Saturday, May 28, 2011

Slow Cooker Lentil Sloppy Joes (Double Duty Recipe!)

My husband and children love sloppy joes, so I was really nervous to make this entirely vegetarian version for them! Hence, this recipe was loosely inspired by a recipe from "The Vegetarian Slow Cooker" by Judith Finlayson. I highly recommend this book if you are looking for vegetarian recipes and easy slow-cooking to boot--lots of recipes using fresh, nutritious ingredients unlike many of the vegetarian cookbooks I have searched through. Not a bunch of exotic ingredients you will spend a boatload on and/or never use again either. Many recipes are going to take some prep before you can dump them in the slow cooker, but so do most of my traditional slow cooker fares.

There are many variations you can use to make to this recipe. I added the carrots and bell pepper, they were not in the original recipe, but you could leave them out. You could leave out the onion and garlic and go for a little onion powder or garlic powder for flavor if you have picky eaters. You could use ketchup instead of tomato sauce and cut down a bit on the brown sugar. I hate mushy food, so I like my lentils and veggies to still have some bite to them. If you don't you could always cook the lentils slightly before putting them in the slow cooker (or used canned) and saute the veggies in a little bit of olive oil to soften them up first. Or extend the slow cooking time. Experiment to find what works for you!

I like to serve these on 100% whole wheat sandwich thins/thin buns. Depending on what's on sale and available, I grab Arnold or Earth Grains. My husband and kids usually like theirs plain, but I like to top mine with some organic baby spinach, red onion, banana peppers and tomato. I usually serve these with a fresh fruit mixture and roasted sweet potato fries or a veggie and pasta salad (stay tuned for those recipes!).

DOUBLE DUTY ALERT: Not only do these make delicious sloppy joes, they are great as a vegetarian baked bean side dish! 

Lentils are a great source of fiber and iron. Just one serving (1/4 cup dry, about 1/2 cup cooked) packs 9 grams of fiber, about 36% of the standard daily recommended amount, and 15% of the standard daily recommended amount of iron. Not too shabby for a tiny little legume! I will definitely be using these in future recipes, so expect a lentil soup recipe very soon!

Slow Cooker Lentil Sloppy Joes

1 cup dried green or brown lentils
1 small onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
2 organic carrots, diced
1/4 of a med/lg bell pepper, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 8 oz can no salt added tomato sauce
1 tomato sauce can of water
1 tsp mustard (whatever you've got)
1 Tbsp vinegar (any kind you've got)
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
3 Tbsp brown sugar
Kosher salt to taste
freshly ground black pepper to taste
Step 1: Soak lentils in a bowl covered generously with cold water for at least 4 hours, overnight is fine (though you may need less water in the slow cooker and a shorter cooking time). Drain and rinse.

Step 2: Add lentils and all other ingredients to the slow cooker and cook on high for 4 hours or low for 8 hours.


As Side Dish:

Lentils: 1 lb bag for $.98, used about 1/2 of the bag = $.33
No salt added tomato sauce, 8 oz can =  $.39
Green bell pepper: $.59 each, used 1/4 = $.15
Garlic: One head was $.25, used two cloves, which is 1/6 of the head = $.04
Onion: One small red onion (8 oz) was $.75/lb ($.38), used 1/2 = $.19
Organic carrots: $.98 for 1 lb bag, used two carrots which was 1/5 of the bag =$.20
Celery: One head for $1.18, used two stalks, which is 1/5 of the head = $.24

Total Cost: $1.54
Six servings: $.26 per serving
Eight Servings: $.19 per serving

As Sloppy Joes:

Add Arnold 100% Whole Wheat Sandwich Thins = $2.28

Total Cost: $3.82
Eight Servings: $.48 per serving

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