Red Lentils with Salsa Verde

Staring into my pantry the other day I realized  that lately I have been slacking off in the bean and lentil department.  Fresh fruits and veggies….oh yes, nuts and oats…frequently for breakfast and snacks, my staples of peanut butter and quinoa…almost daily.  But lonely jars of beautiful disk-shaped earthy orange and brown lentils sat untouched for many weeks.  Jars of dried black beans, kidney beans and white beans also seemed to be gathering dust.  I guess I associate legumes more with cold weather and it has been anything but cool around here lately.  Aside from my chickpeas used for hummus and the chickpea cookie dough dip, I really haven’t been making my beans and lentils.  Seriously, some of my dinners have been consisting of nothing but what we picked up from the farmers market and grilled.   Certainly yummy but I think maybe it’s time to start pairing up that eggplant and those mushrooms with some high protein lentils.

So, out came the red lentils.  I love lentils.  Lentils require no soaking and cook quickly.  They are also easier to digest for people who have difficulty with beans.   The red ones are great because they cook in about 5 minutes.  Everybody has time for that.  Lentils are an excellent protein and fiber source.  A mere 1/4 cup dry red lentils supplies about 12 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber for only 166 calories.  They are also  a good source of folate and iron as well as several other nutrients.  Buy them dry from the bulk section or already bagged, rinse and add to a saucepan with enough water to cover them maybe an inch or so.  Bring to a boil and simmer until they absorb the water and soften (about 5 minutes!– I have read that they take longer, like 20 minutes, but mine are always done in about 5).  They don’t hold their shape the way the brown lentils do and are often used in purees.

Here they are dry:







And here they are cooked:




They lose some of their orange/red color and get pale yellow.




So here is the wonderful food combination I  discovered  the other day– 2 simple items paired up to make a quick and healthy meal.








I am a big salsa lover and I’ve always got a jar on hand to add flavor to whole grains, beans, salads and veggies.  Chris came home with this salsa verde the other day– it’s salsa made with tomatillos.  I cooked up some red lentils and topped them with a few spoonfuls of the sauce.   Serve alongside a heaping pile of grilled veggies or a salad.   Delicious!

I just read the Vegan RD‘s latest blog post about a new book called The Plant-Powered Diet by Sharon Palmer, RD.  She hit the nail on the head with her statement about how all the popular diet books out there seem to make nutrition and weight loss claims based on sketchy science, insisting that their diet is the best.  I guess that’s what sells.  People want to hear how they can lose 50 pounds in a week or learn about how papaya is the new miracle food that will cure cancer.  Things like that grab the attention– however, they are not based on reality.  It’s pure sensationalism.  Unfortunately, I feel that I and most other dietitians come across as dull with our talk about eating a balanced diet filled with a variety of fruits, veggies and whole grains.   That’s why I am excited for this book.  People need to hear more about the research linking plant foods to health from a nutrition expert.  This RD explains the science associating eating more plants and less animal foods with optimal health.  Plus, she’s included recipes.  Awesome, because usually when I talk with people about upping their plant intake and cutting down on animal products, they are at a loss for ideas on what to eat.  When your diet is based around meats and dairy it can seem like there are limited options…but what many people discover when they replace animal foods with plant foods is that they actually end up eating a wider variety of foods than ever.

I agree with the Vegan RD that when it comes to making food choices, compassion for other creatures comes into play.  When you look at diet from that perspective, going vegan makes all the sense in the world.  Me, I am not okay with how animals are treated in the food industry, hence my decision to avoid eating any animal products.  It’s as black and white as that.  But when it comes to nutrition, things are a little hazier.  While we do know that whole plant foods are protective, nobody knows if completely avoiding animal products is the best way to eat.  That’s something that is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to measure.  It sounds like this book is not necessarily promoting veganism but it is providing evidence-based, convincing reasons why everybody should include more plant foods, no matter what kind of diet they follow.  I just ordered my copy and am very excited to read this book.

Have a very happy weekend everyone~

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