Lentil You Taste This!

When I was in middle school, we had this substitute teacher for a week who used phrases like, “it behooves you to”, and “broaden your horizons.”  Yeah, we were twelve and thirteen so there was a lot of “who the heck is this guy and who does he think he’s talking to?” And yes, plenty of sneers and snickers.  But in some ways, as I figure out new healthy foods and how to make them part of my family’s diet, I certainly am broadening our hroizons.  Damn.  I just snickered.

It’s Food Friday, and today’s delicious food is *drumroll*: the lentil!  Yes, this humble little legume is in fact one of the best foods you can eat, and it’s very versatile.  They can be served as a soup, a main dish, a salad, and yes, even made into burgers.  What’s even better about these little wonders is their nutritional value.  A 1/2 cup serving has an amazing 9 grams of protein (!), which makes them an excellent meat substitute when you’re tired of the same old chicken and fish.  They are also super high in soluble fiber-8 whole grams in that same 1/2 cup.  Can you say WOW!  Soluble fiber is the kind that helps you stay full and helps lower cholesterol AND they tie up carbohydrates, so they get absorbed more slowly and help keep blood sugars stable.

There are just so many good reasons to eat lentils, I would have to quote the entire article.  But here are two more amazing things you might not have known about lentils.  One is that even though they are legumes, they don’t have sulphur in them, so they won’t give you gas like other beans.  The other is that they contain molybdenum, a mineral that helps metabolize fats (hell-O!), carbs, and iron.  Also, I wanted to point out that while lentils are in the legume category, which means they can be a vegetable or a protein source, but not the same in one meal.  So, don’t eat a load of lentils in one sitting and think you don’t have to round that out with some other veggies.  Just sayin’!

There are a lot of interesting recipes out there using lentils, like these from a New York Times feature, and you’ll find most of them have a nice Middle Eastern flare to them.  Now, important to note: lentils take time to cook, but you don’t have to soak them.  The red ones cook faster than the brown or green.  I usually get brown, because that’s just what they have at my store.  And now…it’s recipe time!  This lentil salad is from the “Biggest Loser Quick and Easy Cookbook”, and it’s a great salad for all year, but particularly in the summer since it’s served chilled.

2 cups steamed lentils ( I just cooked them according to the package directions)

2 cups diced red pepper

1 cup diced cucumber

1 cup red onion

3 Tablespoons balsalmic vinaigrette

4 tablespoons balsalmic vinegar

salt and pepper to taste

1/2 cup low-fat feta cheese crumbles

Just toss everything together in a bowl and sprinkle the cheese on top, and you’re done!  You can eat it immediately, or keep it for up to three days.  This recipe makes 4- 1 1/2 servings.

lentil saladIt makes a lot, so if you’re cooking for one or don’t want to be eating this all week, I would halve the recipe.  About the dressing: the ingredients on the list ask for low-fat, low-salt, and low sugar vinaigrette.  I will be honest and say that’s not something I keep on hand, so I just put in the same amount of balsalmic vinegar and a little drizzle of olive oil.  If I’m feeling particularly chef-tastic, I’ll mix my own with balsalmic vinegar, olive oil, and a bit of honey.

You might notice I don’t have cucumbers in mine.  It had gone bad :(, so I had to do without.

And that’s it!  I hope you give these little wonders a try, they are definitely worth it.  Everyone have a good weekend, and stay strong, remember your goals!

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