Many of my friends view me as a sort of vegan guinea pig. Now, about two years after I chose to go totally vegan, they are still waiting to see how it turns out for me before testing the waters themselves. But believe it or not, when friends ask me about how to go about adopting a healthy vegan or vegetarian diet, I encourage them to simply¬†try to eat vegan or vegetarian meals once or twice a week, rather than just dumping the meat altogether right away. If you are curious yourself, maybe you’ll start by cooking something adventurous at home. Maybe you’ll try having lunch or dinner at that new “hippy dippy” vegan place that looks both intriguing and terrifying at the same time. Or maybe you’ll try the recipe that I am about to share…

If you are into a super yummy, healthy, protein-rich, and low in fat situation that happens to be cheap as well, and you love Trader Joe’s like I do, here is a perfect recipe for you that takes a total of 30 minutes MAX to prepare. In fact, this meal packs more protein per calorie than a steak. Lentils are also high in iron, and broccoli falls into that “super food” category for, among other things, its high calcium content, which is quite a bit more bio-available than calcium in dairy products. I share this “pour and stir” recipe all the time with vegan-curious friends and kitchen novices to rave reviews. I usually serve it along with an organic greens salad (also sold bagged and pre-washed at Trader Joe’s).

First, here is what the finished product looks like:

Finished Dish

And to de-mystify the shopping experience, here are what the prepackaged ingredients look like at the store:

Easy – lentils are precooked and ready to go

Mirepoix – all the chopping is all done for you!

Sliced Crimini Mushrooms – cleaned and ready to go

Organic Broccoli – already cleaned and chopped

Organic Brown Rice – precooked and ready to heat up

Easy Trader Joe’s Lentil Stew

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 17.6 ounce package Trader Joe’s steamed lentils
1 14.5 ounce container Trader Joe’s Mirepoix (French term for chopped up carrots, celery, onion)
1 tablespoon low sodium tamari or soy sauce
3 cloves garlic, minced*
1 10 ounce bag Trader Joe’s Sliced Crimini Mushrooms
1/2 bag Trader Joe’s Organic Broccoli Florets, sold in 12 ounce bags
2 cups Trader Joe’s Organic Low Sodium Vegetable Stock, sold in quart size boxes (1 quart = 4 cups)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt (or to taste)
1 teaspoon turmeric**
1 teaspoon curry powder
2 teaspoons cumin**
2 bags Trader Joe’s Organic Brown Rice (frozen, comes with 3 bags per box)
2 tablespoons Fresh Italian flat leaf parsley, minced (optional)

*If mincing fresh garlic is too much, just use 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder (not garlic salt). Garlic powder is in the spice aisle.

**They sell these spices everywhere – even at Target! But if you don’t have them or can’t be bothered, just add another 1/2 teaspoon of curry powder and call it a day.

Serves 4

Before we begin, here’s a quick kitchen tip. It is so helpful (and reduces time and stress) to lay out and measure all your ingredients before starting to cook. And by doing that you can pretend you’re the star of your own cooking show like I do. Don’t judge me.

Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan or pot over MEDIUM heat. Open the mirepoix container and dump in the whole thing. Stir around the mixture, letting it sizzle and saute for 5 to 7 minutes until the onion turns translucent, and the carrots are softer but still a little crunchy.

Mirepoix sauteing in pot

Open the bag of mushrooms, and dump them all into the pan. Stir them around to distribute them evenly. Then, let them cook for about 3 minutes, stirring every so often to prevent sticking and burning. Add the tamari or soy sauce. Stir quickly, using the liquid to scrape up any brown bits stuck to the bottom of the pan.

What the minced garlic should look like

Then, add the garlic, and stir to incorporate. Cook for about 1 more minute.

Add the turmeric, curry powder, cumin and sea salt. Stir to coat everything with the spices and cook for another 2 minutes so that the spices are no longer raw.

Add in the lentils, being sure to break them up as you put them into the pan so that they are not just one big brick. Gently stir the mixture to make sure the lentils are well mixed with the other veggies and are coated in the spices.

Lentils added and stirred to incorporate and coat with spices

Slowly pour in the vegetable broth, again scraping the bottom of the pan to loosen any brown bits that may be sticking. You may choose to add more broth if you want more of a soup-like consistency. There are no rules! Make it your way.

Adding the vegetable broth…

Turn the heat up to high so that the vegetable broth starts to boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low or low, cover the pot or pan, and allow the stew to simmer for 10-12 minutes. This simmering step allows all the veggies and spices to meld together a little bit so that there is maximum flavor in every bite. Watch it carefully to make sure the stew doesn’t boil too vigorously. Add a little more broth or water every so often, if you need to, to maintain your desired consistency.

While the stew is simmering away, microwave the 2 rice bags separately for 3 minutes each. (Don’t get all weird with me for suggesting the microwave – I’m just being real with you about a quick short cut!) Cut the bags open, being careful of the hot steam, and dump the rice into a medium-sized serving bowl. If you want, add about a tablespoon of olive oil and stir in the parsley (if using). Set aside.

Mincing parsley

Minced parsley stirred into rice

After the 12 minutes of simmering, add the broccoli into the stew. Stir to combine. Cover once again, and let the broccoli cook in the stew for another 3 minutes or so, until bright green and tender-crisp. I hate mushy broccoli, but if you like it, you can cook it a bit longer. No worries.

Ready to serve!

When the broccoli is done, you are ready to serve! I usually spoon some of the rice into a nice bowl and then ladle the lentil stew on top. If you want to be super fancy gourmet, sprinkle some of that fresh chopped parsley on top for a garnish.

And there you go – vegan dinner with (almost) no chopping on the table in 30 minutes or less.

2 comments so far

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  1. Wow, this is great. There are a couple of things I would do differently: I wouldn’t put the mirepoix and the mushrooms in the pot without washing them again, even if they are already washed. I would use a whole broccoli, rather than just the Fleurettes, ( or ‘florets’…) I use the stem of the broccoli pealing the hard part, or the whole stem can be used in a vegetable broth, with lots of garlic and parsley. I love your combination of spices…To upgrade from semi-homemade to home-made I would do the rice, the ‘risotto’ variety or bismati takes 17 minutes to cook, from scratch. My quinoa recipe takes 15 minutes. Quinoa would work with your combination very well. I always have cooked quinoa in the refrigerator, that I combine in many ways with vegetables and salads. I think your recipe is brilliant for people who have a full time job, want to eat healthy at home, but are too tired to spend too much time in the kitchen.
    Thank you for a wonderful recipe that I will try with lentils, chickpeas and pinto beans…

  2. Thank you so much for your comment! Yes – the recipe is about showing people that they can use pre-cut veggies and even pre-cooked lentils to make something “homemade.” I love brown rice but don’t always have 50 minutes to cook it, so the microwavable bag from Trader Joe’s is a great alternative. Quinoa is fantastic, too. I wanted to show people how, with one pot and a microwave, and little help from Trader Joe’s, they can cook a healthy, delicious meal nearly from scratch…