Lentils are a common soup and stew ingredient but there's so much more they can do. Today, Renee Kohlman from Sweet Sugarbean shows us how to get creative with lentils - from breakfast to dinner, savoury to sweet and everything in between!
This post is brought to you by Canadian Lentils.
I’m a super fan of lentils - and not just because the majority of the Canada’s lentils are grown practically in my backyard here in Saskatchewan - but because these small pulses are nutritional dynamos, with an easy, adaptable flavour that makes them well suited for savoury and sweet dishes alike. That’s right. I said sweet. More on that later.
We’ve all made lentil soup, and tossed lentils into stews and chili, but those small discs of wonder are so incredibly versatile, they can easily be incorporated into daily meals and snacks with just a few simple tips and tricks.
I have three kinds of lentils in my pantry: red, green and beluga. At the beginning of the week, I usually cook off 1 cup raw lentils - it only takes about 18 minutes of your life. Time well spent. Now I have them on hand for a variety of applications.
Lentils for Breakfast - You Bet!
Let’s start with breakfast. Everybody loves smoothies. They are fast, delicious and simple to prepare when the mornings are crazy busy. I love adding cooked lentils to my smoothie - about ½ cup lentils blended with yogurt, whatever frozen berries I have on hand, maple syrup, lemon juice, vanilla, and almond milk. It’s a great way to start the day, and the lentils blend in so well with the other flavours and textures, you won’t even notice they are there but will benefit from their protein and fibre throughout the day.
- ½ cup cooked lentils
- yogurt (to taste)
- a handful of frozen berries
- maple syrup (to taste)
- lemon juice (to taste)
- vanilla (to taste)
- 1 cup almond milk
- throw all the ingredients in the blender and blend till smooth
- pour into a glass and enjoy!
Hot oatmeal on a cold Saskatchewan morning is a another standby in my kitchen. I will add a few tablespoons of cooked lentils to my porridge, right at the very end just to warm them through. Topped with fresh fruit, and a good drizzle of maple syrup, the oatmeal and lentil porridge keeps my belly full and my body happy.
Get Snacking With Lentils!
My stash of cooked lentils also comes in handy when it comes to snacking. Got a craving for cheesy nachos? Scatter cooked lentils on your favourite tortilla chips, top with cheddar and bake them until they are melty and marvelous. Served alongside the usual suspects of guacamole, salsa and sour cream, the lentil nachos are a hit in my household. Same thing goes with tucking the cooked lentils inside tacos or quesadillas. They add texture, flavour with huge nutrition bonus points.
We’ve all heard about the roasted chickpea craze - but it’s so 2014! This year, think about crisping up some lentils - they make a great garnish and are highly addictive. Once I start, I can’t stop snacking on them. To make your own crispy lentils:
- ½ cup raw green lentils
- 1 tbsp canola oil
- ½ tsp garlic powder
- ½ tsp oregano
- ½ tsp chili flakes
- salt and pepper to taste
- cook ½ cup raw green lentils in a medium saucepan, with about 2 inches of water covering the lentils. Cover, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 18 minutes. Drain. Return lentils back to pot.
- Preheat oven to 375*F.
- Drizzle 1 tbsp canola oil over lentils and season with garlic powder, oregano, tsp chili flakes and season with salt and pepper.
- Spread in a single layer onto a parchment lined cookie sheet and bake for 12 minutes.
- Stir, and bake for another 8 – 10 minutes, watching carefully at the end so they don’t burn.
- Let cool and there you have it – crispy lentils!
This is a fairly small batch, so feel free to double it when you taste how delicious they are. Of course you can switch up the seasonings to your heart’s content - curry would be lovely, a little rosemary and basil would also be delicious. Get creative!
I adore sprinkling these little gems on a kale caesar salad, but any salad (and salad eater) will appreciate this garnish. Their crunch also adds texture to pasta, and roasted vegetables. Keep a container of these crispy lentils on your counter and you will find all sorts of meals they can add a little extra to. And when you have a hankering for something to snack on while you watch Downton Abbey, these fit the bill perfectly.
Baking With Lentils
It’s no secret I love to bake, and lentils have found their way into this aspect of my culinary adventures as well. I like to make a lentil purée using green lentils: 1 cup cooked lentils plus ¼ cup water blended to the consistency of pumpkin pie. Add 1 tbsp of water if it’s too thick. This purée can be added to brownies, cakes, muffins, you name it. I usually add ½ cup purée to my brownies, ¾ cup to cookies, and 1 cup to muffins and cakes. They add a lovely consistency to baked goods, as well as fibre and protein. Kids (and adults) won’t know they are there, and it’ll be fun keeping it as your little secret. But if you want to shout from the roof tops that you put lentils in your brownies, go right ahead!
I hope these little tips and tricks have given you new ideas on how to incorporate lentils into your weekly meal plan. Their versatility is only limited by your imagination!
Getting Creative with Lentils was written by Renee Kohlman of the blog Sweet Sugarbean. Renee is a pastry chef, and a freelance food writer and recipe developer from Saskatoon, SK.