Lentil Sloppy Joes – Prepare a Healthy & Hearty Meal with Pantry Staples

“The deep roots never doubt spring will come.”
― Mary Rubin

If your household is anything like ours, May is an exciting and hectic time. The kids and I are finishing up with school and my husband always has extra training and projects to finish at work. In addition, in the spring our farm chores start to pick up momentum and in the hustle and bustle of life, meal planning and grocery shopping often get pushed to the side. It is times like these that make it necessary to do an inventory of what is available in the house and make some magic happen the kitchen.

Thankfully, I am great at stocking up on pantry staples. There is a running joke in our house that when the zombies attack – the Waldos will not starve. My step-son Lukas loves to tell the story of the time that John and I got home from our honeymoon in Alaska. I declared to everyone that I HAD to go grocery shopping because we had “no food in the house.” Needless to say, four days later (without grocery shopping) I managed to feed our family of four (plus Grandpa) three meals a day (including snacks and dessert). I guess that is one of the benefits of being a teacher – we are always planning ahead. Even when we do not realize that we are.

Another challenge with a whirlwind schedule is making sure that the food we consume has health benefits. When in a time crunch it is easy to grab heavily processed meals that are void of nutrition. That is one of the reasons that I believe in keeping a well-stocked kitchen. I almost always have the ingredients on hand for the recipe that I am going to share with you today.

Sloppy Joes were a childhood favorite in my house, but this “grown up” version is much healthier. The lentils have staying power and are filling and you can serve in a variety of ways. You can serve it on buns, in pita pockets, or open faced on a piece of artesian bread. I like to toast the bread and sprinkle with with dill pickles. If you are trying to watch your bread intake it is fabulous served over romaine leaves or even as a topping for sautéed cabbage or zucchini. I have shared this recipe before and since I have received a lot of feedback on it, I believe it is worthy of sharing again!

Lentil Sloppy Joes

LENTIL SLOPPY JOES

  • 2 cups lentils (If you want to get fancy you can purchase red lentils in bulk at the Marquette co-op)
  • 5 cups of water
  • 1 cup of chopped onion
  • 1 cup of chopped green bell pepper
  • 1 cup of chopped celery
  • 2 cloves of garlic (minced)
  • 6 ounces of tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 1 Tablespoon yellow mustard
  • 1 Tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon worcestershiresauce
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes(or more)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • *Optional ~ hot sauce(to taste)

Directions:

  1. Saute the onion, celery, garlic, and bell pepper until soft (5-10 minutes)
  2. Add in the rest of the ingredients and simmer for 60 minutes. Stir often and you may have to add more water as it cooks.
  3. You may want to add more spices/vinegar/mustard based on your taste. Sometimes I like to add extra hot sauce and an extra splash of vinegar right before serving.
  4. Makes Seven Cups. If you do not want such a large batch you can use the same amount of ingredients but reduce the lentils to one cup and only add 2 1/2 cups of water. I like to make a large batch so we have leftovers. Sometimes I freeze in individual containers for grab-and-go lunches.

I hope that your spring plans are in full swing and that you can find solace and healthy comfort in your kitchen. I find that when my calendar gets full it is deeply satisfying to know that I am still managing to feed my family nutritious meals that help fuel our time commitments. So fill out that shopping list with kitchen staples, buy fresh produce and wholesome ingredients, and fill your refrigerator and deep freeze with meals that are simple and satisfying. I hope that you add this recipe to your menu. If you do, please take a  moment and  let me know what you think.

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Plant-Based Comfort Food ~ Red Lentil Sloppy Joes

Lilies from my garden.

Lilies in my garden.

“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” 
― Mahatma Gandhi

I have been negligent in posting lately. The truth is that I have been in a slump. The start to my summer was very strong with solid routines, blissful time spent outside gardening, and a flourish of writing and new recipes. In the past few weeks my bedtime has crept up later-and-later and because of this I have felt really fatigued. The weather has been an endless cycle of cold and rainy skies and I think that the blues sunk in and dissolved my motivation. Each day I set goals for myself. I even write them down when I am doing my daily journal writing and post them in my Weight Watchers Facebook group. However, for a few weeks I have been coming up short in achieving all of what I set out to do and today I am determined to reclaim my productivity. When I do not follow through with things that I want to achieve I felt guilty and depressed. With only a few weeks left of my summer holiday, I am going to make the most of the time left. The beginning of the school year is exhausting (so is the middle and end) and I want to start the year out with a clean and organized spaces (both my house and my classroom) and a positive attitude.

