Being home alone & eating Roasted Winter Veg and Lentil Stew

Sometimes it’s really nice when the Hubs is away for a few days. Don’t get me wrong, I love having the guy around, but a little “me” time is so nice sometimes. I can sleep spread eagle in the middle of the bed, watch MSNBC, and eat beans. It’s paradise, I tell ya.

The reason I eat beans when the Hubs isn’t around is not because of their notorious side effects. It’s that he doesn’t care for them. And I LOVE them.

So when he has to be away for work for a few days, I take that as the time I get to have for dinner the things that I love that the doesn’t much care for. Like roasted beets. And lentils. He would think this already sounds totally gross.

But, it’s so, so delcious in my book. Especially when it’s all rolled into a dish like this Roasted Winter Veg Lentil Stew.

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I wish I’d gotten a better picture. But I was hungry, so this didn’t last long. I was also sitting in the middle of the bed watching Martin Bashir on MSNBC.

Sometime before the holidays, I ordered from the Monroe Farm Market, a two-pound bag of baby beets–the last of the fall harvest. I roasted a handful of them one evening for dinner, and the Hubs told me he didn’t really like them roasted, only pickled. Wha??? But, you’re the person who got me to try them in the first place and convinced me that they really weren’t that awful. Too bad, I prefer them roasted to pickled.

So, I had this bag of beets in the fridge, and who knows how much longer they’d be any good. It was pushing on a month. I decided I just go ahead and roast the rest of them to eat while he was gone. Then, I got the idea for this stew. What if I threw in some carrots, onion and garlic and mixed it all in with some hearty green lentils? Boo-ya! Perfect for a cold winter evening.

Roasted Winter Veg and Lentil Stew (makes about 3 servings)

1 lb whole fresh baby beets, cleaned (and tops removed if not already—save the tops for salad)
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 2 inch sections
1 medium red onion, cut into large chunks
Extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and pepper
2 cups dried green lentils
1 ½ cups of vegetable stock
2 ½ cups of water
1 or 2 cloves from a head of roasted garlic (see below)
1 tsp smoked paprika
½ tsp cumin
2 tsp garlic powder
2 cups fresh spinach

Pre-heat oven to 375. Place beets in a large baking pan (with a rim) and drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast about 1 hour 15 minutes, or until beets are fork tender (it may take longer if you beets are larger). Remove the beets from the oven and let cool enough to handle. Peel skin with a paring knife (WEAR GLOVES UNLESS YOU WANT RED FINGERS). Place carrots and onions in another baking pan, drizzle with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast about 40 minutes until the carrots are tender and the onions begin to turn golden brown. You will need to check and stir both pans periodically to ensure even roasting. In medium to large sauce pan, bring the water and stock to a boil. Add lentils and spices. Place the lid on the pot and reduce heat to medium low. Simmer gently for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the lentils are totally soft and most of the liquid is absorbed. Add the roasted garlic cloves , roasted vegetables, and spinach. Adjust seasoning and add salt and pepper if needed. Mix well and cook on low for a few minutes to give the flavors time to combine and the spinach to wilt. Serve immediately.

If you’re going to be roasting anything in the oven for more than a few mintues, why not throw in a head of garlic? Roasted garlic is heavenly. When roasted, it looses its sharp bite and becomes this buttery, almost sweet, mellow goodness. Place a whole head of garlic (no need to even peel it) on a sheet of aluminum foil and drizzle a little olive oil over it. Wrap the foil up around it to make a little pouch. Roast about 15 minutes at 350 to 375 until cloves become soft. It will keep in the fridge in an airtight container for a week or so. It’s delicous on pizza, crostini or bruschetta, or mixed in pasta sauce. The possibilities are endless. If you’re going to mix it into something like sauce, or this stew, simply mush it up a bit with a spoon before you put it in.

This dish is meatless, but you could totally use chicken stock in place of the vegetable stock, or maybe chop up some bacon and brown it to throw into the stew. You could also use any combination of vegetables you have available. Sweet potatoes, winter squash or broccoli would also be delcious in place of the beets, carrots and onion, and any winter green could be used in place of the spinach. Heartier winter greens such as kale might take a few more minutes to wilt, so you would want to chop those and throw them in earlier while the lentils are still cooking down.

I only peeled about half of the beets because it was such a pain. Looking back, I should have peeled them all. The peeled ones are much better. You can also make the roasted vegetables a day ahead. I did and it cut down on the prep time considerably.

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