Indian Spiced Lentils with Butternut Squash and Rice

Between working hard, balancing motherhood, trying to be a great wife and partner, the last few months have not been one for rest and relaxation. Carving out time for yourself can be incredibly hard to do, but it’s a great thing that I can usually blow off a little steam by cooking. (Ha! See what I did there?)

I want to pack as much nutrition as I can with spending little time in the kitchen, and let’s face it, there’s not much to spare these days.

Weekdays are a rush for us all, but we can whip up a warm, hearty meal in no time with the right ingredients and the right recipe.

Being that I am properly busy, I look for ways to minimize the time that I spend cooking. This recipe is just for that. I use half the butternut squash for dinner, and half for a batch of puree that can be portioned and frozen for several weeks to use in another recipe.

Here’s what you do:

Start by preheating your oven. Cut a medium-sized butternut squash’s top and bottom off, making it easy to stand. Next, cut the squash lengthwise in half.

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Scoop out the seeds (some can be saved to plant next year if your purchased locally and organically!). Place cut side down on a silpat or parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Bake for about 20 minutes, until you can pierce with a fork.

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After they have cooled, score the flesh of half the squash and scoop carefully with a spoon. Set aside. (You can reserve the other half for another dish, as I have!)

Next, wash your lentils. If you are unfamiliar with lentils, you just wash them as you would rice or beans. Fill a bowl with water and rub them gently between your hands, changing the water about three times, or until the water becomes clear. Do this also with 2 cups of Jasmine or Basmati rice.

In a medium-sized Dutch oven, add your rice and add the amount of water indicated on the packaging (usually you add 1.5 times more water than rice). Also add a few peppercorns, cinnamon stick and cumin seeds, stir, and set the heat to medium-high until it boils, then reduce to low until the water is evaporated. Set aside.

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While your rice is cooking, begin making the lentils. In a large Dutch oven, add a few tablespoons of oil to a warm pan (you’ll set your heat to about a medium here). To the oil, add the black mustard seeds (cook until they start to pop), then add the dried chile, cumin seeds, garam masala, tumeric and bay leaf and only let it cook for 15-20 seconds, until things become fragrant. Add the chopped onion, and cook for about three minutes, until translucent. Add the chopped carrots and cook another three minutes.

Next, add the garlic, ginger, tomatoes and warmed chicken stock. Cover and cook over medium heat until the lentils are soft.

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Add the cubed butternut squash and cook until warm. Serve with rice, naan and yogurt.

I hope you’re as excited about this dish as I am. It has quickly become one of our favorites around here – for me especially, if not only for the ease!

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Indian Spiced Lentils with Butternut Squash and Rice
Serves 4

For the rice:
2 cups rice (with amount of water indicated on the package)
1 cinnamon stick
Small pinch of peppercorns
Small pinch cumin seeds

For the lentils:
½ steamed butternut squash, cubed, with skin removed
2 tablespoons canola oil
½ teaspoon black mustard seeds
1 red chile
1 teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon cumin seeds, divided (you can take your pinch for the seeds needed for the rice)
1 bay leaf
1 small onion, chopped
1 medium carrot, chopped
1 medium tomato, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
5 cups chicken stock, warmed on the stove

First, wash your lentils and rice.

In a medium-sized Dutch oven, add your rice and add the amount of water indicated on the packaging (usually you add 1.5 times more water than rice). Also add a few peppercorns, cinnamon stick and a pinch of cumin seeds, stir, and set the heat to medium-high until it boils, then reduce to low until the water is evaporated. Set aside.

While your rice is cooking, begin making the lentils. In a large Dutch oven, add a few tablespoons of oil to a warm pan over medium flame. To the oil, add the black mustard seeds (cook until they start to pop), then add the cumin seeds, garam masala, tumeric and bay leaf and only let it cook for 15-20 seconds, until things become fragrant. Add the chopped onion, and cook for about three minutes, until translucent. Add the chopped carrots and cook another three minutes.

Next, add the garlic, ginger, tomatoes and warmed chicken stock just to cover the mixture. Cover with a lid and cook over medium heat until the lentils are soft, adding stock as necessary.

Add the cubed butternut squash and cook until warm. Serve with rice, naan and yogurt.

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