Thursday, January 30, 2014

Spice It UP!!! Lentils

After making my lentil soup recipe the other day, I realized that I haven't done very much with lentils in a long time.  I don't know why I haven't....  They are a great source of protein and fiber with little fat plus they are filling and relatively inexpensive.  So I have decided to make them my first Spice It UP!!! topic in 2014!

{Brown lentils}

Lentils are part of the legume family.  Lentils have significant amounts of seven important minerals (like iron, folate, and potassium), B-vitamins, and protein—all with virtually no fat and just 230 calories for a whole cup of cooked lentils (just lentils and water).  The different lentil types offer varying consistencies with the brown and green ones better retaining their shape after cooking, while the others generally become soft and mushy. While the flavor differs slightly among the varieties, they generally feature a hearty dense somewhat nutty flavor. (source)

 {Lentils available at my local health food store}

Lentils are thought to have been one of the first agricultural crops with evidence that it was grown over 8500 years ago.  Lentils are thought to have originated in the Middle East and was traded along the Silk Road in ancient times.  India embraced the lentil as a staple food, and one of the country's most known dishes is dahl (also spelled dal).  Lentils grow best in arid climates, and most of the world's supplies are still grown in the Middle East.  (source)

lentils top view
{Top view of lentils}

When purchasing lentils, make sure there is no evidence of moisture or insect damage.  Store lentils in an airtight container in a cool, dry cabinet.  Small rocks are common in pre-packaged lentils so make sure to look over them before actually using them.

Lentils have a 1:2 ratio typically (1 cup lentils to 2 cups liquid) for approximately 30 minutes.  Sometimes you'll need to add more liquid, and of course, it depends on the texture desired.  A firm texture will not cook as long or require as much liquid while a mushier texture will require longer cooking and more liquid.

Now for the good stuff!  The recipes!

Lentil Soup
Lentil and Chickpea Salad
Curried Sweet Potato and Lentil Stew
Italian Lentil and Barley Stew

I know that this is a really sad list, but these are all fantastic recipes!  You can bet after this post, I am fired up about lentils!  So stay tuned to see some lentil recipes in February!

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