meatless mondays: lentil madness…

March Madness? Nahhh. I could care less about basketball. I’m suffering from my own form of madness…Lentil Madness!

I must be low on iron or some crazy old wives’ tale. I have been craving lentils lately. Maybe because I’ve been experimenting with delicious lentil recipes this past month, I’ve just rediscovered how much I love these little pods of protein. I just can’t get enough. I’ve been eating them at least once a week!

Lentils come in a multitude of varieties: red, yellow, orange, green, french, basic brown, etc. Most are interchangeable, but you’ll want to use a more firm variety, like french/green, for beans cooked for salads or side dishes. You can also achieve a firmer lentil by reducing the cook time.

Lentils are super easy to cook. Start with dried beans, rinsed and sorted (look for small stones that could be mixed in). They don’t require any pre-soaking as other legumes do. Mix one cup of lentils to 3 cups of liquids (I prefer to make them using vegetable broth instead of just water, although either or a combo of both works just fine too). Bring to a boil and then let simmer, adding more fluids if needed. They take 20-30 minutes to cook.

Lentils are not only easy to make, their nutritional stats read nicely too. They are high in folate, magnesium, and vitamin B1. They are well known for their high fiber too, which helps contribute to lower cholesterol. Fiber also helps manage blood sugar disorders by preventing levels from rapidly rising after a meal.

Lentils are a good source of iron and protein, especially the amino acids isoleucine and lysine. Add to the list that they are also low in fat and calories (unlike animal sources of protein and iron), and hello, we are talking “super food” here! To top it all off, they are very filling and satisfying.

Lentil soup is always a favorite of mine (especially with mushrooms added in), but I have also been enjoying spiced lentils with spinach, cold lentil salad, and Indian Dal lately.

Recipe: Spiced Lentils with Spinach

1/2 cup onion, finely diced
1 tsp olive oil
2 cups dried lentils, rinsed and sorted
3 cups vegetable broth
3 cups water
2 tsp tumeric (you could use curry powder as a substitute)
1 tsp cumin
1-2 tsp cayenne pepper (depending on your desired heat)
salt and pepper to taste
~1 pound fresh spinach, washed and lightly chopped

Saute onion in olive oil, for about 3 minutes. Add lentils and all liquids. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 20 minutes. Add seasonings and mix well. Add spinach, wilting it into the mixture. (Add an additional 1/2 cup of water if needed to absorb the spinach into the lentils.) Simmer until most of the water is gone and the spinach is soft, about 10 minutes.

Serve with naan or any other desired bread. Could also be served over rice or quinoa. (Feel free to add garlic, thyme, red pepper flakes, or any other spices to this dish). This makes quite a large pot of beans, so if its only for one or two people, you might want to halve it. Unless you love it as much as I do!

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