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Cheap food|Recipe (warning – there is no mention of baking in this post)

It’s morning (it was when I wrote this) and I’m still in that time where I can somehow justify just messing around instead of getting anything productive done.  Scrolling through the ever-growing list of blogs I’m following (what HAPPENED to me??), I came across this idea on Awaken Your Superhero:

[In the midst of all the panic about the economy]…Maybe you make Enterprise PR Software or underwrite private student loans, but that shouldn’t stop you at all from offering a money-saving recipe that your grandmother taught you [on your corporate blog].

And I thought “I don’t make Enterprise PR Software (don’t know what that is), I don’t underwrite anything, and my grandmother never taught me any money-saving recipes, what can I do?”  And then I thought, “I have a baking blog and maybe one or two of the six people reading would like a money-saving recipe that we make at home!”  A while back (well before the economy went into the toilet), we switched up the way we eat, mainly due to the fact that we are a. extremely cheap and b. extremely cheap.  One way we’ve “economized” is to…oh, it pains me to say this because I can just see my mother jumping up and down in a fit of being right…stop eating meat.  Not entirely, but not nearly as much as we used to.  It’s just too expensive.  What is not expensive is lentils.  Not even the fancy expensive kind is (are??) expensive.  About $4 for a big bag of red lentils that will last at least four or five meals for one or two people.  And they are really nutritionally sound*.  And…here’s the most important part…they’re really really easy and good.  If they weren’t, we wouldn’t bother eating them.  We’re cheap, but still not cheap enough to eat stuff that tastes like crap.

Easy Lentil Dal

1 cup red (or pink) lentils
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric (Aw merde!  I just did a spell check and I’ve been mispronouncing “turmeric” my entire adult life.)
1 teaspoon salt
4 cups water
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 dried red chilies
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Juice of 1/2 lemon

Rinse the lentils and pick out any weird stuff (like rocks).  Drain them really well and put them in a med-small sauce pan.  Add turmeric and salt and water.  Bring to a boil, skim off the foamy part (although I don’t know why you need to do that – if you skip the skimming and nothing bad happens, let me know).  Lower the heat to a simmer and cook for about 15 minutes, covered.

This is where the recipe gets all crazy and threatens to be complicated.  My expert sources say you should take a half cup of the lentils and mash them with a spoon.  I think you should just take a big ol’ whisk and stir.  The lentils will break up just fine if you’re using the red ones.

Simmer uncovered for another few minutes and let it get thicker.  Meanwhile, heat the oil and cumin in a small frying pan.  After about two minutes (seeds are toasty but not burned!), add the chilies and cook for another 30 seconds.  Take the pan off heat, maybe add a little more oil to cool it down (just a little), add the cayenne pepper and stir.  Add this to the lentils**.  Add the lemon juice and gently stir.

Last note – this stuff will thicken up as it sits around, and I think it gets better as it does.  It’s pretty thin when you first take it off the stove.  If you want to make it to eat now and like it thicker, try taking away one cup of water and let me know what happens.

Cheap yummy eats.  And yes mom, no meat.  It’s even vegan.  Dig it.


*There’s like 30% of your daily fiber and protein in one serving of lentils.  You have to look that up yourself.  I’m done.
**The original recipe also calls for adding half the oil and cooking more, and then half the oil on the top as you serve.  Too complicated for me, but as you like!


  1. […] share the little I know about cooking cheap (I’m still learning here), I posted a recipe for Easy Lentil Dal made with pink (or red) lentils.  Ever the experimenter (remember, we’re cheap around here), […]

  2. […] with our easy meals theme, I’m resurrecting a recipe that I’ve posted before.  Since we’re doing easy this month,  I think that applies to me […]

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