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Chicken Fried Rice

August 22, 2017

I’m going to be honest with you all and say that we are having a hard time finding some authentic and delicious Asian cuisine here in AZ.  Have we found Asian food here? Yes.  Is it always delicious? No. Lots of trial and error going on here. We have yet to find a teriyaki joint nearby which is rough because that was a once a week thing of us in WA.  However, we did have a big win on Saturday when we finally found a fantastic pho place and our hearts were all jumping for joy as we ate pho for the first in the three months.  The boys were relishing every sip.  It was pretty hilarious hearing them say, “Oh yeah, this is authentic…this is the good stuff.”

Another favorite of ours is fried rice and this recipe is easy enough for you to make at home and still taste as good as take out!  I actually did some research on this and found this food blogger guy who did several experiments using all different kinds of rice etc. and I was happy to learn that you do not need to cook the rice the day before.  You do however, need to have the rice cooled off.  For my recipe, I rinsed the rice, cooked it and then spread it on a sheet pan to cool for about 30 minutes while I did other stuff. Easy peasy.  Jasmine rice is ideal but you can use brown or regular long grain white like I did.

And you know me so you know this recipe is very quick and easy to come together. It was even faster because I used prepackaged rotisserie chicken but you can easily cook up some chicken (or really any meat).   I am a huge fan of the prepackaged rotisserie chicken from Costco.  I can get two to three meals out of one package and it’s just a perfect match for my lazy self.  Ha!

Of course you can add in any veggies you like but I kept this simple with the classic peas, carrots, green and white onions, and eggs.  It was sooooo good you guys! All my boys (including the big one) inhaled it and I even made a second batch for the next day’s lunch. Winner winner chicken fried rice dinner.  Hope you love it as much as we all did! Full recipe below.



Chicken Fried Rice

1.5 cups shredded chicken
1/2 onion, finely diced
1 Tablespoon butter*
3 chopped green onions
3 eggs
1 cup peas and carrots, thawed
3 cups cooked and cooled white rice
3 Tablespoons soy sauce (add more to taste)
2 Tablespoons sesame oil
Toasted sesame seeds, for garnish

  1. Melt butter on medium/ high heat in large pan and add in onion, carrots, peas and chicken. Cook 4-5 minutes until onions are tender and chicken is starting to brown.
  2. Move chicken mixture to one side of the pan and throw in eggs on the empty side. Cook until scrambled and break up as small you can.
  3. Turn heat to high and add in rice, soy sauce, sesame oil and green onions and cook on high, stirring every 30 seconds or so. Let the rice crisp a bit. Serve with sesame seeds on top.

*You can totally make this dairy/egg allergy friendly with margarine instead of butter and omitting the eggs. (I did this for Da Fuss).


15 minute Stir Fry

July 18, 2017

I love Asian food so much but cooking it? Not so much. I feel like a lot of the recipes I find call for 700 ingredients, many of which I’ll only use once.  This little pearl of a recipe is quite simple with no crazy-unique ingredients and with a couple shortcuts, it comes together so fast.

I picked up a pre-packaged bag of stir fry veggies and threw in a few more snap peas (our fave). If I had a little more time, I would have cut up an onion and some mushrooms too.  While the noodles cooked, I sliced up and cooked the chicken. The stir fry sauce is super simple and tastes perfect. Not too salty, not too tangy, not too sweet…just right! My boys asked for seconds and thirds! I kind of love one pot meals like this. The protein, starch and veggies in one pot is just my style.  I served it with some fresh strawberries on the side.  And for the record, a little Sriracha on this is (imagine me kissing my finger tips like an Italian would). Yum. Hope you enjoy this well rounded and quick little meal.

Full recipe below.



