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Legendary Little Legumes: All You Ever Wanted to Know About Lentils

So I have a little confession to make. I put a few recipes on the February 2010 menu that contained lentils and I had no idea what lentils were, where to look for them or where to purchase them. Last week I was at the grocery store and I looked everywhere I thought they should be, but no lentils. So I turned to everyone’s new encyclopedia, Twitter.

I did a call for a guest post because I am certain hoping that I am not the only one that has no idea what lentils are and where to purchase them. So Pam responded to my cry for help. Here is what she had to teach me (and you).

On to the Lentils!

Three years ago, thanks to the economy, my husband was laid off. After much thought and prayer we decided to make a career change so we sold our house, applied to graduate school, and moved into a tiny apartment—with baby number two on the way. Because we are Dave Ramsey fans and because we already had too much student loan debt, we were determined to get through the two-and- a-half year Master’s program without more loans. It took a lot of hard work and some extra side jobs, but we made it, and graduation in May 2009 was sweet.

lentils imageGratefully my husband found a good job after graduation, however, because we made poor financial choices early on in our marriage (such as taking out too many student loans for our undergrad degrees), we have needed to continue living on a “beans and rice” budget in order to work through our debt and live within our means. Because I enjoy a good challenge, my goal for 2010 has been to cook at least one meal with beans or rice every day this year.

In doing so, I’ve discovered several different varieties of beans and rice, and have learned more than I ever wanted to know! Lentils, the bean’s cousin, are one of the new-to-me varieties I’ve been experimenting with.

Here are some fun facts I’ve learned about lentils:

  1. Lentils are a type of legume, and can usually be found in the grocery store with the dried beans in bags, or in the bulk section. There are many types of lentils in all different colors, but the most common you will find is tan colored, called a brown lentil.
  2. Lentils are considered a “superfood” because they are high in protein, amino acids, fiber, iron, and other vitamins and minerals and are low in calories, fat, and cholesterol. When they are mixed with grains such as brown rice, they form a complete protein, making them a good alternative to meat for vegetarians, or those on a budget.
  3. Lentils have been around for centuries, dating back to Bible times. Genesis 25:34 (KJV) tells the story of Esau selling his birthright to Jacob for bread and a pottage of lentils.
  4. Lentils are a staple in Indian cuisine such as the Indian dish Dal, a thick stew eaten with rice and vegetables or with flatbread.
  5. Lentils were promoted in the United States during World War II as an inexpensive alternative to meat.
  6. Lentils have a fairly quick cooking time (compared to dried beans) and do not need to be pre-soaked. Before cooking or adding to a recipe, do a quick “pre-sort” to check for any unwanted debris such as small rocks. I usually just dump them in a colander, sift my fingers through for a quick quality-control, and then rinse the lentils in running water.
  7. Lentils can be considered a pantry staple along with dried beans, grains, etc. and should be stored in a cool, dry place.
  8. Pullman, Washington even has a “Lentil Fest” to celebrate these legendary legumes! My husband was raised near there, so we may have to plan a trip this summer!

Ready to cook up some lovely little lentils? Here are a few recipes to get you started:

Lentil and Sausage Soup

Lentil Cookies (yes, I said cookies!)

Lentil Chili

Once A Month Mom February 2010 menu items with lentils:

Beef & Lentil Stew – Mexican Style

Hamburger Soup

About Pam:

Pam is a stay-at-home mom of three who strives to “keep life creative” every day through cooking, couponing, cleaning, homeschooling, and scrapbooking. She loves a good challenge and blogs to keep herself accountable. You can find her at www.pameladonnis.com or on Twitter @pameladonnis.

3 Responses to “Legendary Little Legumes: All You Ever Wanted to Know About Lentils”

  1. Rebecca says:

    Lentils are also really high in folic acid (folate) which is really important for pregnant women, and everyone else.

  2. I’m so excited about this post! I really love lentils, but I don’t use them often enough. Mostly, just for a filler in soups. I need to incorporate more!! Thank you!

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