Simple Last Minute Lentil Chili

Raise your hand if you’re busy this week. (Unless, of course, your hands are in the middle of de-boning a turkey. You can just give me a nod.)

Our oldest son is home from college right now, so we are a family of six again. So what if he’s been “away,” living in his college dorm only 8 blocks from home? We don’t see him much and we miss him. Having him home for longer than five minutes has been a joy.

I would say that we’re taking life easy while we prepare for Thanksgiving, but would you believe our son #2 has two huge projects due for his online college history class on Thanksgiving day? What? And yes, he would have had them done ahead of time except that it wasn’t possible because of all the other projects he had due before these.

I’m telling you, these online classes my kids take are threatening to kill us all with a long slow death. (The on-campus classes are much more managable.) Well, anyway.

We’re hosting Thanksgiving this year for 15-20 people from town. Then we’ll head to Kansas to celebrate “Thanksmas” with my side of the family. I baked the turkeys over the weekend. The green bean casserole is in the freezer. Slowly but surely I’m pulling the meal together so that come Thursday, I can actually enjoy the day instead of cooking and cleaning for hours!

In the meantime, the six of us still need to eat regular meals. (They didn’t like the idea of fasting in preparation for Thanksgiving. Whatever.)

Meals like this Simple Last Minute Lentil Chili are amazing for weeks like this! Thaw no meat. Soak no beans. Just go to the stove and put this soup together.

Truth: I didn’t think I would like chili that didn’t have meat in it.

I am such a meat loving girl! We are a meat loving family.

But in fact: My family didn’t even notice this didn’t have meat in it until I told them an hour after they ate it. “Really?” they said, “It tasted like it did!”

Score.

lentil-chili

Simple Last Minute Lentil ChiliYum

Simple Lentil Chili
 
Author:
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 3 Tablespoons minced onion
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried red pepper
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 tsp. chili powder
  • 16 ounces dry lentils
  • 32 ounces tomato sauce
  • 32 ounces vegetable or chicken broth*
  • sea salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. In a large pot, heat and stir olive oil with minced onion, garlic, and red pepper.
  2. Add chili powder, lentils, tomato sauce, and broth.
  3. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Bring mixture to a boil, then turn heat down to simmer for about 30 minutes or until lentils are tender.
  5. Serve with cheese and/or sour cream if desired.

last-minute-lentil-chili

Let this chili recipe save you some evening this week while you’re busy preparing to host or travel!

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Do you have big plans for Thanksgiving?

Simple Baked Salmon and Asparagus

Some of you live in the land of fresh fish. Me? I live in Nebraska.

Now, Nebraska is wonderful and beautiful and I love it here (winters notwithstanding). We have beautiful farm land and vast fields and wonderful fruit trees and orchards, but we are missing one thing. We don’t have an ocean. Not even a little one.

So fresh fish? I see (and smell it) it sometimes at the store when I go to the city. But I know it didn’t come from our local oceans and I’m not sure how far it had to swim to get here.

All of this has caused me to shy away from buying fish very often.

Fish though. It’s a great healthy food option. So I’m trying. Even if I buy it frozen, at least I’m buying it. After all – what do I know? I have nothing to compare it with. Frozen fish tastes okay to me. (I mean. I do thaw it and cook it.)

Seeing as this Baked Salmon and Asparagus recipe tastes amazing – even with my pitiful frozen salmon (from shhhh…Wal-mart) – I can only imagine that those of you with a fresh fish source will cry happy tears of joy when you bite into this because your version will taste even better than what I experience.

Someday I’m going to visit my auntie on the east coast and eat some actual fish. Someday.

How Simple is This Meal?

  1. Put asparagus in a dish.
  2. Put salmon on top.
  3. Drizzle it with lemon juice and olive oil.
  4. Toss on some onion slices.
  5. Bake.

I sat in my chair working while I walked my 14-year old through the process of making this. It took him 5 minutes. You guys – it takes longer than that to make a sandwich! I am so sold on this recipe I think I’ll make it have my 14-year old make it every single week.

simple-baked-salmon-and-asparagus

Simple Baked Salmon and AsparagusYum

5.0 from 2 reviews
Simple Baked Salmon and Asparagus
 
Author:
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 4-5 salmon fillets
  • 1 pound (give or take) fresh asparagus
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
  • Sea salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 medium onion
Instructions
  1. Lay asparagus along the bottom of a 9x13 inch baking dish.
  2. Place salmon fillets over the asparagus.
  3. Drizzle olive oil and lemon juice over salmon and asparagus, then sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  4. Slice onion, then lay the slices over the salmon.
  5. Cover and bake in a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes.

Don’t like asparagus? (Why? Why don’t you like asparagus??!) You can use any veggie you do like. Or use a combination of veggies. Green beans, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower – anything should work deliciously.

Now tell me. Do you have a source for fresh fish? I promise not to get jealous if you say yes.

It’s here! Check out our amazing Simple Meals program!