Chicken Noodle Stir Fry

12 oz chow mein or rice noodles
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 chicken breasts, sliced thinly
1 package of stir fry vegetables
1 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger or 1 1/2 Tablespoon fresh ginger
1 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup ketchup
2  teaspoons cornstarch
1 Tablespoon sesame oil

Toasted sesame seeds for garnish

  1. Bring a large pot of water to boil and cook noodles. Rinse in cold water when done.
  2. While noodles are cooking, slice chicken.
  3. Heat vegetable oil in large skillet. Add in chicken and cook until done. Set aside.
  4. In same pan, add in stir fry veggies and cook until tender, 5-6 minutes.
  5. In small bowl, combine broth, soy sauce, ketchup, cornstarch and sesame oil.
  6. Add sauce mixture to veggies, add in chicken. Stir to combine. Cook until sauce thickens, 1-2 minutes.
  7. Pour chicken and veggie mix on top of noodles and stir to combine. Sprinkle sesame seeds on top and enjoy.

Muy Easy Carne Guisada

July 11, 2017

This yummy meat dish is so muy delicioso and so muy easy. Just how I like it.  Not surprisingly, I don’t have a lot of motivation to cook with 110 degree weather but it’s odd because I still have a very intense desire to eat big and delicious meals preferably ones that I don’t have to cook.  Ha! Funny how that works. This is the next best thing though; a set-it-and-forget-it meal that is also super satisfying. If you’ve never had carne guisada, it is basically simply seasoned stew meat cooked in it’s own delicious gravy.  You typically eat this with some Mexican rice and tortillas.  It’s so full of flavor since it cooks for three hours and with simple ingredients, it’s just an all around winner.  The tender meat can easily be scooped up and eaten with a tortilla, you won’t even have to dirty a utensil. Ha!   You can make this stove top,  in the Instant Pot, or crock pot.  You just cannot mess this one up!

I love Costco’s precut stew meat because it’s excellent quality and well priced. My kids devour this so you can bet it’s a crowd pleaser.  I remember my  mom cooking an enormous amount of carne guisada for one of my brother’s wedding reception. Yep, that good. Good enough to share with all of your loved ones and easy enough to not stress over making it.

Full recipe below.
**I forgot to add in fresh garlic to the photo of ingredients**


Carne Guisada

green bell pepper
1 large onion
5 cloves of garlic
3 lb boneless beef shoulder roast (or stew meat)
1 Tbsp ground cumin
1 Tbsp vegetable oil

2-3 tsp of salt (I used 2.5tsp)

1/2 tsp ground pepper
1/2 cup water
1 Tbsp flour 
1. Cut up stew meat into inch cubes.  In a large pot, heat oil and add in stew meat.
2. Roughly chop tomatoes, pepper and onion and add to the meat.
3. Add in cumin, garlic, salt and pepper and stir to combine.
4. Cover and let it cook on low for 3 hours or until meat is tender. Stir occasionally.
5. About 30 minutes before it’s done, combine water and flour and mix well. Add mixtures to meat and simmer last 30 minutes.

Simple Meal Planning – How I get it done.

February 3, 2017

Brace yourself for lots of words. I try to keep my posts short and sweet but this topic takes some explaining.  Meal planning is one of those things that can be tedious to do but pays off in the long run.  I know there are many ways that work for people but I have had a few friends ask me how I do it,  so I thought I’d share how I roll!

I’m not huge into super complicated processes for meal planning. I can’t decide if it’s because I’m efficient or just lazy. Maybe a little of both.  Ha!   This process has worked for years for me.  With investing a little time every couple weeks, you’ll always have ingredients for several meals on hand at any given time. There is a catch for the way I do it but it’s not too hard to do. Follow my easy steps and get rid of that “Ugh, what should I make for dinner tonight?” feeling. Theeeee worst.

The very first thing you have to do is make a spreadsheet either in Excel or on your Google Drive where you will add every single recipe you make. This will be your database of recipes.  This step is necessary and very important.  I like Google Drive for a million reasons but one of the reasons is that I can access it from anywhere at anytime. If I’m in a pinch and need a meal idea on the spot, I can open it up on my phone app and be instantly inspired while standing in the aisle at the grocery store. Creating the meal database didn’t take me near as long as I thought it would. We did this one night as a family so the kids chimed in with what they liked and it came together quickly. It probably took me 30 minutes to set up. Keep it simple. Categorize your spreadsheet however you prefer but I did the following categories:

Meal Name

Lord Business told me I should make a “Ranking” category but I really I don’t make any meals unless they are A or B ranking.  Who is going to repeat a C rated meal? Not me. After you make your categories, just get to work racking your brain. This step is crucial because it will streamline your meal planning from here on out. The more the better. See image below for a glimpse of mine.  For example you’ll add in recipes like this:

