Recent Favorite: cheap and comforting

I love bulk bins. Love, love, love them. They’re like a hippie paradise: a wall full of unlimited beans, grains, nuts, seeds, dried fruit, granola, spices. So, naturally, I tend to go a little overboard. I may have two pounds of black beans at home, but I really need some more chickpeas. And while I’m at it, why not a lifetime supply of brown rice? It’s not like it’s going to go bad. I’ll eat it eventually.

But, like every good business student knows, higher inventory levels mean higher costs. Keeping pounds upon pounds of bulk food in my pantry isn’t the most budget-friendly decision. So in the interest of spending a little less on food this month, I’ve been trying to clean out my pantry and only spend money on what I really need — fruits and veggies, and any other essentials I’ve run out of.

So, with a bag full of greens, a jar full of lentils, and chilly fall temperatures knocking on my door, I figured I could make a nice hearty stew to hold me over through the rest of the week. I browsed some recipes online and came up with something — simple, comforting, delicious, and incredibly cheap. You could easily stretch this into 5 meals, and the ingredients cost around $10. Score!

Simple Lentil Stew with Greens
2 T olive oil, divided
1 onion, chopped
3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 1/4 C Dried Lentils, rinsed and sorted*
1 C vegetable broth
2.5 C water
1 T cumin
1 t cinnamon
1 t paprika
1/8 t cayenne pepper (optional)
2 t white balsamic vinegar, divided
1 lb leafy greens, chopped**
Salt and pepper, to taste (I used smoked sea salt, which is one of my favorite ingredients ever AND they have it at Trader Joe’s for $3)

* make sure to pick through your lentils to make sure there are no rocks or other debris in them, and then rinse them off.
** I bought a 1 lb bag of mixed greens from Trader Joe’s but you could use any combination of Kale, Collards, Spinach, or any other green you enjoy. Greens are so good for you and hold up well to stews like this one.

Directions:

Heat 1 T oil in a large pot over medium/medium-high. Add in onions and stir until translucent, about 4 minutes. Add in garlic and stir 30 more seconds.

I LOVE COOKING ONIONS.

Add the dried lentils, cooking for another minute or so before you add the water and vegetable broth. Bring to a boil, then cover and let simmer. The lentils should cook for about 20-25 minutes, or until soft.

While the lentils cook, prepare your greens. Heat 1 T oil in a large pan, and begin to add your greens. a pound of greens is a LOT, so you may have to add some, let them cook down, add some more, etc. Cook for about 5 – 10 minutes, or until greens are thoroughly cooked down. Add 1 t of vinegar (you could probably use lemon juice here, too) and some salt + pepper and cook for another minute.

Once your greens are done, add them to your lentil mixture. Next, add your spices, and salt and pepper if needed. Cook for about 5-10 more minutes. You could let this simmer even longer, but I was hungry, and my pot of poor girl food smelled delicious. Stir in the last teaspoon of vinegar before serving.

I served mine over garlicky polenta (recipe here, duh) and have been enjoying the leftovers for days. I love how warm and comforting this recipe is, and it is SO easy to make! It’s not pretty or fancy, but it’s just what I needed. Now if I can only find a way to get through my four pounds of beans in the cupboard….

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