How to Cook Lentils

Lentils have slowly crept into my heart as one of my favorite pantry items to have on hand and one of my favorite plant based sources of protein. It’s easy to put in place of something you would use ground meat for. So if you are trying to go more plant based, trying to find a meatless recipe to make here and there, or you just don’t have the ground meat to use for a dish, try it with lentils.

What Are Lentils?

Lentils are small legumes and are used in Asian, Indian, and Mediterranean dishes. It’s inexpensive and something you can easily store in your pantry next to your rice and pasta. They are high in protein which is why it makes a good plant based protein substitute, and since they are small, that’s why I like using it as a substitute for ground meats.

1 cup lentils = 17.9 g protein

That’s right. So let’s look at the different kinds you’d see at the store.

Types of Lentils

  • GREEN LENTILS: These are my favorite and the ones I always keep on hand, as you can see from the pictures. They have a mild flavor and keep a firmer texture. Great to add to salads!
  • BROWN LENTILS: They have more of a earthy flavor and hold their shape like green lentils. These are the most common type of lentil that is the easiest to find.
  • BLACK LENTILS (Beluga Lentils): They are more round and more ball looking than the smashed oval look that green and brown lentils have and have a richer earthy flavor.
  • RED or YELLOW LENTILS: They are often sold split, so they are smaller and cook really quickly. Because they are split they are softer, but also can be mushy. It’s great for pureeing in soups if you want a protein rich creamy soup.

How to Cook Dry Lentils

Lentils do not take long to cook at all. You can buy canned lentils, but cooking them takes as long as what white rice would to cook. You’ll save money, plus you’re able to season it and control the amount of sodium.

  1. RINSE YOUR LENTILS with fresh water before boiling and remove any dust, debris, and small stones that sometimes find their way in the bag or in the bulk container.
    • Lentils do NOT require soaking. No need to think ahead and this being a longer process like dried beans can be.
  2. COOK ON STOVE using the ratio of 3 to 1, or 3 cups liquid (water, broth, etc.) to 1 cup dry lentils. The lentils will double and can even triple in size. Use a big enough pan.
  3. BRING TO A BOIL and cover tightly. Reduce heat to a simmer until they are tender.
    • RED or YELLOW since they are split, it should only take 5-7 minutes.
    • GREEN and BROWN takes about 15-20 minutes
    • BLACK lentils take a little bit longer, about 20-25 minutes
    • You might need to add a small amount of water depending on the type of lentil and how fresh or old they are.
  4. SEASON WITH SALT AFTER cooking. The lentils will become tough if salt is added before it’s cooked.

My Favorite Meatless Monday Recipe with Lentils

I always liked lentils but it wasn’t until this recipe for Vegan Sloppy Joes from Minimalist Baker that I really understood how awesome they can be! Check it out!

I will be posting a new recipe soon that uses lentils as one of my favorite lunch meal preps.

Quinoa Tabbouleh with Feta & Lentils

Finishing up the post now so stay tuned and the recipe will be coming your way soon!

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Tips On How To Roast Vegetables

Hello all! One of my favorite ways to cook vegetables is roasting them in the oven. It doesn’t take much and I think the flavors come out better than any other type of method of cooking. Of course vegetables that are green and leafy might not be the best to roast, however, any root vegetable, broccoli/cauliflower, cabbage/brussel sprouts, bell peppers, asparagus, green beans, etc. are great to roast in the oven!

If you are trying to get more vegetables in your diet and trying to find ways to cook them and like them, here is a simple start! Most of the time you just need a small amount of oil and salt and pepper if you desire. Anything else like additional seasoning, or tossing it with a small amount of cheese, is up to you.

Photo by Sara Dubler on Unsplash

Here are a few tips I’ve learned and love to do when I roast my vegetables.

Gallon Bag Toss

Get a gallon size bag and use that to distribute the oil and seasoning. You use less of both and everything is evenly distributed.

Don’t want to use plastic? Put your chopped veggies in a bowl with the oil and seasoning and use a cloth or a reusable cover and toss it around.

I usually start with about 1 tablespoon of oil and if it needs more depending on how much I’m making, I’ll use more. But for the most part, that’s about all you’ll need.

Leave The Skins On!

If you are roasting carrots, beets, potatoes… anything with a thin skin that you can use a peeler on, leave it on! Scrub them to clean them off, but by leaving the skins on you preserve not just nutrients, but flavor. Test it out! Peel a few carrots and the others leave the skin on and see which one has more flavor and sweetness.

Leaving the skin on also helps protect it from burning too quickly and can then be roasted to make sure it’s cooked all the way through.

Don’t Crowd Them

When you spread your vegetables out on the baking sheet, don’t crowd them. Give them room so the heat can be distributed and their juices can evaporate. Otherwise you’ll get mush on the outside and hard in the middle. If you give them room it should all cook evenly and be crispy on the edges.

Roasting Vegetable Chart

So what are you going to try first?

 

How To Cook Spaghetti Squash

The original “zoodle”, spaghetti squash! Spaghetti squash is something easy to make, you just need to know how and to have the time to prep it before. Depending on the size of the squash, it can make a lot, so my suggestion would be to make sure you have people to share it with or have a few different sauces to eat with it throughout the week for meal prep. It doesn’t have much of a taste so any sauce will be the taste. Marinara, pesto, lemon garlic, creamy mushroom, red wine sauce, etc. The dishes are endless. Soon I’ll be sharing some of my sauces to have with spaghetti squash for a lighter and more nutrient dense pasta alternative that’s gluten free.

When I think of spaghetti squash I think of the first time I had it. When my mother was going through chemo treatments, she was trying to eat more organic foods and to stay away from starchy processed white foods. Since spaghetti was a weekly meal for us then, and now, she decided to try it out. It was delicious! The texture is different than pasta, but it is still soft and you can still twirl your fork around and enjoy slurping your favorite sauce!

So let’s get started and I’ll share the nutritional facts after.

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash

Scoop out the center with the seeds.

  • Preheat Oven to 400 degrees F. Cut the squash in half.
  • Scoop out the center and any seeds.
  • Rub with a small amount of olive oil and salt and pepper if desired.
  • Lay face down and stab with a knife 5-6 times on each side.
  • Once oven is preheated, put in the oven for at least 40 minutes. Depending on the size it might take up to 1 hour.

Bake for 40-60 minutes depending on size.

  • When the skin of the squash looks a little wrinkled and the bottom is started to brown, your squash is ready!
  • Cool for a few minutes and then flip them upside down. With a fork from the longer side toward the center start pulling away the strings.
  • Add with your favorite sauce and enjoy!

Spaghetti squash ready to use and eat!

Nutritional Information

There are nutritional benefits to both, especially if the grain version is a whole grain pasta whether gluten free or whole wheat. But this is a simple and easy way to lighten your pasta bowl and not feel stuffed and bloated after eating a full bowl, or two, of spaghetti. Check out the differences.

1 Cup Spaghetti Squash

  • 31 Calories
  • 0.6 g total fat
  • 7 g carbohydrates
  • 1.5 g fiber
  • 2.8 g sugar
  • 0.6 g protein
  • 2% Vitamin A
  • 3% Vitamin C
  • 2% Calcium
  • 3% Magnsium

1 cup Regular Spaghetti Pasta

  • 221 Calories
  • 1.3 g total fat
  • 43 g carbohydrates
  • 2.5 g fiber
  • 0.8 g sugar
  • 8 g protein
  • 0% Vitamin A
  • 0% Vitamin C
  • 1% Calcium
  • 6% Magnesium