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Lentils Ranchero (A Kid-Friendly Vegetarian Recipe)

A finished pan of Lentils Ranchero, fresh from the oven.

A finished pan of Lentils Ranchero, fresh from the oven.

Ingredients

  • 14 oz. dry lentils
  • 1 qt water
  • 12 oz. Morningstar Farms vegetarian crumbles (or other similar product)
  • 1 packet of dry onion soup mix
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp mustard
  • 1 c ketchup or taco sauce
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1 c water

Often, when we think of inviting our kids to cook with us, we only attempt simple recipes. However, there's nothing like a good fiddly recipe with lots of measuring to give our young children confidence in the kitchen. Lentils Ranchero is just such a recipe, involving lots of measuring, but only two steps that kids cannot do themselves. Plus, kids are much more willing to try something new if they've had a hand in making it!


Note: If you are not vegetarian, this recipe can also be made with ground beef, in which case you should brown the beef in a separate pan and drain it before mixing it with the seasonings and lentils. Baking instructions are the same.

Rinse the lentils and make sure no tiny stones are hiding among them.

Rinse the lentils and make sure no tiny stones are hiding among them.

The Lentils

1. Have your child put the dry lentils into a colander and rinse them clean. Tell him to pick out anything that doesn't look like a lentil, so you don't end up with any tiny rocks in your dinner.

Put the lentils in a saucepan. It's more fun for your child to pour them in, but neater for you to do it.

Put the lentils in a saucepan. It's more fun for your child to pour them in, but neater for you to do it.

Measure and pour in a quart of water.

Measure and pour in a quart of water.

2. Have your child carefully pour the clean lentils into a 3-quart saucepan. Then he can measure and add one quart of cold water to the pan.

Boil the lentils up (on medium).

Boil the lentils up (on medium).

Your turn!

3. Place the pan onto a stove burner at medium heat. Let the lentils cook for half an hour. You can stir them once in a while, but you don't really need to. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees while you're there.

Add the dry ingredients . . .

Add the dry ingredients . . .

and the wet ones.

and the wet ones.

Let the kids measure the ingredients

4. Now comes the really fun measuring! First, have your child pour the whole bag of veggie crumble into a 9"x13" baking dish. Straight out of the freezer is fine! Let him add the packet of dry onion soup mix as well.

5. You'll need one cup of ketchup or taco sauce or a mixture thereof. (It depends on whether your family likes a little zip or not.) Your child can pour or squeeze the sauce into a 1-cup measure, and then scrape it with a spoon into the dish.

This recipe gives kids lots of opportunities for using measuring cups and spoons.

This recipe gives kids lots of opportunities for using measuring cups and spoons.

6. Next comes the apple cider vinegar, mustard, water, and pepper. Show your child how to measure both wet and dry ingredients so he can learn how to do it properly. He can dump each ingredient into the dish, in whatever order he grabs them. (They'll get mixed together, anyway.)

Stir it up!

Stir it up!

Stir it up!

7. With a big spoon, let your child mix together all the cold ingredients in the baking dish. Now's a good time for you to see what's happening on the stove.

When the lentils are ready, almost all the water will have boiled away.

When the lentils are ready, almost all the water will have boiled away.

Add the hot lentils to the baking dish full of other ingredients, stir, and bake.

Add the hot lentils to the baking dish full of other ingredients, stir, and bake.

Back at the stove . . .

8. The lentils should be just about done. Almost all of the liquid should have boiled away. Carefully pour the hot lentils into the baking dish and mix up well.

9. Put it into the oven at 400 degrees and bake for 30 minutes.

10. Serve with crusty bread or white rice and a nice green salad. Your kids may enjoy eating it with tortilla chips or rolled up into a burrito. Have fun with it!

kids-cook-monday-lentils-ranchero-a-vegetarian-recipe

Comments

Rachel Vega from Massachusetts on March 22, 2012:

Paula Deen style. If Paula was a vegetarian! :-)

Brainy Bunny (author) from Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania on March 21, 2012:

Thanks, theclevercat. It does look good, doesn't it? Like you could just take the serving spoon and dig right in!

Rachel Vega from Massachusetts on March 21, 2012:

Ooh, Lentils Ranchero! I totally love this recipe.

"Ask me why and how I found the original in a non-vegetarian cookbook." Haha! That gets me every time. Fabulous pics, too!

Brainy Bunny (author) from Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania on March 19, 2012:

Georgina and Simone, thank you for checking this recipe out. Please let me know how much you love it after you try it (because you WILL love it!).

Brainy Bunny (author) from Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania on March 19, 2012:

Thank you, NatalieSack. It was my favorite recipe as a kid (made with real meat), and it's still one of my favorites as an adult (both the veggie and the meat versions).

Brainy Bunny (author) from Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania on March 19, 2012:

Hyphenbird, thank you. Let me know how you guys like it.

Brainy Bunny (author) from Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania on March 19, 2012:

Creativelycc, I hope you do try it with your granddaughter. Young kids find measuring and stirring so much fun that it doesn't even occur to them that they are learning useful life skills!

Simone Haruko Smith from San Francisco on March 19, 2012:

Oh my goodness, this looks so tasty!! I totally want to give this recipe a try.

Georgina Crawford from Dartmoor on March 19, 2012:

Great recipe - I'll be trying this one.

NatalieSack from Pittsburgh, PA on March 19, 2012:

I don't have children, but I LOVE lentils and I am totally trying this.

Brenda Barnes from America-Broken But Still Beautiful on March 19, 2012:

This sounds great. My son loves to cook so we shall make this very soon. Thanks for the recipe.

Carrie L Cronkite from Maine on March 19, 2012:

This sounds delicious, I'll have to try it with my granddaughter one day. She is six years old and loves to help me in the kitchen. Lentils are so good for you, so full of protein. Thank you!

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