Meal Name: Spaghetti & Meatballs
Type: Entree
Meat: Ground Beef
Speed: 30 minutes
Source: Mel’s Kitchen Cafe


Meal Name: Chicken Noodle Soup
Type: Soup
Meat: Chicken
Speed: 30 minutes

Under “Source” you put wherever you get that recipe from. Do you get it from an online website?  You don’t have to put the actual URL but can just put the title. Do you get it from a favorite recipe book? Put the title there. I like to use abbreviations like Pioneer Woman is PW or Our Best Bites is OBB.  If it’s a recipe from my own brain, I just put “Laurel.” Once that’s all done, you are ready to roll.

What works for me is to open up that list two times a month. Every two weeks I will pull 8-10 meals from my list and write the meals down on one piece of paper and then on another piece of paper I make the shopping list for what I need for those meals. I do 8-10 meals because we got out to eat or we’ll have leftovers or to be brutally honest, some nights are cereal or sandwich nights. Is my Cherrios and milk recipe Instagram worthy? Ha!  Anyway, for example on one piece of paper I’ll have my meals for that two week time period:

BBQ Pork Sliders
Hawaiian Haystacks
Chicken Tacos
Chicken Noodle Soup
Turkey Chili
Cajun Chicken Pasta
Turkey Lettuce Wraps
Homemade Pizzas

And on another piece of paper I’ll have my ingredients list. For example I’d have:

Pork Roast
BBQ Sauce
Slider rolls
Chow Mein Noodles
Green onions
Chicken Broth
Ground Turkey (2)
Black & Kidney Beans
Tomato Sauce
Bell Peppers
Cream Cheese

Of course my ingredients list would be much longer (or shorter) for whatever you have on hand already. I also add tons of staples that I use in the house at any given time like orange juice, bread, eggs, bagels, chips, cereal and other snacks. Every two weeks I do a ‘big shop’ where I go to Costco to load up on granola bars, meats, eggs, and anything I can get from my list. Then I head to stores like Fred Meyer or Safeway to get the smaller things from my list. I do this two times a month and it takes me based on where I live (10 min from Costco etc.) about 3 hours from start to finish. Finish as in groceries are put away and I’m done and exhausted, but relieved.  I also buy food that I commonly make as sides to meals. For our family that’s broccoli, green beans, fruit, cottage cheese, salad mixes etc.

The piece of paper with the list of meals on it is crucial so it’s best to either transfer those meals onto a calendar or stick on your fridge or somewhere where you won’t lose it.  I’ve lost my list a few times and I have a hard time remembering what I wrote down. A lot of times my oldest son will come home from school and look at the list and say, “Oh hmmm, let’s have X for dinner tonight.” I don’t like holding myself hostage to the idea of having a certain meal on a certain day because sometimes I don’t feel like putting forth the effort for that particular meal or we just don’t feel like eating it.

Some things to think about when you are meal planning. 1. Do you have a busy couple of weeks? If so, add in a bunch of slow cooker or Instant Pot meals. Keep it simple for yourself  2. Is the weather hot/cold? When it’s hot, look for salads or lighter meals. When it’s cold, add in more soups, comfort food etc. 3. Are you working towards a health goal? Maybe cut out pasta/rice in that two week time period and add in more low carb/healthy options.  I personally meal plan based on how busy my weeks are for our family so I usually have my calendar open simultaneously while planning. So if I’m slammed on a few early afternoons, I’ll add in extra simple meals to be prepared. Enter Instant Pot…:D

The actual meal planning part where you sit down to write it all down shouldn’t take more than 30 minutes every couple weeks. If you have a little more time to plan, you can browse on the Internet and add in new meals to try.  Then you can add them to your list if you love them!  The “BIG SHOP” is what takes much more time and effort but if you do right, you only have to do it every couple of weeks. Sure, you may have to make quick pit stops to get more bread or some fresh veggies and fruit but you can’t ever avoid that for too long anyway.

