Last night for supper we had cheesy broccoli lentil stew. Oh I just LOVE this particular lentil stew! If you've never tried lentils you should. You really should. I've heard them compared to lima beans but EWWWW limas are so gross there's no way! If lentils were like limas I wouldn't touch them with a ten foot pole. (Just don't tell my kids there's a veggie even Mama won't eat! Lol!) Miss Chicklet (almost 3) LOVES lentils. In fact, she's at the kitchen table right now eating cold leftover lentils and happily mumbling about "Yummy 'gumes!" My 1 year old had lentils for the first time last night and he scarfed them down like a starving person. My husband had never heard of lentils until he married me! He didn't want to try them at all. It took some
Lentils are a legume. (Which I happened to call them last night at dinner, trying to be funny. Hence my daughter's ''gumes' comment.) Basically a bean for all practical purposes. They are about the size of a dried pea and are flat and brown, red or green. They are supposedly a good source of protein and complex carbohydrates. A real superfood. Unlike beans you don't have to soak them overnight, and unlike rice they are quick to cook. The key to tasty lentils is not OVERcooking them. If you boil them too long they get mushy like the dreaded lima bean and that for me is a big turn-off. I can't stand to eat anything that has that mushy-lima-bean texture. *shudders* Unless you're a fan of mooshy limas, you'll want your lentils cooked minimally. I mean, you should be able to chew them without breaking a tooth, of course, but once they are tender all the way through that's where I stop. Usually takes about 15 minutes once it's boiling for perfect lentil doneness.
Now, who wants my lentil stew recipe?
Cheesy Lentil Stew
1 pound ground beef
1 pound bag of dry lentils
about 1 pound of frozen broccoli florets (or cauliflower, or both)
alot of grated cheese, sharp is best, maybe 3 or 4 cups? About half a small block grated up or more.
First wash and sort your lentils. Just put them in a strainer and run the faucet on them while you dig around a bit with your hand. I've never found a rock in my lentils but my mom has so it is possible and that's what you're checking for. No need to let your OCD get the better of you though, just dig around a bit and if you see something rocklike, remove it. When you've rinsed them and "sorted" them, put them into a big pot. Fill with water to about 1" above the lentil level. Now put it on HIGH to boil. You're gonna want to stir it often so the lentils don't stick to the bottom and burn. Unless you have a nonstick pot like I do- not healthy but it sure makes cooking easier. When it starts to boil start timing 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, brown your beef and drain it.
Back to our delicious legumes; You can add more water if it gets too low (you don't want it to boil dry) but the goal is to have the lentils be almost totally out of water by the time they're done. You see, all the nutrients boil out into the water and if you drain out the water there go the vitamins down the drain. So you want to just boil it down to where there's barely enough water to cover the lentils when you've removed the pot from the burner and things have settled. Except that you're not gonna remove it from the heat after all... You're going to taste a couple and if you think they need more cooking, boil them a bit longer and keep tasting until you are satisfied. When you're satisfied, like I said there should be hardly any liquid left. If there is too much you will have to remove some and pour those nutrients down the drain... *sniffle* bummer! But don't worry, it takes a little practice to know when to stop adding water to the lentils so that there is the perfect amount left when they're done. If you make this a couple times you'll have it down pat.
Now you add your frozen broccoli. Boil, stirring, until the broccoli is warm on the outside. Then turn down to a barely simmer and add the beef in and cover with a lid. Leave it, stirring once in a while, until the broccoli is warm clear through.
When the broccoli is warmed through, salt the stew to taste. Serve with generous amounts of grated cheese on top. Yummy!
*This recipe makes enough lentil stew for about 3 meals for my small family. It's actually kinda even better after it's been in the fridge overnight so I just leave it in the original pot and reheat it each night until it's gone. If I had more kids or company this recipe would be perfect for a nice large hearty meal!
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