My grandmother, the mother of seven, was a full-time housewife. She was first in her family to earn a college degree, and she put it to good use. Graduating with a home economics diploma from Penn State University in the early ’40s gave her the schooling she needed to keep an organized kitchen and run what must have been a very busy household. It was her lifelong career. She took it seriously and did, by all accounts, an amazing job. And for the time, that was normal. My grandfather worked all day to bring home money to support her. My grandmother worked all day and night at home to support him. They had distinct gender rolls and, together, ran the family unit.
Boy, times have changed.
For most of us the cost of living has increased, yet average wages have not kept pace. If you want to send your kids to college (like my grandparents did with their kids), both mom and dad need to work full time. Yet, the importance of eating together at home as a family unit has been well documented. Your kids will do better in school. They will come to you when they have questions about life. They will feel connected to the family. And all because you can sit down and eat together. But who has time to cook?
A little planning can go a long way. Here’s one tip that has changed my life: Cook big batches of beans or lentils. Cook far more than you can eat in a meal and keep the leftovers ready to go.
This week, work is hectic, but last weekend I cooked a huge batch of lentils. We ate some with eggplant and rice, and the rest got refried, Mexican-style, to top a much healthier and super-satisfying version of vegetarian nachos. Bonus: Monday nacho night is everyone’s favorite way to start the week. You will have zero problems getting the whole family to the table.
Leftover Lentil Vegetarian Nachos
For the lentils:
1/2 pound whole lentils (any lentil will work as long as it’s whole, split lentils turn to mush)
Fine sea salt
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 garlic cloves, crushed
2 chile de arbol, crumbled
For the nachos:
1/2 bag organic corn tortilla chips
8 ounces shredded cheese (a mixture of different cheeses adds depth and character)
Fresh tomato salsa
3 tablespoons cilantro leaves
Rinse the lentils and place in a pot covered with 2 inches of water then bring to a boil. Cook the lentils, partially covered, until tender, 30 to 40 minutes, then season with salt. Drain and reserve. (The lentils can be cooked several days ahead, chill, covered until ready to use.)
Heat the oil in a large cast iron skillet over medium heat until hot. Stir in the garlic and chiles and cook until the garlic is golden, about 4 minutes. Stir in 1 1/2 cups of the reserved lentils and 1/2 cup water and cook, mashing with a ladle or flat-bottomed measuring cup. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Preheat the broiler.
Spread the tortillas on a baking sheet. Scatter the lentils over the tortillas. Scatter the cheese over the lentils. Broil until the cheese is melted, 4 to 6 minutes. Top the nachos with salsa, cilantro, sour cream and hot sauce. Serve.