The days leading up to payday are always a challenge for me. I am the budget and after all these years, I still stink at it. I hope that I can learn someday so we can get back to digging ourselves out of debt. For now, you get to benefit from me having to get creative in the kitchen in order to provide healthy meals to fill our bellies. After rummaging through the refrigerator on Tuesday, I saw enough things in there to work with and get my mind moving. A package of vacuum-packed, precooked lentils, leftover basmati rice, black olives, and some items from the vegetable drawer. I started throwing things together in a bowl and kept adding to it. This was the result: Leave it to Trader Joe’s to help a girl out. I am an avid label reader (the crunchy side) and there are some things from there that I won’t touch, but there are lots of things you can find in Trader Joe’s that are not only healthy and cheap, but are real time savers. This is one of them…not that lentils take all that long to cook, but still. I have a three year old and I can use all the help I can get. So I took these and the leftover rice (enough to fill one of those plastic Chinese takeout soup containers, maybe 2 cups?) and popped them in the microwave to get them softened up and brought back to life. Then the creativity came and I was pulling things to the counter left and right. I threw in a large handful of bagged, organic shredded carrots, 3/4 can of sliced black olives (Trader Joe’s), 2 tsp minced garlic (from a jar), and 1 small onion finely diced in my chopper – one of my top kitchen favorites that I love so much that I have given it as gifts. The one I have linked is not the same brand, but it’s the same thing (and the one that I buy for people).
Then I added 2 Tbsp fresh chopped cilantro plus about 1-2 tsp from the squeeze tube, quite a bit of salt and fresh ground pepper, squeezed the juice from two limes and one lemon, and finished it off with a few turns around the bowl of extra virgin olive oil. And this is what I got. YUM!
Lentil Rice Salad
Easy on the budget, this quick protein-filled dish can help stretch your dollars and your time. Sorry for the vagueness in quantities, but this is how I do it 🙂 Thinking back, I wish that I had some English cucumber and/or organic bell pepper lying around, too. That would be even better. Just use your own judgement and taste buds to perfect your own!
- Approximately 1 lb of cooked lentils (I used Trader Joe’s 17.6 oz package of steamed and refrigerated lentils)
- Approximately 2 cups of cooked rice (I had leftover Basmati)
- Large handful of bagged, shredded carrots (approximately 1-1.5 cups)
- Sliced black olives, drained (I used about 3 ounces of a 3.8 ounce from Trader Joe’s that I had left in the fridge – more would be better)
- 2-3 tsp minced garlic (from the jar – time saver!)
- 1 small onion, very finely diced
- 2 Tbsp freshly chopped cilantro
- 1-2 tsp cilantro from the tube (or 1-2 Tbsp more fresh)
- Juice of 2 limes
- Juice of 1 lemon
- Few times around the bowl with EVOO (1-2 Tbsp)
- Quite a bit of fresh ground pepper and sea salt (start with 1/4- 1/2 tsp each and taste from there)
- In medium bowl, stir together lentils and rice. Warm (in microwave) if needed. (yes, I still use a microwave – half-crunchy)
- Add the rest of the ingredients, giving a few stirs now and then to combine well.
- Taste and add more salt and pepper, if needed. Enjoy!