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Bacon Ranch Hashbrown Casserole

Bacon Hashbrown Casserole

A friend had just stopped by when I was pulling this dish out of the oven for lunch earlier this week. It smelled quite amazing. She asked what it was, so I went down the list of ingredients our lunch included, “bacon, ranch dressing, sour cream, cheese…” Then this is when she said,

“Bacon? Ranch? Cheese? With all that in it, you know it’s going to be good!”

Yep, pretty much.  What’s not to love?

You might also love knowing how easy this is to make. Cook the bacon, stir in the other ingredients, spread it all in a cooking dish, put it into the oven. Easy. It does help if you have premade frozen hashbrowns and a jar of homemade ranch dressing mix ready to go. Just please put the lid on your ranch dressing before you shake it up. Please. I’m only here to help.

A big thanks to Plain Chicken for the idea for this recipe! I’m excited to think about possibilities of ways to continue tweaking this. Maybe add some cooked chicken to the mix? What else can you think of to add to this dish?

Bacon Ranch Hashbrown Casserole
 
Author:
Serves: 10 servings
Ingredients
  • 1 pound bacon
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar or Colby jack cheese
  • 3 cups sour cream
  • 3 Tablespoons Ranch Dressing Mix
  • 1 bag of frozen shredded hashbrowns (about 8 potatoes worth of homemade)
Instructions
  1. Cut bacon into bite-sized pieces and cook.
  2. Drain grease.
  3. In a large bowl, stir together cooked bacon, shredded cheese, sour cream, and ranch dressing mix.
  4. Fold in frozen hashbrowns until all ingredients are well combined.
  5. Bake uncovered in a 350° oven for 45-60 minutes or until casserole is lightly browned and bubbly.

Some recipes you’ll need to go along with this one:

Homemade Ranch Dressing Mix

Homemade Hashbrowns

Lately I’ve been finding really great deals on packaged hashbrowns at the store, so I’ve picked up a few to save me some time. I much prefer homemade, but busyness doesn’t always allow me the luxury. It’s good to be relaxed and flexible about healthy eating, right? Right.

So far I’ve only served this casserole for lunch or dinner. But I also think it would be great for breakfast or brunch!

Want to make Bacon Ranch Hashbrown Casserole ahead and freeze it for later? Here’s how:

Make the casserole as directed. Before baking, cover well and freeze for up to three months. To cook and serve – thaw and bake as directed. Or, cover frozen casserole and place it into a cold oven. Turn the oven on to 225° and bake for 2-3 hours or until casserole has thawed, baked, and is heated through.

Bacon Ranch Hashbrown Casserole - Easy!

Note: This recipe is naturally gluten free. Hold onto this one if you have to avoid gluten – or so that you can bless friends who eat gluten free!

I’ll definitely be making this casserole often! Since it’s freezer-friendly, I’ll likely be making two or three at once so I can have no-brainer meals on hand for busy nights. After all, why dirty up more dishes tomorrow when tomorrow will have enough dirty dishes of its own? Right??

My Favorite Cheesecake Factory Salad Makeover

Who loves a Cheesecake Factory BLT Chopped Salad more than cheesecake???? This girl. I’ve only been there a few times, but I found a salad there that I love soooo much. This begs the question: A salad? At cheesecake factory? Why?

See, here’s the thing. When one goes to the Cheesecake Factory, one wants to enjoy the cheesecake right? Therefore, eating a salad as a meal preceding the cheesecake makes perfect sense. One must save room for the cheesecake! That is how I discovered this salad. Or a salad much like this.

I believe the salad I ordered at Cheesecake Factory had chopped apples and some chicken in it too (but it’s been about a year since I’ve been there so I can’t remember all the specifics). Add those to this if you like. All I know is that this salad is so good that our family devoured a huge bowl of it – two days in a row. And I want to make it again tomorrow.

Helpful hint: Want to get your kids to like salad? Add BACON.

BLT Chopped Salad with Feta Cheese

BLT Chopped Salad with Feta CheeseYum

My Favorite Cheesecake Factory Salad Makeover
 
Author:
Serves: 6-8
Ingredients
  • 6 cups chopped mixed greens, lettuce, or spinach (any combination you like)
  • 2 chopped tomatoes
  • ½ pound bacon, cut into bites, cooked, and drained
  • 1-2 cups sweet corn, cooked and cooled
  • 1-2 chopped avocado
  • 4 ounces feta cheese crumbles
  • Dressing:
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • Juice of one lime (about 2 Tablespoons)
  • salt and pepper to taste (I put in a few shakes of each)
Instructions
  1. Toss salad ingredients into a large bowl.
  2. In a small jar, shake together dressing ingredients.
  3. Pour over salad and toss.
  4. Serve right away!

This is a perfect spring or summertime meal. I think I could eat this every day. And believe it or not, I don’t even have to have cheesecake afterward. :)

I can’t tell you how delicious and flavorful this is. You MUST try it. Every bite is delicious.

What’s your favorite thing to get at Cheesecake Factory?

