The Humble Yet Exalted Lentil

Courtesy Wikimedia

It’s practicing for fall out there today. We started the morning with a thunderstorm at 5:45. It poured for a couple of hours, then settled into sprinkles long enough so Oakley and I could do about a 20 minute walk.

If the weather chooses to practice for fall, then I will practice cooking for it. I decided to try a new lentil curry recipe in the slow cooker for dinner tonight. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

Among the legumes, lentils are arguably the easiest to cook. No need to soak them; just put them in a pot with water or stock and seasonings as suggested by a recipe or your culinary intuition and you have the beginnings of a meal in less than an hour. The red lentils cook in less than thirty minutes, so be aware of that if you choose them.  Check the liquid levels frequently, though, since they absorb like little sponges.

For a basic soup, sauté an onion and garlic to taste in olive oil in a good sized pot. Add the lentils and stock or water in a 2:1 ratio (i.e. 2 cups liquid to 1 cup lentils). I put in salt at the beginning. Some wait until the end due to concerns about toughness, but I’ve never had that happen.  When the lentils are done, correct for salt if needed, and add in some lemon juice and chopped spinach. The heat from the lentils will cook the spinach quickly.

Some cooks use a ham bone or bacon (precooked) to add flavor. Not my personal jam, but you do you.

Oh, you’re not in the mood for soup? If you soak and grind the lentils, you can make the crepe’s Indian cousin the dosa. Any good Indian website will have a recipe. I’ve not tried making them myself, but the restaurant we go to has them on the lunch buffet fairly frequently, so I will tell you they’re quite yummy.

Thanks to their ease in preparation and versatility, lentils have graced tables since 11,000 BCE. Native to central and western, Asia, they spread via trade routes across Europe and into India.  They can be grown in tough conditions and can return nitrogen to the soil after depletion by two or three seasons of cereal crops such as corn or wheat. They don’t need a lot of water, either, in order to thrive.

Nutritionally, they are quite the little powerhouses. According to the USDA, 100 grams of cooked lentils provide 116 calories, 10 grams of fiber, and lots of B vitamins. The type of fiber may be beneficial in balancing blood sugar levels for people living with diabetes. And they have quite a bit of protein, too.

All that nutrition, versatility, easy to grow, available in almost any grocery store? There is nothing to dislike about lentils.

 

 

 

Loving What You Eat and Eating What You Love and What Loves You Back

So after some months of watching carbs, restricting wheat, and moderate portions, the weight still isn’t moving much. I spoke with my wisewoman about the dilemma, and she brought up a valid but unconsidered point: am I condemming myself and my indulgences such as the occasional wheat-crusted pizza, or am I loving it and accepting myself? When enjoying in the present in the  latter frame of mind, a person’s body will be more tolerant of the incoming food. Not enough to mitigate allergies or sensitivities that can trigger a trip to the ER, mind you, but for things like my once or twice weekly wheat indulgences.  

Case in point: a couple of weeks ago, Hubby and I went to an Indian restaurant. I ate mostly vegetarian food, except for a tandoori chicken leg. Even though I did overeat, I had no real discomfort afterwards. I felt happy and satisfied, and had the mango custard because I could. I didn’t feel as if I had to have dessert in order to compensate for food I didn’t like. It just seemed like a natural closure to the meal. 

And then it hit me: how much have I eaten in this life that I haven’t liked in order to be a good girl or polite woman? Or to conform with what others are telling me that I should be eating?

I’ve been eating a lot of homemade Indian veg food the last couple of weeks. I’ve felt a lot happier and more satisfied. Sticking with reasonable portions, of course. Wheat is definitely off the table for most meals, but chickpeas masala with spinach makes me a happy girl, indeed.