot, add the carrots and a large pinch of kosher salt and saute for 5 minutes, stirring often, until they just begin to soften. Stir in the minced shallot and garlic, and stir for 1 minute, until the garlic and shallot is fragrant and beginning to turn translucent (do not let them burn and become golden, as that will render your bowl bitter).
Add in the curry powder and stir for 30 seconds. Then, stir in the tomatoes and their juices, the coconut milk, and the vegetable broth. Bring the mixture to a boil, and then add in the lentils. Cover, and reduce the heat to a simmer. Simmer the mixture for 20-22 minutes, until the lentils are almost totally tender.
While the pot simmers, prepare the kale. Bunch the kale tightly in your hand, and cut into thin ribbons with a sharp knife. When the lentils are almost tender, stir in the drained and rinsed chickpeas, the thin ribbons of kale, and the roughly chopped cilantro. The stew should be very thick at this point, with the lentils having sucked up a good bit of the liquid. Simmer the pot for another 10-15 minutes, until the lentils and vegetables are tender. Taste, and adjust seasoning (I add a hearty pinch of salt here).
To serve, ladle into bowls and top with a dollop of yogurt and a few dashes of hot sauce, if desired. Serve immediately, or let cool and then refrigerate until ready to use. Stew keeps a week or so, covered, in the fridge.