Our family is growing in many ways... Growing in numbers, knowledge, parenting skills, growing in love, in our faith, growing our culinary skills (if you can call it that), growing without gluten (some of us), growing green...........

Sunday, July 31, 2011

My Ideal Comfort Food

This is comfort food to the max for me, which is kind of surprising because I have such a sweet tooth...and this is not a sweet dish, quite the opposite, in fact.

My mom used to make this dish when I was younger. I don't remember loving it or hating it. I just remember that it was served here and there, that I think it was usually served with green beans (not my favorite veggie, but when I think about this dish, it seems to need to be paired with green beans because I remember it that way), and I would put ketchup over both the beans and the dish. So, I guess it probably wasn't my favorite thing at the time. I would use ketchup with the green beans, since I didn't care for them all that much, and maybe that's why I put ketchup over the dish, as well? I don't know.

What I do know is that I love this dish now. To me, it screams comfort. Maybe it has to do with the memories of my mom making it or that it's a warm, soft dish. Whatever it is, I love everything about it, and it makes me feel so good. And I love that it happens to be good for me! The lentils, the beef...some great sources of protein and iron. It's very low-fat. Simple ingredients. And cheap to make, as well. There's not much I don't like about this recipe.

You might skim the ingredients and wonder how this could taste all that great. That's ok. It's simple, nothing fancy. It's not colorful. It's not very flavorful (as in there aren't a lot of spices or anything like that). But it is soooo good.

I'll post the recipe two ways. One is the way my mother would make it. The other is my version. I tried making it her way, but it was just too much work for me. I like fast and easy. Put it in the pot and walk away. So, I worked with it until I found a way to make it into a great crockpot meal. Now, you can't just dump all the ingredients into the crockpot. You do have to saute some items first, so there is a little bit of work. You could always do that step ahead of time or make it on a weekend. Since I am at home most mornings, I can do it then.

Daisy's CrockPot Beef & Lentils 

In a skillet, saute:
Olive oil
1-2 medium onions, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced (or two, if desired, or depending on the size)

Stir in:
1lb grass-fed ground beef
Brown well.

Place in CrockPot:
Beef, onion, garlic mixture
1 1/2 cups lentils, rinsed
4T (1/4 cup) rice
2 tsp or 1 Tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp kosher salt (use a bit less if not using kosher/large granules)
1/2 tsp pepper
3 1/4 cups water

Stir to be sure lentils are mixed with water.
Cook on low for 6 hours, checking on water level and lentils every so often. Be sure not to overcook lentils.
Add 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar or lemon juice before serving. (I never, ever remember this step and can't remember what it tastes like with it...)

If you want to double rice to 8T (1/2 cup), which I often do, use 3 3/4 cups water. You can add more rice, keeping in mind to adjust and add more water. Typically, add 2x the amount of water than you do rice, but I've found after 8T rice, it gets tricky and just doubling the water isn't quite enough. Check throughout the cooking time to be sure the bottom layer is not too dry.

Serve with some veggies. And some bread if you like that sort of thing. (I loved eating it with bread when I could eat regular bread.) We usually get two meals and maybe a couple small lunches out of this. It also freezes well. So, if you like it well enough and your crockpot is big enough, you can double the recipe and freeze some for another time!

And here's the original recipe, if you find it better suits your cooking style!

Skillet Beef With Lentils 

Bring 1 qt water to boil in saucepan.
Add 1 1/2 cups lentils, rinsed.
Cook for 20 minutes. Drain, reserving liquid.

In deep skillet, saute:
2 Tbsp butter or olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
Stir in 1 lb ground beef and brown well.

Dissolve 2 beef bouillon cubes in 2 1/3 cups reserved liquid or additional water. (This can be skipped. I never did it, and I'm not sure whether my mom did it or not.)
Add liquid to beef mixture. Cover and simmer 10 minutes.

Stir in:
Reserved lentils
2 Tbsp whole grain rice (Can use more, but add more water. 2 parts water to 1 part rice.)
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp pepper

Bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer 30-40 minutes or until lentils and rice are tender and liquid is absorbed (add more if necessary). 
Check seasonings and stir in 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar or lemon juice just before serving.

You can probably see why I prefer my way. Fewer steps! ;) Just my preference, though. You could easily leave out the sugar, if that bothers you. (Though this does make quite a bit, and it's not much sugar. But leave it out if you want!) And adjust the seasonings as you wish. I happen to love cumin. I smell of cumin and instantly think of this dish. Mmmmm.... But alter it however you want. It's a rather versatile recipe. Just remember where you got it. ;) To me, this is a family recipe. My mother may have found it in a cookbook and made her own changes, but it's one I grew up with and have never met anyone else that makes something like it. (Except...recently my mother-in-law was visiting and we served this. She said it reminded her of a dish her own mother used to make, except lamb was used instead of ground beef. She described it, and it sounded pretty similar, which kind of blew me away!)

This was also one of the very first dishes I really changed to make it my own, so I'm a little proud of it. It tastes very much like what my mother makes, but I make it so differently. It took more than a few takes to get it right in the crockpot, too! But once I finally got it, it was so worth it!

And yes, I still put ketchup on top. Just a little. And it's organic, so it's a little better than how I used to eat it. *wink, wink*

Let me know if you try this and what you think! Of course, I think it's the best ever. My ideal comfort food.


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