If You Fail to Plan, You Plan to Make Lentils

June 27th, 2011 | Posted by Alison Spath in Dinner Time

On any given day, I cannot tell you what I’m making for dinner that night until the five o’clock hour is upon me. I have tried and tried to become proficient at meal planning, but it appears I am simply unable to make this learned skill a personal reality.

I suppose I could work on this shortcoming of mine, spending hour upon hour digging into my past, trying to uncover from the depths of my psyche why on earth I can’t pull together a weeks worth of meal ideas in one sitting,


I could give Personal Growth an eye roll and a smirk and simply put some recovery strategies in place should I find myself in a Dinner Time Planning Disaster (i.e., it’s 5:05 PM and I’m |thisclose| to whipping out the popcorn popper.)

For now, I’m going with strategy when it comes to dealing with my dinner planning defect because:

1. My current Meal Planning Disaster Recovery Meal is really stinkin’ good and

2. I’ve got plenty of other shortcomings to work on.

I present to you Plan B:

Coconut Curried Red Lentil Dahl

A fairly complicated version of this recipe first appeared in my inbox a few months ago, and while it was really great in its complicated form, it was too, oh… complicated? Too many fancy ingredients, like toasted nuts, bits of crushed somethings and sprinklings of grated shenanigans.

Well, forget that.  Each time I’ve made this, I’ve cut out more steps and ingredients, each time making it more simple and not any less tasty.  It has now earned the esteemed honor of being my I Don’t Know What to Make for Dinner dinner.

I’ll give away the surprise ending and say that red lentils and coconut milk are key the players, that’s all you really need here. In fact, we could just pour coconut milk over uncooked lentils and call it coconut lentil cereal.

Goya Red Lentils Coconut Milk

In short, as long as I’m sure to always have these guys on hand at all times, Plan B is officially locked and loaded for when No Dinner Plan Ali McGee strikes again.

Curried Coconut Red Lentil Chili

print this recipe!


2 Tbsp coconut oil (or butter)
1 onion, diced
1 – 2 cloves of garlic, minced
28 oz can of diced tomatoes
14 oz can of coconut milk
2 c water or broth (more or less as needed)
1 lb red lentils, rinsed and drained


Here’s where it gets complicated quickly if you don’t have a slew of Indian spices in your cupboard like I do. If you’re an Indian spice champ, jump down to the list below the italics there.

Otherwise, get yourself a jar of cumin, draw a line through the word Curried on your recipe card and just make “Red Lentil Chili”.

all measurements are estimates – add less or more to taste!

1 Tbsp curry powder
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp paprika
1 tsp Tabasco
dash of chili powder
couple shakes of red pepper flakes
salt to taste

For my Indian spice fans, also consider tumeric, garam masala, coriander… any and all are fair game around here, this dish turns out slightly different each time.

A pic live from the scene, dinner time disaster recovery well underway:

Cooking Lentils As Seen From Above


Saute diced onions and minced garlic in oil until soft.  Add spices and allow onions and garlic to cook together for a few minutes.  Add tomatoes and coconut milk and bring to a boil.  Stir in lentils and water, bring a boil and then reduce to a simmer and cover.

Cook on low for about 40 – 45 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure your lentils aren’t cooking to the bottom of your pan.  As soon as your lentils are soft and tender, it’s time to eat!

You can easily halve this recipe, but cooking the whole 1 lb bag would be the final phase of this Meal Planning School Drop Out Recovery Plan;

Dinner, From Above

Leftovers means it’s Coconut Curried Red Lentils again for dinner tonight – and that’s no disaster.

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