Lentil Stew with Grilled Chicken, Goat Cheese and Bacon

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It was 45 degrees today…yes 45 degrees!  I can’t even register that in my head!
All day, all I could think of was all of those people who work outside everyday…wow, you were all heros today!
There aren’t many days that I really don’t feel like turning the stove on but today was definitely one of those days.  I spent all afternoon in a cooking school testing recipes for an upcoming farm event and it was crazy hot.  Knowing that I was going to be walking into the house as everyone else was about to head out to soccer and various other places, I tried something new this morning – I broke out the crock pot.
Don’t get me wrong…I use the crock for for stews, soups and even things like jam and applesauce.  But, it only ever comes out in the fall/winter because all of those foods don’t strike me as summer grub. But, the other day, I thought about trying to cook dried beans overnight so they would be ready for the next day (we eat lots of beans!).  Then, this morning when I was making coffee, I thought I could just throw some beans and stuff in the crock pot for it to cook while I went to work.  When I came back, the lentils were ready, I quickly grilled chicken breasts on the bbq and plated it up with some crumbled goat cheese and leftover crumbled bacon from breakfast.  I served it with simple beans from the garden…quick, fast and I didn’t raise the temperature in the kitchen even a tiny bit!Ingredients (for lentil stew):
1 tbsp olive oil
2 onions, diced
3 stalks of celery, diced
4 carrots, diced
4 rashers of bacon, cooked and crumbled (optional…omit if you want vegetarian but maybe add a few drops of liquid smoke…adds a nice depth)
1 zucchini, diced
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 c balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 1/2 c lentils
4 1/2 cups water, chicken stock or tomato juice (I used a combination of tomato puree that I had left over from making pizza mixed with tomato juice)
2 chipotle peppers in adobe, finley minced (buy a small can and separate them, by two’s, into small ziploc bags and freeze for later use)
2 tsp salt

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Its best to cut all the veggies at the same time so that you can keep them uniform….that way, they will all cook the same!

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1.  Add the oil into a large skillet and heat up.  Next, add all of the onions, celery, and carrots and cook for a few minutes to soften.

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2.  Then add the zucchini and garlic and continue cooking until all veggies are soft but not mushy.

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3.  Put all of the softened veggies into your crockpot and add the liquid of your choice, the lentils, the vinegar, chipotle peppers and the tomato paste.  Stir it all together well and cover with the lid.  Cook on high for about 4-5 hours or low for 8-10 hours.  (alternatively, you can cook this all in a partially covered pot for about 40 minutes or until the lentils are cooked).

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It’s soooo nice to come home to cooked food!!  You can serve this the way I did with chicken (or fish) and goat cheese or you can simply have it as a vegetarian dish – but I still like the goat cheese (or feta) to add a bit of tang to the meal.  This does make a lot of lentils so be prepared to freeze some.  I’m planning on putting some in a blender and adding some more stock to make a great soup.  Or, how about this…put some in a food processor and pulse to a paste, top with black olive tapenade and drizzle with good quality olive oil.  Then serve as an appetizer with some amazing crackers or some artisan bread….
The possibilities are endless…how are you going to use it?

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