LUSCIOUS JOYS AUGUST 2017
I have always passed lentils by in the grocery store because I thought they didn’t look overly appetizing! And truthfully, I was not really sure how to cook the things. But, little did I know, I was missing a food that is not only healthy but delicious. REALLY, they are luscious if you prepare them properly and there are a TON of recipes in which you can use them. Lentils are small but they pull a big punch; they include beneficial nutrients like fibre, protein, minerals, and vitamins, they are still low in calories and contain virtually no fat. One cup of cooked lentils only contains about 230 calories, but still leaves you feeling full and satisfied. Nutty and earthy in flavour, lentils have a high nutritional value that anyone can benefit from by incorporating this healthy legume into their diet.
They help to reduce blood cholesterol since it contains high levels of soluble fibrer. Lowering your cholesterol levels reduces your risk of heart disease and stroke by keeping your arteries clean.
Lentils are also a great source of folate and magnesium, which are big contributors to heart health. Folate lowers your homocysteine levels, a serious risk factor for heart disease. Magnesium improves blood flow, oxygen, and nutrients throughout the body. Low levels of magnesium have been directly associated with heart disease, so eating lentils will keep your heart happy!
Insoluble dietary fibre found in lentils helps prevent constipation and other digestive disorders like irritable bowel syndrome and diverticulosis. Adding to the many benefits of fibre, soluble fibre traps carbohydrates, slowing down digestion and stabilizing blood sugar levels. This can be especially helpful for those with diabetes, insulin resistance or hypoglycemia.
Of all legumes and nuts, lentils contain the third-highest levels of protein. 26 percent of lentils’ calories are attributed to protein, which makes them a wonderful source of protein for vegetarians and vegans. Lentils increase steady, slow-burning energy due its fibre and complex carbohydrates and they are also a good source of iron, which transports oxygen throughout your body and is key to energy production and metabolism.
One of the best things when it comes to lentils is that they can be quick and easy to make and they absorb flavours from other foods and seasonings all the time providing fibre and proteins. Add them to your stews, chili, soups, salads, even your smoothies!!
Little did I know that cooking lentils is the same as cooking rice, which we all know is the easiest food in the world to cook! All you do is use 3 cups of liquid (water or stock) to 1 cup of dry lentils. Be sure to use a large enough saucepan, as the lentils will double or triple in size. Bring to a boil, cover tightly, reduce heat and simmer until they are tender. For whole lentils, cook time is typically 15-20 minutes.
Or, try something new; the next time you’re having a party, try making some exotic lentil dips and spreads. Everyone loves hummus and we know we can make unique types of hummus by substituting other beans and legumes for the beloved chickpea, but have you ever considered making lentil hummus? Cook up a cup of red or green lentils until they are tender. Throw them into the food processor with tahini, chopped garlic cloves, lemon juice and olive oil and puree until smooth. Add some herbs and spices such as cumin, paprika, salt, cilantro or parsley or just use your imagination. For a spicy kick, add red pepper flakes or a dash of hot sauce. Serve your extra-special hummus with pita chips or raw veggies.
Lentils, especially the green and red ones that hold their shape, are wonderful in salads. They can be added to any salad or they can be the main ingredient. My favourite lentil salad is a warm one with vegetables. I cook 1 ½ cups of red lentils until they are tender. While they are cooking, I sauté chopped red onion and roasted red peppers. Then I combine the sautéed vegetables with the lentils and wilt a big bunch of baby spinach into it. I top this with a vinaigrette of red wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, extra-virgin olive oil, thyme, garlic, salt, and pepper. It’s delicious hot or cold, as a main dish or a side dish.
The Best Marinated Lentils
There seems more and more people turning to a plant-based diet. This recipe is perfect for them, as it is quick, satisfying, versatile, and protein heavy. It can be thrown together in less than a half hour and can be stored in the fridge for the whole work week. It’s delicious on top of salads, or in lettuce or pita wraps, or simply served as the main protein source for any meal. For the best texture, I recommend cooking the lentils from scratch (as opposed to using canned lentils). If you already have cooked lentils on hand, you’ll need about 3 1/2 cups for this recipe.
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 1/2 teaspoons pure maple syrup
1 teaspoon fine sea salt, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 to 1 1/2 cups thinly sliced green onions (about 1 medium bunch), dark and light green parts only
1/3 cup fresh parsley leaves, minced
1/2 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained and finely chopped
Pick over the lentils, discarding any debris. Rinse and drain the lentils and put them in a medium saucepan along with 4 cups (1 L) of water. Bring to a boil over medium to high heat, then reduce the heat to medium. Simmer, uncovered, for 20 to 25 minutes, until tender. In a large bowl, whisk together the oil, vinegar, lemon juice, mustard, maple syrup, salt, and pepper. Stir in the green onions, parsley, and tomatoes. Drain the lentils very well. Spoon them into the bowl with the other ingredients (it’s okay if they are still warm) and stir well. Season with additional salt and pepper. Serve immediately, or let cool slightly and then cover and marinate in the fridge for a couple of hours or overnight. Stir well before serving. This dish will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week.
Don’t you just love learning about new luscious healthy foods? I will never pass by lentils again. If you, too, thought lentils were old-fashioned and boring, think again. There is a reason these little powerhouses have been around since ancient times. Have fun exploring all the delicious ways to cook with lentils and just use your imagination.
mindbodygreen.com, lentils.org, and onegreenplanter.org,
Submitted by: Kathryn Hartwell