Budget-friendly and crowd-pleasing, this recipe for sloppy joes is also nutritionally dense and easy to prepare. How can you go wrong? Leftovers (if there are any) also freeze well. Get the napkins ready!

Ingredients:

1 cup black or green lentils

4 cups water

1 tablespoon neutral oil

½ sweet onion, diced

½ red bell pepper, diced

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce

¼ cup ketchup

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 tablespoon paprika

1 tablespoon prepared mustard

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 tablespoon maple syrup

½ teaspoon liquid smoke

Freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

  1. In a medium saucepan, add the water and lentils and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to low and cook until the lentils are fairly tender but not mushy, perhaps 20 to 25 minutes depending on the variety of lentils.  Drain them well.
  2. While the lentils are cooking, make the sauce:  In another saucepan, warm the oil over medium heat, add the onion, bell pepper, and garlic, and cook for 10 minutes. Then add the remaining ingredients.  Reduce the heat to low and continue to cook until the lentils are ready.
  3. Add the cooked lentils to the sauce and simmer for about another 5 to 10 minutes to let the lentils absorb some of the sauce.  Taste for salt.
  4. Serve over bulky rolls, toast, pasta, or baked potatoes.

Wendy Andresen lives in Camden with her husband, Ray; her Sheltie, Sunshine; and her bunny, Rustle. She welcomes responses to her column at wendyandrayzer@yahoo.com.