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Meatless Monday: For the love of lentils

Patricia Conte has a background in marketing communications and works as an independent writer. In 2010, she was given the opportunity to combine her love of writing and food when she started as a contributing writer for the Food channel...

Did you know lentils have a lot to offer?

Are you looking for a meatless, filling and healthy meal option? One food you may have avoided is lentils. Many people think lentils are difficult to cook, but they're not! Once you know about the variety of ways you can incorporate lentils into mealtime, you'll be hooked!

Lentils

Lentils are used in many different cultures and are seriously loaded with fiber and protein. They're low in fat and are a cholesterol-free food!

Fast-food menu

Because they're so easy to make and mix with other foods, lentils also make Meatless Monday the perfect day of the week to get an easy, healthy dinner going! Other legumes and dried beans need time to soak before they cook, and people often think lentils require the same prep work, but they don't. They cook in 10-15 minutes and basically the only prep that's required is to sort through them first, to pick out any tiny pebbles or unusable lentils and then give them a good rinsing in a colander.

Around the world with lentils

It seems like the whole world knows about the goodness that is contained in those little lentils. There are so many internationally inspired dishes you can serve with lentils.

  • Use lentils in soups, stews, salads and even as a replacement for meat. Try this recipe for lentil and rice no-meat loaf. You'll forget what all the fuss was about in standard meatloaf!
  • Maybe you're feeling like a little Italian on a Monday. Whip up some pasta with lentil Bolognese sauce for a tasty meatless version.
  • The traditional herbs and spices included in this recipe make this Indian lentil soup a delicious meal. Serve with a side of warm, naan bread.
  • Traditional hummus is always a treat, but try this version of lentil hummus. It makes a great snack or appetizer served with carrots or pita crackers.

This dish combines two very popular Middle Eastern ingredients -- rice and lentils. This salad may be served hot or cold as a main dish or as a side dish. It is usually sautéed with lots of onions and served with a light olive oil dressing. Either red lentils or green lentils may be used along with long-grain rice making a delicious and healthy protein packed salad.

Mujadarra

Serves 6

MujadarraIngredients:

  • 4 medium yellow onions, peeled and diced
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups red lentils
  • 2 cups long-grain rice
  • 2 teaspoons salt

Directions:

  1. Sauté about 3/4 of the onions in 2 tablespoons olive oil until golden brown.
  2. Cook lentils in a covered pot filled with water, making sure water covers lentils. Cook until lentils are soft, about 10 to 15 minutes.
  3. When lentils are cooked, add cooked onions and rice (adding more water if needed to cook rice); season with salt. Cook rice and lentils until rice is fluffy and water is evaporated.
  4. Meanwhile, sauté remaining onions in remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil until golden and crispy. Serve crispy onions over the top of the lentils and rice.

Another reason to love the lentil?

Fiber-rich foods like lentils help with weight loss and maintenance of a healthy weight. A cup of cooked lentils contains about 16 grams of fiber. The folks at Meatless Monday are often asked questions like this one about a meatless diet:

Q. Should I avoid exercising if I'm not eating meat?

A. There's no need to avoid exercise with Meatless Monday. A healthy meatless diet will provide more than enough energy, protein and other nutrients to fuel all of your usual activities including your workouts.

Eliminating meat from your diet even one day a week can help keep your weight down, fight diseases, reduce pollution and even help you avoid the risk of food-borne illnesses. Incorporate lentils into your meals as an easy, healthy and versatile ingredient.

Longing for lentils? Try these recipes

Lentil-quinoa salad with fresh ginger
Lentil curry
Lentil veggie burgers
Red lentil and roasted garlic dip

More about Meatless Monday

Add some pizzazz to your potatoes
Meatless Monday: What's the news?
Salad sensations
Don't be troubled by tofu

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