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Lentils Ranchero (A Kid-Friendly Vegetarian Recipe)

Updated on August 11, 2016
A finished pan of Lentils Ranchero, fresh from the oven.
A finished pan of Lentils Ranchero, fresh from the oven. | Source

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. | Source

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. | Source
Measure and pour in a quart of water.
Measure and pour in a quart of water. | Source

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). | Source

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 . . . | Source
and the wet ones.
and the wet ones. | Source

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. | Source

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! | Source

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. | Source
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. | Source

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!

Comments

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    • theclevercat profile image

      Rachel Vega 5 years ago from Massachusetts

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

    • Brainy Bunny profile image
      Author

      Brainy Bunny 5 years ago from Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania

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

    • theclevercat profile image

      Rachel Vega 5 years ago from Massachusetts

      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 profile image
      Author

      Brainy Bunny 5 years ago from Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania

      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 profile image
      Author

      Brainy Bunny 5 years ago from Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania

      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 profile image
      Author

      Brainy Bunny 5 years ago from Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania

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

    • Brainy Bunny profile image
      Author

      Brainy Bunny 5 years ago from Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania

      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 Smith profile image

      Simone Haruko Smith 5 years ago from San Francisco

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

    • Georgina_writes profile image

      Georgina_writes 5 years ago from Dartmoor

      Great recipe - I'll be trying this one.

    • NatalieSack profile image

      NatalieSack 5 years ago from Pittsburgh, PA

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

    • Hyphenbird profile image

      Brenda Barnes 5 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

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

    • creativelycc profile image

      Carrie L. Cronkite 5 years ago from Maine

      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!