One of the goals that I set for myself a couple of weeks ago was a two-week Raw Food Challenge. Last year when we bought a Vitamix the idea was that we would incorporate more raw meals into our diet. I started off strong and found a fantastic blog called This Rawsome Vegan Life and I tried three recipes which I loved and will be making again (in fact, I did made the Beet Soup three times and the Raw Lasagna twice already). The recipes that I tried: Beet & Avocado Soup with Cashew Cream, Raw Lasagna with Cashew Cheese and Broccoli and Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto, and Raw Vegan Burrito Wraps. Once the weekend arrived, with more lousy weather, my resolve fizzled out.  I tried to recover my 229challenge on Monday, but I ended up deciding to end it instead. However, I am still committed to learning more about raw food. In the coming weeks I will try to incorporate a raw food plan for a couple of days out of the week. Mike really LOVED the Raw Lasagna and I know that I will be making it again soon with fresh zucchini from our garden.

I think part of my problem with following through with my challenge was that my body started craving comfort foods. Sometimes this can be a challenge with a plant-based diet, especially when you do not feel like cooking. I cook for Mike, but since he eats meat, I do not eat what he is having for dinner.

Today one of my number one goals was to come up with a meal plan for the coming week and write out my grocery list. After inspecting the refrigerator, freezer, and pantry situation I realized that I had enough ingredients to cook quite a few meals already. (I tend to over-shop and stock pile food supplies.) So instead, I decided to engage in a cooking marathon so I have things in the house to eat this coming weekend.

First up I tossed all the ingredients in the crock pot for a soup posted on the fantastic blog, My Whole Food Life, Hearty White Bean Soup. Not only did I have all the ingredients on hand (including white beans already cooked and frozen) but I was able to gather fresh sage, thyme, and parsley from my garden.

I also whipped up a batch of hummus and tabouli for a few Israeli Feast: Mason Jar Salads and a Fennel and Cabbage Slaw that I have been meaning to make (recipe coming soon).

I knew that the Hearty White Bean Soup would cover the comfort food but I wanted something else for lunch today. When going through the pantry I saw that I had the ingredients for Red Lentil Sloppy Joes and decided that was exactly what I was craving. I also decided that I would blog out the recipe right away. No fancy photos (just a couple snapped with my iPhone) and this would help me get my blogging mojo back.

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RED LENTIL SLOPPY JOES

  • 2 cups red lentils (I purchase in the bulk section of our local co-op)
  • 5 cups of water
  • 1 cup of chopped onion
  • 1 cup of chopped green bell pepper
  • 1 cup of chopped celery
  • 2 cloves of garlic (minced)
  • 6 ounces of tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 1 Tablespoon yellow mustard
  • 1 Tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon Vegan worcestershire (Here is recipe from Martha Stewart for Homemade Vegan Worcestershire)
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes (or more)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • *Optional ~ hot sauce (to taste)

Directions:

  1. Saute the onion, celery, garlic, and bell pepper until soft (5-10 minutes)
  2. Add in the rest of the ingredients and simmer for 60 minutes. Stir often and you may have to add more water as it cooks.
  3. You may want to add more spices/vinegar/mustard based on your taste. Sometimes I like to add extra hot sauce and an extra splash of vinegar right before serving.
  4. Serve in buns, in pita pockets, or open faced. I like to toast the bread and sometimes sprinkle with a bit of plant-based Daiya cheese and top with dill pickles. If you are trying to watch your bread intake I have had it served over romaine leaves or even as a topping for sauteed cabbage or zucchini.
  5. Makes 7 Cups. If you do not want such a large batch you can use the same amount of ingredients but reduce the lentils to one cup and only add 2 1/2 cups of water.

I do not serve this meal to Mike (he is not fond of the texture of lentils) so I make him the real deal. It freezes well and I find that it really tastes like Sloppy Joes. I think that in order to stick to a plant-based meal plan it is important that you do not feel deprived. My mom always made Sloppy Joes (but we always called them Barbecues) when I was growing up so it reminds me of home. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do. Let me know what you think!

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You can find this recipe, along with others at my Produce with Amy board on Pinterest. Please consider joining the conversation at my Produce with Amy Facebook page.

I challenge you to join me in finishing out the week strong. Write out that shopping list, buy fresh produce and wholesome ingredients, and fill your refrigerator and deep freeze with meals that are simple and satisfying. A plant-based diet does not have to translate to boring. There are so many healthy comfort foods that will keep us on track. What is your favorite plant-based comfort food?

I think this post was exactly what I needed to get back on track. Today I will be at peace because what I want to do, what I am saying I will to do, and what I am doing are all in harmony. This is a trend that I am going to continue into tomorrow, the weekend, and all the weeks that follow. (((((Productivity)))))

(Click on image for a larger version.)

(Click on image for a larger version.)

Red Lentil Sloppy Joes