Coming home from grocery stores in the past weeks during this rapidly escalating Covid-19 outbreak has left me both anxious and overwhelmed.

As I’ve scanned the increasing number of empty shelves in most grocery chains, I’ve wondered, as no doubt you have, how I will manage to sustain a healthy diet on a modest budget. Not to mention while following recommendations to distance socially and self-isolate.

Good nutrition is of the utmost importance right now to boost our immune systems during this pandemic that could last for months.

Healthy Nutrition

The most prudent and practical solution for me has been to switch to more of a plant-based diet recently. I am not vegan or vegetarian, although I have always included several vegetarian meals each week in my diet, mostly because they are economical and I love to eat a variety of foods.

Now, as it becomes more difficult to stock fresh foods on a regular basis, it just makes sense to stock the pantry with dried goods such as rice, lentils, beans, pasta, and canned goods which offer good nutritional value and longer shelf lives. And for the most part, they are easier on the budget.

Today, I threw together this delicious vegan stew which was just so easy to prepare and is so fail-proof that even your grandkids could make it! Rice and dried red lentils are the main ingredients.

Lentils have been a source of sustenance for our ancestors since prehistoric times. They are the oldest pulse crop known to man and one of the earliest domesticated crops. Lentils are rich in fiber and protein and are packed with nutrients such as folate, iron, phosphorus, magnesium, zinc, and potassium.

Much has been written of late about the healing properties of herbs and spices. One of my goals during this pandemic is to start an indoor herb ‘garden’ (starting with just a few pots) and maybe even start drying herbs and creating my own spice blends. But for today, I have to admit that I used mostly store-bought blends.

Don’t Follow the Rules; Have Fun Experimenting

When I cook, I don’t follow recipes. I just throw together ingredients and then give them the taste test. That’s the best part!

So, the recipe below does not include specific measurements. You can adjust the spices to your liking. I personally like spicy and warming foods, so I added liberal amounts, but if you like milder flavours, just sprinkle the spices sparingly rather than liberally.

Once the preparation is on the stove, you can sit back and relax while enjoying the aromas that are going to make you salivate!

The Very Simple 4-Step Plan

Sauté ½ to 1 cup of diced onions in olive oil in a large stock pot.

Add 1 cup of brown and wild rice, 1 cup of dried red lentils (rinsed and drained), 1 large can (19 fl. oz.) of diced tomatoes including the liquid, and 3 cups of water. If you like a more soup-like consistency, add more water.

Add all or some of the following spices. Sprinkle liberally or lightly, according to your liking:

  • Ground turmeric (at least 1 tsp). This gives the stew a lovely colour and flavour
  • Ginger (freshly grated or powdered)
  • Mild curry powder
  • Ground cumin
  • Garlic – freshly smashed and peeled or powdered
  • Lemon and pepper seasoning
  • Chili and lime spice blend
  • Ginger lemon sriracha spice blend
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar (raw and unfiltered is best)
  • ½ fresh lemon – just throw this into the mixture – you can discard it later
  • Any other spices that you have on hand and would like to add

Bring the mixture to a boil and then simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

That’s It!

Now all you have to do is enjoy it! Next time, change it up by using barley instead of rice, or maybe brown lentils instead of red.

During these unprecedented, rapidly changing, and daunting times, we all need to become more creative, more budget-conscious, and more nutritionally aware when preparing meals. However, it’s my belief that we still need to enjoy our food and have fun preparing it.

Cooking is one of those delightful necessities or hobbies (however you regard it) that nourishes not only the body, but also the soul. Have fun with this recipe and let me know how you make out. Bon appetite!

How are you cooking and eating differently during this time? Have you discovered any new meal planning approaches that you would like to share with our community? How do you balance social distancing and self-isolation measures with the necessity of grocery shopping? Let’s have a conversation!

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