There are a lot of benefits to choosing meatless meals. Not only are meatless meals typically cheaper and better for the environment; they're also lower in unhealthy fats and cholesterol.
Lentils are one of my favorite meat replacements. They are a great source of protein and fiber. They easily take on flavor and pair easily with a lot of different foods. I always keep some stocked in my kitchen for last minute dinners.
Last week I was in the mood for Mexican, but was out of refried beans. So I decided to try substituting the protein portion of the taco with lentils. It turned out great!
I used soft corn tortilla shells, and then topped the lentils with salsa, sliced avocado, and a little bit of shredded cheese. If you're a fan of sour cream on your tacos, plain non-fat Greek yogurt makes a great healthy substitute.
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup yellow onion, diced
1 cup dry lentils
2 cups water
In a large, high rimmed skillet, sauté garlic and onions until fragrant. Add lentils and water, bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Cook until water is absorbed.
Scoop roughly 1/4 cup cooked lentils into each taco shell, then top with your favorite toppings.
I love experimenting with new produce. We recently signed up for Farm Fresh to You, which is a local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) that delivers farm fresh produce to your house on a regular schedule. We receive a box every other week, and I always get excited when something shows up that I've never had before.
CSAs are a great way to support local agriculture and try new, fresh produce you might not regularly buy. Depending on where you live, you may find (like we did) that buying your produce this way is cheaper than a weekly grocery store trip.
Last week there was a bunch of Swiss chard in my box. If you're like me and have never had Swish chard, it's the dark leafy vegetable with the colorful stem in the grocery store. The stems can be any number of colors, red, yellow, white, orange (and of course each color means different phytonutrients). It typically has a bitter taste when raw, but that goes away when it's cooked.
Once I pulled the bunch of chard out I searched for a recipe to use it in. I settled on this one from Chowhound, but altered it a little based on what I had available (like the current tragic lack of feta cheese in my kitchen). Lentils take a little while to cook, but the rest of the recipe comes together pretty quickly.
1 cup lentils
2 cups water
1 bunch Swish chard, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Pour water and lentils into a sauce pot and bring to a boil. Then reduce heat and let simmer until water is evaporated.
Chop leaves and stems of Swish chard, then sauté with garlic until the leaves are wilted and the stems are tender. Remove from heat and drizzle with balsamic vinegar. When lentils are done mix Swish chard with lentils and serve.
When the weather gets colder, it can feel more challenging to get all of your servings of vegetables, especially if when you think vegetables you think salad. Who wants to eat salad when it's 30 degrees outside? Not many people. Definitely not me.
Luckily there are a lot of ways to eat vegetables that don't include salad! Sauté them and serve them with pasta; roast them with garlic for a side or for a dish topped with a poached egg. There's stir-frying, boiling, or steaming. Or chop up a bunch and toss them into a homemade stew.
I like to stick with seasonal, local vegetables as much as I can. It's better for the environment, and the produce is also more nutrient-packed. Once produce is harvested the nutrient value starts to deplete; so the fresher it is when you eat it, the more nutrients you're getting. If you want a vegetable (or fruit) that's not in season, I recommend going with the frozen version (avoid the ones with added sauces) as the nutrient value of frozen is pretty much equal to fresh.
Right now I'm really feeling curry dishes. I mean, really, what's more warming and cozy than curry? This recipe makes about 10 1/2 cup servings. It take about 10 minutes of prep and 25 minutes to cook, so it's a pretty easy, quick dish. You can serve it over your choice of brown rice or quinoa. (Or I guess eat it like a soup if you want to be different. You do you.)
Lentil Sweet Potato Coconut Curry
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 leek, chopped
2 cups green beans, trimmed and chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cubed
1 cup green lentils
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
3 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup coconut milk
1 tablespoon red curry paste*
In a large pot, heat the oil. Cook the leeks until they're softened. Then add the rest of the beans, carrots, potato, lentils and spices. Add the water and bring to a boil. Once it's boiling, lower the heat to a simmer and cover. Cook for about 25 minutes, or until lentils and potato cubes are tender.
Turn off the heat and mix in the coconut milk and curry paste.
*The red curry paste is optional and adjustable depending on your palate and preference for spice.
Taryn is a Los Angeles based Registered Dietitian who's passionate about helping you be your healthiest you.