Discovering Lentils

Before I discovered the convenience of fast-cooking lentils, I hardly ever made chili. I never remembered to soak the beans the night before. Now I can make chili in about an hour using dry lentils instead of beans.

Lentils and beans are both legumes, but unlike their bean cousins, lentils require no soaking before they’re cooked. And in most instances they are ready to eat in thirty minutes or less. For various reasons, lentils are an excellent addition to food storage. They will keep for many years if stored in a tightly covered container in a cool, dry place.

Lentils have everything wise eaters are looking for. They are low in fat, sodium, cholesterol, and calories, yet they are high in fiber and complex carbohydrates. Lentils are a good source of vitamins A, B, and C. They are also high in potassium, vitamin E, calcium, phosphorus, and iron. They provide a complete protein if they are combined with nuts, seeds, eggs, rice, cereals, grains, or small amounts of animal protein such as dairy products or meat. The combination will supply all the amino acids necessary for a strong, healthy body.

You’ve probably heard of lentil soup, but there are many other delicious ways to use lentils. Combine lightly cooked lentils with chopped celery and onions, hard-boiled eggs, and salad dressing to make a great substitute for potato salad. Use cooked lentils in place of half the amount of meat in casseroles and lasagna, or even sprinkle them on a pizza. Cooked and pureed lentils can be fried to make a delicious substitute for refried beans. Add lentil puree to drop cookies, cakes, and muffins to enrich the fiber, protein, and moisture content. Sprouted uncooked lentils add crunch to a salad. Lentils can be used in any recipe that calls for dry beans.

To cook lentils, rinse and drain them; then put them in a saucepan with twice the amount of water as lentils. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer fifteen minutes for salads, thirty minutes for main dishes, forty-five minutes for soups, or sixty minutes for purees.

To make chili, put all of your usual ingredients into a pot, omitting the beans. Add about 1 1/2 cups rinsed lentils for eight servings. Cook the chili for forty-five minutes or until the lentils are tender.

Easy to prepare and versatile, lentils are a practical, tasty addition to any diet.Laurie H. Fifield, Moscow, Idaho

Missionary of the Week

Brother Chuck Hatch of the Cascade Park Ward in Vancouver, Washington, remembers receiving letters from his home ward members when he was a missionary, so he instituted a missionary-of-the-week program in our ward.

He set up a missionary board with a map, a place for a picture, and two pockets. One pocket contains note-sized paper, and the other pocket collects the completed notes. Each week the picture on the missionary board is changed, and a reminder is put in the ward bulletin so that members will recall to send a note. Pinpointed on the map of the world is the spot where the missionary of the week is serving.

Ward members select a piece of note paper and jot a few lines while waiting for classes to begin or during the short breaks between meetings. The next day the notes are bundled up and mailed to the missionary. Letters from our missionaries have been read in sacrament meeting expressing the happiness they feel when they receive these letters from home.

One day Brother Hatch even took a picture of the whole ward standing outside the chapel to send to each of our missionaries. I’m certain our missionaries know they are loved.Marilyn Feik, Vancouver, Washington

Picture-Perfect Children

I have often watched my tiny children sit quietly and pore over photo albums for hours. I wondered, Why can’t they sit like that at church? That’s when I came up with an idea for a quiet book. I bought an inexpensive mini photo album for each of my children. Then I put each child’s picture on the cover of his or her album and filled the booklet with photos of family outings and special days. You could also use pictures of the Savior, pictures of temples, or pictures of praying children to remind the children to sit reverently.

The children get to look at their quiet books only during church, so the albums remain new and captivating. I also change the pictures periodically. As my preschoolers look at their quiet books, they are developing a skill of reverence that will soon help them to sit quietly without any visual aids or quiet books. My children love their quiet books, and seeing pictures of themselves and the family helps them feel special and lets them know they’re loved.Debra J. Fredrickson, West Valley City, Utah

Family Time with Father

In our family, Dad works hard. He works a full-time job, devotes many hours to his Church calling, mows the lawn, fixes the car, changes diapers, and is involved in a multitude of other activities. But does Dad ever have time to play?

