It can be really tough to make healthy, tasty food for your family. Add in the importance of eating as organic as possible, and it can be expensive, too! Through our “Holistic Meals for the Family” series, we’ll share some of our family’s “frugal” recipes and ideas, and give you a little background on some of those special healthy ingredients you might not be familiar with. First up: LENTILS!
What are lentils?
Lentils are a type of legume, like dried beans. What we buy in the store to cook and eat are the dried seeds of the lentil plant, which come in little one- or two-seed pods.
They are small, so they cook pretty quickly. They also absorb flavor quite well, so they can be very versatile!
Why are lentils good for us?
Lentils are tiny but mighty legumes. For only about 230 calories per cup, they pack a ton of nutrients. Check out their nutritional contents here.
Lentils are an excellent source of both insoluble and soluble fiber. Soluble fiber helps your body get rid of cholesterol-containing bile, and insoluble fiber is excellent for overall digestive health. The fiber in lentils helps them act as a slow burning carbohydrate, which helps stabilize blood sugar. Lentils are especially healthy for people with blood sugar related conditions. The high folate and magnesium content in lentils makes them a particularly “heart healthy” food as well. Lentils are also a good source of iron, which is especially important for pregnant and nursing mothers. To top it off, lentils contain less than a gram of fat per cup! As far as we see it, these little legumes can’t do wrong! However, if you avoid high-purine foods, be aware that lentils do naturally contain a moderately high level of purines.
For more information, read The World’s Healthiest Foods article on Lentils. http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=52
Where do I get them, and what do I buy?
You can find lentils prepackaged in most grocery stores with the dried beans and rices. You may also be able to find them in the bulk foods sections – Sprouts right here in Coppell carries lots of varieties at great prices. We get our organic lentils in the bulk foods section of Whole Foods. I’ve also found the Arrow Head Mills organic green lentils locally, at Market Street. We recommend buying the dried variety and cooking them yourself, rather than the canned option. This just brings you closer to eating less-processed foods, and avoids the potential for BPA-lined cans.
How do I cook them?
If cooking plain lentils, use a 1 cup of lentils to 3 cups of liquid (stock or water) ratio. You can bring the liquid to a boil with the lentils already added, or boil the water first, then add lentils. Either way, once the liquid and lentil combination is boiling, reduce to a simmer and cook for about 30 minutes or until the lentils are tender. Green and brown lentils take right about 30 minutes, sometimes longer. Smaller, thinner lentils like red and orange lentils may be ready in 20 minutes. For recipes that call for cooked lentils, like a cold lentil salad, taking the lentils out a little “al dente” is usually preferred.
Recipe: Lentil Soup
I certainly don’t claim to be an excellent cook, but my two taste-testers, Dr. Dodge and little Charlie, are big fans of my lentil soup. It is pretty simple flavor-wise, so I think it is a great introduction to lentils. If you try it and hate it, don’t give up on lentils! There are lots of great recipes out there – I’ve linked a few at the end for you to check out! I also won’t add “organic” in front of every ingredient, but you can easily find all of these ingredients in their organic variety in the grocery store! We’ll post more in the future on the importance of eating organic and local!
Prep and Cook Time: 1 hour
¼ cup olive oil
2-3 cloves garlic (minced or pressed)
2 cups diced carrots
1 ½ cups diced celery
1 ½ cups diced onion
2 cups dried green lentils (if you use a different type, read the instructions for cook time)
6 cups chicken stock (or vegetable stock)
1 tsp salt (I highly recommend pink Himalayan sea salt – it is delicious!)
½ tsp pepper
1 tsp thyme
There are lots of ways to jazz this up – I’ve added fennel, local sausage and bacon from Livestock First Ranch…add what sounds good!
Add olive oil, garlic, carrots, onion, and celery to a large sauce pan. Sautee (medium low – medium) until carrots are tender, about 15 minutes. Add lentils, stir to coat. Add chicken stock, salt, pepper, and thyme. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cover. Let simmer for 30-40 minutes, until lentils are tender. Add stock, salt, and pepper to preference. Enjoy!
Yummy-Looking Recipes to Try:
Curried Lentil Soup from Oh She Glows
Mediterranean Lentil Salad from Elly Says Opa
Moroccan Chicken and Lentils from Epicurious
Please share your experiences with lentils! Do you have any great recipes we should try?