I hope you have been inspired to start meal planning if you don’t already. I’m not huge into freezer meals (they usually taste funny to me) but I know there are lots of other short cuts you can take. I know some people make double the amount and eat the left overs the next night.  I personally am a little picky and only eat leftovers of certain meals so I don’t usually make much  more than we’ll eat in one night. Like I said, this works for me beautifully and I love being able to make several meals at any given time. Thanks for making it this far!



Easy Poached Huevos Rancheros

February 2, 2017

Oh man, these huevos rancheros are so delicious! I put these right up there with tacos. Yes, I just put these on the same top shelf as the beloved and versatile taco. Don’t lose culinary respect for me quite yet.  I’m the kind of gal that can eat salsa by the spoonfuls and wash it down with some horchata. I guess you can say I a Mexi-fan. (I just made that up).  Anything Mexican, I want it.  Sometimes all I want in my life is some fresh and soft pan dulce with a mug of Mexican hot chocolate. I get a little self conscious when I’m with friends at a Mexican restaurant because I get the corn chips and just spoon the salsa into my mouth. Quieres mas salsa? Si, por favor.  Okay, I’m distracted and hungry. Back to eggs! That’s what makes these eggs so amazing. The super simple and robust flavor of the salsa with it. Eggs are good. But with salsa? And beans? And queso fresco?  Are you starting to understand my adoration for this stuff? So.much. flavor. You can eat these plain with some toast and bacon on the side or you can eat them the way I prefer which is on a bed of beans on top of a tostada. Party in your mouth.

And to give credit where credit is due, my fabulous sister-in-law made them for me a couple years ago and once you have had them,  I guarantee you’ll want them again and again!  If you are craving a simple and traditional Mexican breakfast, give this recipe a try. Huevos rancheros is just Spanish for ‘ranch eggs’ and were commonly eaten and prepared this way by farmers and ranchers in Mexico.  All they are are some eggs with some kind tomato based salsa, but that makes them sounds so basic and these are not just your basic eggs and salsa. What I love about this recipe is that I can throw it together in literally 15-20 minutes. And if I close my eyes and concentrate enough,  I feel like I’m sitting at our favorite breakfast cafe in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico with the breeze in my hair, the sound of the markets around me and the smell of fresh corn tortillas. You can’t really mess this one up, so give this tasty and different breakfast a try!  Full recipe below.



Look for “Mexican Style” tomatoes. You have to use Mexican style or stewed tomatoes with added peppers and onions or similar.


Cooking finely chopped onions. Is there a better smell on earth?


Don’t hold back on that cilantro! It cooks down and adds so much flavor.


In my 12 inch sized skillet, I was able to fit six eggs perfectly.


Perfectly poached. 


***Sidenote, I love my pampered chef small steamer I bought years and years ago at a garage sale for 25 cents.  I just throw my canned beans in there, a little water so it’s not so thick, some dried onion, cumin, garlic and pepper and they come out of the microwave tasting homemade without all the work. My steamer is old and ugly  but I LOVE it.  Click ====>>>> Pampered Chef Small Micro-Cooker  to see it on Amazon for $17.98.


Huevos Rancheros

4-6 eggs
1/2 jalapeno, minced (optional)
1/4 large onion, chopped finely
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 cans of Mexican stewed tomatoes
1 can refried beans
1 teaspoon garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste **Don’t forget to season and taste to your liking**
queso fresco
corn tostadas

1. Heat oil in a large saucepan. Add in minced jalapeño and onion. Cook until tender.
2. In a blender, blend canned tomatoes just blended, not too long!
3. Add blended tomatoes, garlic, cilantro, salt and pepper into saucepan.  Stir and turn to low. Simmer for 10-15 minutes to let flavors meld.
4. In steamer or small saucepan, add can of beans, about 3 Tablespoons of water, some dried onion flakes, pepper and a dash of cumin and heat. Set aside.
5. Crack eggs and carefully place them into the hot salsa. Use a spoon to make a little hole for eggs. Cover and cook for 5-7 minutes on low or until the eggs are to your liking. I like over-medium.
6. Spread a layer of beans on a tostada, place egg and salsa on beans and garnish with cilantro and cheese.


