Busy Mom Recipe of the Week: Lentils 3 ways

I LOVE my slow cooker. I think it is the best invention for any busy mom. I use it at least twice a week – pop ingredients in in the morning, turn it on and when you get home, voila! Dinner is made. It is fantastic for pulses (which I always burn on the stove top). You can cook one 500g bag of beans or lentils and create 3 different meals from it that the kids will love.

To cook the lentils:

  • Dice 1 large or 2 medium onions and cook in a little olive oil until glassy. Add some minced or chopped garlic and mixed herbs
  • Place onion in a slow cooker with 2 grated carrots, one diced tomato or a can of chopped tomatoes, 500g dry *lentils, 2 stock cubes and 1 kettle of boiling water
  • Cook on high until lentils are soft and gravy is thickened (I usually put the slow cooker on at around 8am and by 4pm they are done. Beans will be done by 6pm). 

Lentil Bolognaise

Mix one third of your lentils with roast tomato pasta sauce and spoon over spaghetti. Top with grated parmesan.

Lentil, Spinach and Ricotta Lasagna

Saute some shredded spinach or chard and a finely chopped onion in some butter. Don’t overcook – spinach should just be bright green and wilted. Mix with ricotta or smooth cottage cheese. Spread a layer of lentils over the bottom of a lasagna dish. Top with a single layer of lasagna sheets. Spoon spinach mix over and top with another layer of lasagna sheets, followed by lentils and lasagna sheets again. Either top with cheese sauce or roast tomato sauce. Bake in the oven at 180*C for 40min. Allow to stand for 10 min before serving.

Cottage Pie

Saute one onion and dried sage in a little olive oil. Add one box of dried soya mix (or mince if you want a meat version). Add water according to instructions on the box and cook. Mix in leftover lentils and 250g frozen peas. Place in an oven-proof dish. Top with a layer of mashed butternut and then mashed potato. Sprinkle grated cheese over the top and grill until lightly browned

*You can follow the same basic recipe with dry beans instead of lentils. Use thyme instead of (or as well as) mixed herbs. Serve with basmati rice and roasted butternut. Use leftover beans to make refried beans for tortilla wraps. Top with roast tomato sauce and cheese and bake for 20min. Serve with shredded lettuce, diced tomato and guacamole 

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Busy Mom Recipe: Easy Pasta Sauce

I’m having a rare stay-at-home-mom-day today and taking the opportunity to do some cooking with the kids. One of the things we made today was my easy-peasy pasta sauce. There are few things I like more than fresh pasta with fresh napoletana sauce. It is always a big hit with the children and there are never any arguments about eating dinner when this is on the menu. While I quite often do a big batch in my slow cooker, taking the time to peel and de-seed the tomatoes, sometimes one simply doesn’t have the time. This is a really nice recipe to involve the kids in because it is so easy, and I have this romantic notion that it is so simple that they will remember it and be able to make it for themselves when they are grown (or to impress my future daughters-in-law!).

You need:

  • Tomatoes (of any kind: roma, jam, plum, rosa, cherry or plain old english tomatoes. Today I used a mix of store-bought long life tomatoes and cherry tomatoes from my garden)
  • Garlic
  • Olive oil
  • Basil
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Balsamic vinegar

Quarter your tomatoes, or halve them if they are small. Cut off the bit where the stalk attaches. Toss them into a roasting pan or oven dish. Add some garlic (crushed or whole cloves) and shredded basil, season with salt and pepper and glug some olive oil over the whole lot. Pop it in the oven at 200*C until roasted or starting to brown but not stick to the bottom of the pan. Allow it to cool and then pop it into a blender and whizz until you get the consistency you like – I like it a bit chunky so I pulse it. Add balsamic vinegar to taste – it adds sweetness so you don’t have to add sugar. Serve over fresh pasta with lashings of Parmesan cheese. Yum!

It freezes really well too, so make a big batch and then store some for an even quicker meal. I have not included quantities because it’s one of those things that works so well with what you have in the fridge (and I almost never measure when I cook). You can make it with 8 tomatoes or 18!