Easy Ham and Egg Breakfast Bowls – a Quick and Filling Breakfast To-Go!

Oh man (lady – whatever).  You are going to love this idea!  Unless you don’t like eggs.  But for those of you who love eggs, and for everyone who wants an easy, real food meal that will pack a punch with nutrition and keep you full until the next meal…

Please allow me to introduce you to these delightful little Ham and Egg Breakfast Bowls:

ham and egg cups1

See that?  The ham is the bowl.  Isn’t that clever?  I didn’t think of this myself, but was enlightened by my friend who was excited to tell me about her fun breakfast of the day.  She knew I’d need to know about this idea.  She knows me (and my hungry crew) well, don’t you think?

Everyone get out your muffin tins and get ready to have some fun.

How to make Ham and Egg Breakfast BowlsYum

You will need:

Muffin Tins
Thin Slices of Ham
Eggs
Shredded Cheese
Sea Salt
Garnish like Fresh Spinach, Green Chilies, Mushrooms, Peppers, Onion, Broccoli, or Salsa

Push a piece of thinly sliced ham down into each muffin cup.

ham and egg bowls 4

Crack an egg into each “ham bowl.”  Poke each egg yolk with a fork and carefully scrambled it around inside the bowl.  Sprinkle with salt, top with cheese, and garnish however you like.  Bake in a 350° oven  for 10-20 minutes or until the eggs are cooked through.

You can make these ahead of time, then rewarm them for a quick, ready-made breakfast or lunch!  (That’s my favorite part, of course.)

You can also scrambled up your eggs in a dish, and then scoop some out into each ham bowl if you prefer.  My kids like the texture of these better if I do it that way.

Easy Ham and Egg Breakfast Bowls - a Quick and Filling Breakfast To-Go!
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • Muffin Tins
  • Thin Slices of Ham
  • Eggs
  • Shredded Cheese
  • Sea Salt
  • Garnish like Fresh Spinach, Green Chilies, Mushrooms, Peppers, Onion, Broccoli, or Salsa
Instructions
  1. Push a piece of thinly sliced ham down into each muffin cup.
  2. Crack an egg into each "ham bowl."
  3. Poke each egg yolk with a fork and carefully scrambled it around inside the bowl.
  4. Sprinkle with salt, top with cheese, and garnish however you like.
  5. Bake in a 350° oven for 10-20 minutes or until the eggs are cooked through.

 

Easy Ham and Egg Breakfast Bowls

Is this idea genius, or what?  You must try this! :)

How To Have a Hot, Healthy Meal Waiting For You When You Get Home From Church (or From Wherever)

On Sunday, we got home from church at 11:55. We were eating lunch by 12:02. It was a hot meal of Lasagna Casserole, green beans, and sweet corn.

How did we do this? Oh, it is my most favorite trick I’ve come up with for eating a healthy meal in a timely manner. Why have I not been doing this forever?

But I’ve got to warn you. If you…

1. Don’t like the thought of leaving the oven on in your house while you are away, or
2. Feel like there is a food safety issue with leaving a casserole in the oven for a little extra time…

You will not like this tip. And I’m okay with that.

But I’ve done it over and over this fall and it has saved my neck, provided healthy meals for my family, and been a huge time saver!

Plus, our house hasn’t burned down even one time. Nor have we gotten sick from practicing this method. 

We have experienced an episode of extra crispy cheese on top of our Cheesy Beef and Rice. I apologized to my family, and they said, “Do it like this every time!”  Apparently crispy cheese is a great addition to our culinary experience.

Here’s what I’ve been doing:

I make a casserole on Saturday and put it in the fridge. On Sunday morning I either:

  • Bake it for an hour before we leave for church, then turn off the oven before we leave, letting the casserole sit in the oven while we’re gone. When we get home, I turn the oven back on for a few minutes to rewarm while I make veggies. Or I
  • Put the casserole in the oven at 200° right before we leave for church, letting it cook slowly while we’re gone. It is hot and ready to eat immediately when we get home.

I have also grabbed a frozen casserole out of the freezer, put it directly into the oven, turn the oven on to 200°, and when we come home it has thawed and cooked and is ready for us to eat. (Always be sure to put a glass casserole into the oven and THEN turn the oven on. This prevents the glass dish from cracking as it heats slowly as the oven heats.)

This meal prep method has worked well for me with the following dishes:

I’ve also done this successfully with a Roast Beef Meal or a Roast Chicken and Veggies. 

I’m telling you, with just a little work ahead of time, we have been able to walk through the door and be greeted with delicious smelling food – hot and ready to eat. I not only do this every Sunday now, but I’ve been doing it in the evenings when we leave for soccer games. We get home from a game, wash our hands, steam some veggies or get out a salad we’ve made ahead of time, and we’ve got dinner.

Healthy, convenient, easy, inexpensive, quick – I’m pretty sure this method of making a meal on the fly covers it all. 

Ever tried doing this before? Have any healthy casserole ideas that would work well using this method? Are you okay with leaving your oven on a low temp when you leave the house?