Italian Chicken And Veggie Bake

January 25, 2017

Dinner cannot get any easier than this! Well, maybe those cereal-for-dinner nights can trump the simplicity of this stuff.  You can adjust it your family’s preference by adding in different veggies. My boys love this with broccoli, green beans, bell peppers, onions, zucchini and Yukon potatoes however, one of my boys hates cooked onions and bell peppers so he just picks them out.  Just keeping it real! I fried up the leftovers with  some scrambled eggs on the side for Lord Business’ breakfast, and he loved it!  My oldest son, who is my excellent eater, (he’s 10…so you know) can down a ton of this and asks for leftovers in lunch the next day. Mom win!  Have I sold you yet on this recipe?  Can I call it a recipe with how easy it is?  It’s a perfect balance of savory and tiny touch of sweetness.  I love how the broccoli gets crispy and brown and that the chicken stays juicy.   Also, Sriracha on this stuff….delicious. Serve with some fruit and dinner is dunzo! You can find the Italian salad dressing mix over by the powdered ranch dressing packages at the grocery store.

Italian Chicken and Veggie Bake

2 lbs- chicken breast or tenders, cut into 1 inch cubes
2 heads of broccoli, chopped
2 zuchini, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 onion, chopped
4-5 Yukon potatoes chopped small
1/2 lb fresh green beans, cut in half
2 envelopes of Italian Salad Dressing Mix
3 Tablespoons olive oil


  1. Combine chicken and veggies, coat with olive oil and sprinkle Italian Salad dressing seasoning. Toss to coat evenly.
  2. Spread onto cookie sheet and bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes, stir on pan and bake another 15-20 or until potatoes are tender and chicken reaches 160 degrees





Instant Pot/Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas

January 19, 2017

My kids love ‘cornitas’ as they call it!  My Instant Pot makes this dinner unbelievably easy and the flavors are to die for! Perfectly salty, juicy and tender meat with a crispy edge makes these tacos stand out. Costco sells high quality pork roasts in individual packs of four for around $20-25. (I heart Costco!) With super simple ingredients you probably have on hand, all you need are some tortillas, avocado,  limes and salsa! !  Left over meat would be so yummy in many other things too!   Full recipe below:


Sleep tight for an hour or so! 



Instant Pot/Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas

1 2-3 lb pork roast

2 teaspoons salt

2 teaspoons oregano

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon chili powder

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1 onion, chopped roughly

4 cloves garlic

3/4 cup orange juice

  1. Combine all spices, and rub really well onto roast.
  2. Place roast into Instant Pot and pour orange juice over seasoned roast. Add in chopped onions.
  3. Cook on ‘meat’ setting for 60 minutes.
  4. When done cooking, remove roast and shred on baking pan and place in oven at 425 degrees until edges get crispy, about 10-15 minutes.

**You can skip the last step if you don’t care for the crispy edges or you can also heat some oil up in a skillet and fry the carnitas really quickly. SO good this way too.

**Same instructions apply with slow cooker, except cook on low for 6-8 hours.




Crock Pot/Instant Pot Dulce de Leche

December 21, 2016

Have you ever tried to buy dulce de leche in the store? It is SO hard to find. At least where I live! I literally went to 3 stores to find some and nada!  Dulce de leche is so incredibly decadent and delicious in pretty much any form. Resembling caramel, all it is is boiled milk and sugar.  My favorite ways to eat it are in crepes, on toast and with apples! This recipe is fool proof, guaranteed to be a crowd pleaser and it’s cheap to make! If you make this in the Instant Pot on the slow cooker setting, it cooks much faster than in a crock pot (about 5 hours versus 8 in a slow cooker). I believe I was able to fit 7 in my Instant Pot and another 9 in my Crock pot.

This year for my neighbor’s Christmas gifts I decided to give a jar of dulce de leche with a couple fresh,  crisp apples. I found the idea on Pinterest for a teacher gift but thought it was a perfect Christmas gift too. Super easy and something the family will love. It also doesn’t hurt adding a little fresh fruit into the holiday cookie/sweets selection.  I like to have dulce de leche on hand for ice cream topping, pancake topping, and anything really! I mean, it’s a glorified caramel so it’s good right off the spoon! But I don’t ever do that….:D

Full recipe below.




