The Protein-Packed One-Pot Recipe That Saves Me Every Winter

This will soon be a regular on your dinner table, too.

Red Lentil Spinach Masala | Note: Sometimes the ugliest foods are the most delicious

Red Lentil Spinach Masala | Note: Sometimes the ugliest foods are the most delicious

Lentils: The word doesn’t exactly inspire excited belly rubs or jumps for joy — and they don’t photograph very well, either (see evidence above). And due to the not-so-pretty, not-so-drool-worthy nature of the legume, I used to think lentils were solely designed to be had as a mushy meal by infants and senior citizens. But three years ago, when I was in a culinary-experimentation phase, I tried making an Indian-inspired lentil recipe — Red Lentil Spinach Masala, to be exact — and ever since that day, I’ve kept my pantry stocked with the ingredients for the recipe at all times. It is the equivalent of hot chocolate on a cold winter day and it tastes so freakin’ good — plus it’s healthy!

The recipe, which comes courtesy of cooking blog Feed Me Phoebe (you can find the full recipe here), is made with red lentils, coconut milk, onion, garlic, cumin, ginger, garam masala, coriander, canned tomatoes, and spinach. It’s a one-pot dish (jackpot!), and the recipe says it make four servings, but I find that you can actually squeeze roughly six or so servings out of one pot. Ah-mazing, right? And you know those days when you ate at HipCityVeg all week, then suddenly realize your bank account is at -$5.46? (Just me?) Well, if you run in to a day like this, this recipe is a delicious and cheap way to get your protein fill in: A cup of uncooked lentils (the amount that goes into this recipe) has 50 grams of protein. Divide that by the number of servings the recipe says it makes, and you’re getting over 12 grams of protein per serving, from the lentils alone. And, last but not least, it’s dairy-free, soy-free, and gluten-free, so your friends with dietary restrictions will have zero to complain about when you whip it up for them. Amen to that!

Yesterday, as I readied myself to prepare this dish for the 7,938th time, I realized: It just wouldn’t be right for me to keep this bank-account-saving recipe, capable of making cold winter days feel sunny, from you guys. I’ve linked to the recipe above, but a few things to note when it comes to how I prepare it: I often find myself riffing off the recipe and adding whatever veggies I have floating around — mushrooms, any type of green, and so on. In the past, I’ve also bulked up the protein factor by mixing in tofu and seitan. I also always use vegetable stock instead of water. I am a firm believer in substituting vegetable stock for water in basically every savory recipe I ever make (where it isn’t totally bizarre), because flavor. And I’m also a firm believer in mixing up the spices: Sometimes I throw some cayenne in for a kick.

I usually eat the coconut-y, tomato-y lentils mixed with quinoa for the first serving, then package a few to-go containers with quinoa for easy work lunches. (In fact, I just finished eating one of these delicious to-go containers as I typed this.) Then, I do whatever feels good with the leftover lentils (they keep for up to a week in the fridge) as the days go. Heat them up and throw a fried egg on top, throw a scoop on a salad, spread some onto a wrap … Are you beginning to understand why this recipe is so freakin’ amazing?

Anyway, this recipe — mostly made of things you can keep in your pantry, might I add — becomes a staple in my house as soon as the season turns, so I figured I would share. Because if you’re anything like me, you will try just about anything to turn a 14-degree winter day into something you don’t hate with all your heart.

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