Growing up as child, some of our family’s favorite meals revolved around lentils. As a child living in Lacombe, Alberta I was still very much a part of a multicultural household with my dad from India and mom from Guyana. My food experience was comprised of such a myriad of different flavorful and ethnic foods -- all mostly home-cooked. One of the reasons I became a registered dietitian is largely attributed to the fact that my mother fostered within me a love for food and cooking at a young age through her delicious, homemade meals. I was lucky.
My parents were and continue to be very economical and budget savvy. Homemade meals made sense and so did cooking with inexpensive foods such as lentils. Living in rural Alberta, a bowl of steaming *dahl with rice was a welcome sight on a cold wintry day. In the summer, my mom would sauté lentils with onion, celery, and seasoning and use that as a spread on whole grain bread with butter pickles. At an early age, lentils found a very fond place in my heart.
The icing on the cake is that lentils are not only economical and delicious, they are nutritious! Lentils are a rich source of protein, iron, folate and fiber. Furthermore, 99% of Canadian lentils are grown in Saskatchewan. Canada has become one of the world’s largest exporters of one of my favorite foods!
To further celebrate lentils, the United Nations General Assembly declared that 2016 is the “International Year of Pulses”. Pulses and legumes offer such a wide range of nutritional and cost-saving benefits. From an environmental perspective, pulses also take less resources to grow and foster sustainable agriculture and soil protection. Only 50 litres of water are needed to produce 1 kg of lentils vs 13,000 litres of water to produce 1 kg of beef!
I hope after reading this you feel inspired to try cooking and preparing some dishes with this hearty protein source. http://www.pulsecanada.com/ has a tonne of information and recipes but here is my own award winning lentil recipe below that my family and I love to prepare and eat.
*dahl = a thick seasoned stew prepared from lentils; an important part of Indian, Nepali, Pakistani, Sri Lankan and Bangladeshi cuisine often eaten with rice, roti or chapati
No-Bake Lentil Power Bites
Makes 2 to 3 dozen, depending on size
A 500 mL can of brown lentils, rinsed and drained well
1 cup (250 mL) of peanut butter or your favorite nut or seed butter
1/2 cup (125 mL) of melted coconut oil
2 ripe bananas
1.5 cups of Medjool dates
1 teaspoon (5 mL) of pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup (125 mL) of cocoa powder
1 teaspoon (5 mL) or your favorite baking spice (all spice, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, or mace)
2 cups (500 mL) of quick or instant oats
1 cup (250 mL) of pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup (125 mL) of dark chocolate chips
Line a baking sheet or two with parchment or wax paper.
Measure the lentils, peanut butter, coconut oil, bananas, dates, vanilla extract, cocoa powder, and baking spice into your food processor. Blend until smooth. Transfer the works into a mixing bowl and stir in the oats, pumpkin seeds and chocolate chips.
Lightly oil your hands and scoop out some of the mixture. Roll into bite-sized balls and place on the baking sheet. Freeze until hard, about an hour or even overnight.
When hunger strikes, feel free to snack straight from the freezer or, if you prefer, let the power bites soften for a few minutes. You can pack them in a lunch box and feel confident that hours later they’ll still be delicious.
Rinsing canned lentils drains away much of their sodium but leaves behind their protein, fibre and micro nutrients.
Copyright © 2016 LALITHA TAYLOR