Crock Pot/ Instant Pot Dulce de Leche

8 ounce mason jars, washed and dried
Sweetened condensed milk
Slow cooker or Instant Pot

  1. Wash and dry mason jars. Fill almost full with sweetened condensed milk. One can will fill about 1 and half 8 ounce jars so you may want to buy a few jars.
  2. Close and seal jars tightly.
  3. Place into slow cooker and pour enough water to completely cover the jar in the slow cooker.
  4. Cook on low for 8 hours or until desired color/consistency. I like it pretty dark and rich. The longer it cooks, the thicker and richer it is.
  5. Remove from slow cooker and let cool.
  6. Store for up to a month in the refrigerator. Jars should seal after cooking.

Chicken Noodle Soup

December 20, 2016

This is the time of year you want to make this soup. You know, around the holidays when you don’t have tons of energy or time to make a full blown meal. Oh wait,…that’s like every other day. Ha! Anyway, this soup comes together SO fast because I use the prepackaged Costco rotisserie chicken. If you don’t already buy it this way, please start! So much easier, so much flavor and oh so convenient.  I don’t use this chicken in all my recipes but recipes like this, it’s just perfect!  My kids devour this stuff and left overs are so good too! I mean, who doesn’t love a good chicken noodle soup? I like to cook my noodles in a separate pot so that I can add them to the soup individually. This way it won’t make the soup part cloudy and it won’t make the noodles soggy the next day. Win/win. You can make the soup part in the Instant Pot very quickly but I was already using my Instant Pot for another recipe so stovetop it is. It comes together start to finish in 20-ish minutes.  Poultry seasoning is a great short cut because it’s basically an all in one for savory herbs that go perfectly in this soup. Marjoram, thyme, rosemary, and a teeny tiny bit of nutmeg. Side note: I used regular noodles since my little guy is allergic to egg or else I would use egg noodles! Full recipe below.



img_4270Find this base at Costco for around six dollars (I may be way off).



img_4284**Costco also has these adorable bowls, 6 for $20. They stack so well which is a huge plus for me!


Chicken Noodle Soup

1 teaspoon dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
3/4 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 Tablespoons minced garlic
salt to taste
1 pound chicken (or 1/2 of the package of Costco rotisserie chicken) roughly chopped.
8 cups water
5 teaspoons Better Than Bullion or chicken base powder
4 carrots, peeled and chopped
4 stalks celery, chopped
1 onion, diced
1 Tablespoon oil
1-2 cups of noodles

  1. Heat oil in large sauce pan, add in onions, celery and carrots. Cook until just tender.
  2. Add in garlic, basil, poultry seasoning, parsley, pepper and chicken base. Cook 1 minute.
  3. Add in diced chicken and water and salt to taste.
  4. Cover and simmer until veggies are tender.
  5. In a separate pot, bring water to boil and cook pasta until tender.
  6. Drain noodles and add into bowls when serving soup.

Lentil Soup

October 27, 2016

I grew up with my mama making lentils regularly. They aren’t the most beautiful color on planet earth but that doesn’t stop me from making them and it certainly doesn’t stop my family from happily eating them up! So yummy, healthy and filling!  Serve with some crusty bread and simple salad and you’ll have a perfect fall meal. I made this soup with my Instant Pot Electric Pressure Cooker. (Click that link to read more about how amazing it is). If you make it stove top, use eight cups of water instead of seven since some of the water will evaporate and none will if you use the Instant Pot. I’ve made this before with bacon added in and have even thrown in some chicken. Ham would be delicious too! Full recipe below.



Lentil Soup

1 onion, chopped

1 Tablespoon oil

3 carrots, chopped

3 stalks celery, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 bay leaf

1 teaspoon dried basil

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1-14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes

2 cups lentils

fresh chopped parsley

7 cups water

Seasoning salt or bouillon

  1. Throw everything in your Instant Pot. Add seasoning salt or bouillon and stir. Taste the water to make sure it’s salty enough to your liking. Cook in the Instant Pot on “beans” setting for 30 minutes.
  2. If cooking stove top, heat oil in large pot and cook carrots, onion, garlic and celery until tender. Add in the rest of the ingredients and simmer for about an hour or until the lentils are tender.