Easy Lentil Cheddar Casserole

  I’ve talked about it before, but I find discovering good vegetarian recipes challenging.  I try hard to limit our pasta intake to once a week tops, but finding vegetarian dishes that don’t have pasta and actually taste like…well…anything is really difficult.  Lentils are a great, healthy base for vegetarian dishes, but it seems like most of the recipes are really bland.  This recipe doesn’t have that problem.  It’s another one from the Everything One-Pot Cookbook, and this time they actually mean it…just one pot!
12 oz dried lentils*
2 c water
1 bay leaf
2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp marjoram
1/4 tsp sage
1/4 tsp thyme leaves
2 large onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb canned tomatoes*
2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
1/2 c celery, chopped
1 green pepper, thinly sliced
2 Tbsp parsley, chopped
3 c sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded
*Couldn’t find these ingredients in the recommended sizes, I used 16 oz lentils and 1 lb 12 oz tomatoes.
  Start by preheating your oven to 375 degrees.  The cook book says 357 degrees, but, uhm, my oven isn’t quite that precise, is yours?
  Place your lentils in a mesh strainer and rinse them with cold water.  Check to make sure there is no foreign material in them and remove it if there is.  Seriously.  Sometimes there are rocks in lentils.
  Pour your rinsed lentils into a 9″x13″ baking dish with your water, bay leaf, salt, pepper, marjoram, sage, thyme, onions, garlic and tomatoes (with their liquid).
  Here’s where what I did and what I was supposed to do diverged.  I was cooking without the Mr. around and the boys were being rather distracting, soooo, I missed the part where it said that you’re supposed to cover the dish before putting it in the oven for 30 minutes.  I baked mine uncovered for 30.
  Next you stir in your carrots and your celery.  Because I realized at this point I was supposed to have covered my dish before, I stirred in about 1/2-3/4 cup of water to replace the moisture that had been lost.  I covered it in tin foil and returned it to the oven for the suggested 40 minutes.
  After 40 minutes have passed, remove your foil, stir in your green pepper and parsley and top the whole thing with cheese.  Return it to the oven uncovered for about 5 minutes, to melt the cheese.
  Because lentils aren’t usually my thing, I was shocked by how much I loved this.  The flavor reminds me of my zucchini and cheese, but is meal-hearty as opposed to being a side dish.  This makes a lot, and it fills you up quickly, so I may half the recipe next time I make it.  As it was, I enjoyed this for lunch for several days in a row with G.
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