I am a seriously cheap, ad-watching, sale-hunting, clearance-rack scouring mom of four. My motto is “A penny saved is a BAD SALE!”. So, when I can find ground beef that is low in fat, high in fiber and protein, cholesterol free, grain-fed, easy to use, easy to store, and .80 cents a pound I say SCORE! Now, the reality is I have never found that (in meat form). I have learned that I can get all of this benefit through tiny, little legumes known as lentils. I turn to lentils 3-4 times a week and when BB offered a 25 pound bag there was no debate in my mind- I was stocking up. I use lentils in place of ground beef or turkey in almost any recipe including tacos (season just as you would ground meat), and even meatloaf. Lentils are also a perfect ingredient in soups and salads. I love lentils because they need no pre-soaking (in my busy life that means no pre-planning!) and they cook up much faster than regular beans.
I am certainly not the first to discover the benefits of lentils. In fact, they are one of the oldest foods known to man. Archeologists have actually found evidence of lentil use in ancient Greek caves dating back to the Paleolithic era. (13,000 to 9,500 years ago). Lentils have been discovered in tombs of Egyptian Pharaohs, and are mentioned in the Biblical story of Jacob and Esau. Historically, lentils have been a necessary part of Italian New Year’s feasts. They are thought to resemble coins and therefore, it is said that eating them on the New Year will help bring prosperity in the coming months. (.80 cents a pound- of course they will be more prosperous- think of all the money they are saving!)
To cook lentils, simply pick over to remove debris or shriveled lentils, rinse, and drain. Cover with water or broth and boil for 2 to 3 minutes (to aid in digestion). Reduce heat and simmer until tender. Depending on the variety and age, cooking time may take anywhere from 10 minutes to 1 hour. Do NOT add salt to the cooking water as this will toughen the lentils. Once cooked the lentils will need to be generously seasoned with whatever flavors you are wanting. And the nice thing about lentils is they will go with just about any flavor!
I’m sharing some of my favorite recipes for lentils but really this healthy, versatile food can be used in creative ways throughout your meals. Your family’s health and budget will benefit from incorporating this tiny powerhouse into your routine. Happy Cooking!
Lentils vs. Ground Beef- You decide!