Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Let's Hear It For Lentils!

Lentils are wonderful. I make them plain and serve them with a nice curry poured over them or add them to soups and stews.
If you haven't tried lentils, why not? They are fairly inexpensive and good for you. A great addition to your food storage, as well, as they store well.
From Wikipedia"

With about 30% of their calories from protein, lentils have the third-highest level of protein, by weight, of any legume or nut, after soybeans and hemp.[4] Proteins include the essential amino acids isoleucine and lysine, and lentils are an essential source of inexpensive protein in many parts of the world, especially in West Asia and the Indian subcontinent, which have large vegetarian populations.[5] Lentils are deficient in two essential amino acids, methionine and cysteine.[6] However, sprouted lentils contain sufficient levels of all essential amino acids, including methionine and cysteine.[7]
Lentils also contain dietary fiber, folate, vitamin B1, and minerals. Red (or pink) lentils contain a lower concentration of fiber than green lentils (11% rather than 31%).[8] Health magazine has selected lentils as one of the five healthiest foods.[9] Lentils are often mixed with grains, such as rice, which results in a complete protein dish.
Lentils also have antinutritional factors, such as trypsin inhibitors and relatively high phytate content. Trypsin is an enzyme involved in digestion, and phytates reduce the bioavailability of dietary minerals.[10] The phytates can be reduced by soaking the lentils in warm water overnight.
Lentils are a good source of iron

Lentil Soup
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can crushed tomatoes or 5 or 6 chopped up fresh tomatoes with juice
  • 2 cups dry lentils (I use green lentils for this, but orange ones or red are fine, too)
  • 8 cups water
  • 1/2 cup spinach, rinsed and thinly sliced OR Swiss Chard thinly sliced (no stems, just leaves)
  • salt to taste
  • ground black pepper to taste
 In a large soup pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add onions, carrots, and celery; cook and stir until onion is tender. Stir in garlic, bay leaf, oregano, and basil; cook for around 4 or 5 minutes. Stir in lentils, and add water and tomatoes. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer for at least 1 hour. When ready to serve stir in spinach, and cook until it wilts.

Lentils can be used a meat substitute in your favorite chili recipe, or cooked and drained and pressed into a loaf pan to make a loaf similar to meat loaf.

Give it a try!

Lentil Loaf 

  • 1 1/4 cups  lentils
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 6 slices  bread, torn into small pieces
  •  3 eggs
  • 1 cup vegetable broth or chicken broth (or 1 veggie or chicken bullion cube dissolved in one cup hot water)
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder or 1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley or 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup diced green pepper
  • 1/2 cup diced onion
  • 1/2 cup dried bread crumbs OR, if you want to be creative, try pretzel crumbs (seriously, I tried this and it was yummy! Just whirl up a few pretzels in the blender)
  • OPTION, 1/2 cup shredded cheese. I usually use sharp cheddar or pepper jack!
  1. Combine lentils and water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until tender, about 40 to 50 minutes.
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (205 degrees C). Grease a 9x5 inch loaf pan.
  3. In a large bowl, mix together 2 cups cooked lentils, bread, eggs, broth, tomato paste, basil, garlic powder, black pepper, salt, paprika, parsley, olive oil, peppers and onion. Spread into prepared loaf  pan.
  4. Bake for 40 minutes. Top with grated cheese (if desired). Sprinkle top with dry bread crumbs, and continue baking another 10 minutes. Let sit for 10 minutes before serving. 

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