When he was small, my youngest son had a habit of filling his pockets with treasures he encountered in his daily adventures. I didn't always understand the value he saw in his chosen objects -- really, how many rocks and sticks could one boy keep? In his eyes, though, each one was beautiful and important. Life is just like that on a larger scale, isn't it? We gather up the precious bits of our experiences and save them all to learn from and enjoy later. Perhaps you'll find a little something here that you'd like to keep in your own pockets. Thanks for visiting.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Taking lentils to lunch

Unlike my boys, who would happily eat the same things for lunch every single day, I get bored easily with food, so lately I've been searching for some different healthy ideas for my mid-day meal. I haven't had to look any further than the jar of lentils in my cupboard for inspiration: these simple little seeds are mightily packed full of protein, fiber, folate, vitamin B1, iron, and minerals, and when prepared in a tasty salad or soup, they make a very satisfying (and interesting!) lunch.

My sister-in-law Rebecca first introduced me to lentils several years ago when she made the lentil salad recipe I'll share below for a party. While I'll admit that lentils don't look all that exciting on their own, I was very pleasantly surprised at how delicious they were in this salad, and I've been hooked ever since. This salad recipe was originally published in Canadian Living Magazine, and both Becca and I have made it many times to rave reviews!

Lentil Feta Salad

1/2 cup slivered almonds
1 cup dried green lentils
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp finely chopped fresh oregano
1/4 tsp each sea salt and pepper
1 1/2 cups diced cucumber
1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup diced sweet or red onion
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese

In a small dry skillet, toast almonds over medium heat, stirring often, until golden, about 5 minutes. Set aside.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add lentils and garlic; reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain and rinse in cold water; drain again. Discard garlic.
In a large bowl, whisk together oil, vinegar, oregano, salt and pepper. Add lentils, cucumber, tomatoes, onion and parsley; toss to coat.
Stir in almonds and all but 1/4 cup of the feta; sprinkle with remaining feta. Makes 6 servings.

I omit the feta cheese when I make this recipe since I can't tolerate dairy, but the salad is still wonderful even without it. If you plan to eat this salad over a couple of lunches, you can prepare it in advance up to the last step, and add the almonds and feta to each portion just before you plan to eat it. Lentil salad packs nicely to take to work or school (if you have better luck than I do at convincing your kids that they really do want to eat this!)

The next time you're stuck in a food rut, maybe you'll think about taking some lentils to lunch. They're modest, but strong and smart -- just the kind of lunch date anyone can feel good about!

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