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Author Notes: I'm a college student on a budget and generally cooking just for myself. That means when I make a batch of pasta, quinoa, [insert carb here], it's my dinner for at least 4-5 nights. Sounds boring, but with the right attitude and an open mind, it creates a canvas ripe for experimentation.
I already told you I'm in college so I don't think it will come as a shock when I tell you Trader Joe's is my happy place. The best discovery comes in their fresh veggies section. Hiding among the greens you'll find a box of pre-packaged lentils. Those will be your base. They're ready in 5 minutes, and will give you a surprising amount. Scoop out some for tonight, let the rest cool, and pop the cooled lentils into the fridge for the rest of the week. —Dina Zaret
Makes 5 servings
- The Simple Side: To begin your week, appreciate the beauty of the plain lentil. Complement it with some fish (or for the budget-friendly, good frozen fish burgers) and gently steamed green beans. Garnish with avocado slices if you're feeling indulgent.
- Italian Night: Lightly saute some sliced fresh tomatoes in olive oil with ground salt and pepper. Liberally pour in tomato basil sauce. Fold in a serving of lentils and add shaved Parmesan. Stir and keep over heat until the cheese has melted in.
- (Does this count as) Asian Night: Chop up 1 cm cubes of tofu and get them sauteing in coconut oil. When they've started to tan drizzle on ginger soy sauce (my personal favorite) or teriyaki. Throw in handfuls of spinach. Once the spinach has shrunk and the tofu is a little crispy add the lentils. Re-drizzle some sauce and mix.
- A Variation on Shakshuka: Cut a pepper into small pieces and get it sauteing in olive oil and hefty amounts of cumin over medium heat. Add sliced baby tomatoes and use a spatula to press down on them so a little juice comes out. Pour in a bit of tomato sauce, and add some cayenne for spice. Scoop in some lentils, mix, and make a shallow dent in the middle of your veggie pile. Crack an egg into the dent and cover the pan with a lid for around 5 minutes. Once the egg has set, top with zaatar and tahini.
- The Scramble: At this point it's been 5 days. You're ready for something cathartic. Saute whatever veggies you have: tomatoes, peppers, onions, spinach, the works. Throw in your lentils and add some scoops of salsa. Crack two eggs over your veggies and top with freshly ground pepper. Break the yolks and scramble!