When Dad comes home from work, the children exclaim, “Daddy’s home, Daddy’s home!” He comes in, hugs the children, and kisses his wife, but too often he sits down in his chair and is too tired to get up again. When we found that Dad’s busy schedule was allowing him less and less time and energy for family activities, we brainstormed regarding ways to work around the problem. The following suggestions help our family stay close to Dad. Some ideas may apply to single-parent families, too.

Take time with each child. In our home it is always easier to promise to do something later than to do it right now. So instead of making and breaking a promise to play later, Dad schedules time every week to be with each of the children. That way, even if something comes up to change plans to play, the children don’t miss out on time with Dad. If a call comes from the elders quorum asking for help in moving a new family into the ward, Dad simply takes a child along with him. It may not be playing, but it can still be fun. They might stop on the way and have a doughnut and hot chocolate. When the time comes to take a break, they might go to a nearby park and have a picnic. Whether it’s work or play, just being with Dad is a treat in itself.

Cut down on television time. We found that even though watching television is relaxing, it doesn’t give us quality time as a family. We decided not to watch television between the time Dad comes home from work and when the children go to bed. After we got used to having the television off, we were surprised at how much interaction we had as a family. Instead of being glued to the tube, we began communicating with each other. We feel closer to each other than we used to.

Plan surprise activities. If Dad comes home from work tired and worn out, falls into his chair, and doesn’t get up until dinner, we know it’s time to plan another surprise activity. We love to kidnap Dad when he leaves from work or steps out of the car at home and take him on a family outing. Our activity might be as simple as going to a park for a picnic dinner. Sometimes we make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, throw in a bag of chips, kidnap Dad, and drive to a local point of interest. Even though they aren’t elaborate, our activities are always fun and spontaneous—and Dad loves being the center of everyone’s kidnapping scheme.

Take time in the daytime. Some dads might work at night or have schedule obligations that make it hard to be with the family in the evening. If this is the case, Dad could spend time with the children in the daytime. After arranging with the child’s school, Dad could take one of the children to lunch. On a school holiday perhaps a child can spend some time with Dad at work so that when Dad needs to rest or have some time alone at home, the children will understand better why people get tired from working all day.

No matter what Dad does in his work, in his Church calling, or in his spare time, being a dad is a full-time job. By creatively planning ways to spend time together as a family, and by Dad’s scheduling time with individual members of the family, we have come to know each other better. And because we often sacrifice to be together, we have learned to love and appreciate each other more.Susan Zimmerman, Visalia, California

Learning with Grandma

My mother was happy when some of her married daughters settled near her to rear their families. Besides being able to enjoy the company of her children, she wanted to develop a close relationship with her grandchildren. That desire led to the formation of “Grandma School.” On Wednesday mornings, the moms take turns driving those grandchildren who are three to five years old to Grandma’s house.

Grandma meets the children at the door with a big hug and a smile. When everyone is assembled, Grandma School opens with the U.S. Pledge of Allegiance. The children are eager for their turn to hold the flag or lead the pledge. Soon they know the words by heart. This is followed by a prayer, and then Grandma reads a story.

Then the children sit around the kitchen table where Grandma has a couple of simple worksheets prepared. The children learn simple preparatory skills such as identifying colors, matching, and counting.

Art is the favorite activity of the day. Grandma often selects a project corresponding to the current season or an upcoming holiday. For example, close to Valentine’s Day every child creates a valentine person made up of different sizes of hearts. Many of the projects emphasize cutting with scissors, a useful skill for kindergartners that takes lots of practice to develop. By observing each grandchild and noticing how he or she is progressing, Grandma can give her daughters helpful information about their children’s preparation for kindergarten.

Grandma School concludes with a simple lunch. After a hug and kiss, the children go out to the car, clutching their art. They often fall asleep on the way home, tired from an exciting morning of school with cousins and Grandma.Rauna Mortensen, Mesa, Arizona

[illustrations] Illustrated by David McDonald