Happy fall, y’all! As soon as the weather starts turning nippy, I want nothing more than to cuddle up with a kitten and a warm bowl of soup. (Actually, I am into this pretty much any time). Lucky for me, I have a crock pot and a few minutes to spare.
I received an awesome slow cooker as a gift for Christmas a couple of years ago, and immediately wanted to start making amazing things in it. Last spring, I made a blind attempt and mixing quinoa and lentils in my crockpot, and ended up with what I lovingly referred to as “the gruel”. It didn’t taste terrible but had the texture of slightly dried paste. My skills have gotten better since then, and one of my most frequent recipes is a quick, easy lentil stew that makes tasty, filling, and cheap lunches for a week.
The best part about this recipe is that you can throw pretty much anything into it. On this occasion, I happened to have a couple of peppers, a parsnip that was past its prime, and half of an onion. I get my lentils from Trader Joe’s mostly, though I’ve also used the regular bagged bulk supply from our grocery store. I just like the TJ’s lentils better. Personal preference. I also use Better Than Bouillon for a bit of flavor. I don’t hate on bouillon cubes, but I can’t find the veggie variety at my local grocer. However, if you already have a bunch of prepared broth, feel free to skip the bouillon step and just add the broth instead of water in the following steps.
First step is the easiest, but the most important. I use a ratio of 4:1 for lentils, which keeps them from soaking up all of the water and turning into putty, but still allows for a thicker, stewy consistency in the end. You could use more water if you’d like, but I probably wouldn’t use much less. For a big batch, I use 2 cups of lentils and 8-9 cups of water. If you’re using broth, you’re all set. But if you’re using bouillon, take a moment before you add that last cup of water…
Heat up your last cup of water in the microwave (or boil water on the stove, whatever your fancy). Then add your bouillon and stir, stir, stir. I don’t like my soups salty, so I only add about a tablespoon of bouillon for the whole shebang, but you might want a bit more. Check out the directions on your package and make the call.
Go ahead and dice up your veggies. I cut them kind of tiny on this occasion, but I’m experimenting more with leaving big chunks to add texture to the stew. I also typically add some crushed garlic to my crockpot at this point, but not everyone is as into garlic as I am. You can smell me cooking with garlic from a block away. No vampires here, folks.
Toss everything in and give it a good stir. Your lentils will definitely hang out at the bottom while everything you just added will float, but it’s OK. They’re all in this together. If your slow cooker has a timer, set it on low for 7 hours and 30 minutes. If it doesn’t, set it on low and set another time for 7 hours and 30 minutes (you probably could have figured that out). I know you can cook faster on the higher setting, but since I always cook this all day or overnight, I’ve never had to speed the process along. I’d estimate you could probably have this done in about 4 and a half hours on a higher setting. At around 6 and a half hours, if you’re home, you can check on it. It won’t hurt to leave it in longer, but if you’re in a time crunch and it’s done, you can take it out.
Time to eat! As you can see, the lentils definitely soaked up a whole bunch of that water and met up with the veggies. My usual recipe will make about 5 to 8 meals, depending on how large of a bowl you want. Perfect for a family meal or company. That’s a whole lot of good eating for $5 or less!