19 December, 2019 (14:03)

By Rae Udy

Food costs are skyrocketing and many are struggling to provide nutritious and healthful food for their families. Many Americans have never heard of lentils, much less tried to cook or to eat them. Lentils are a major crop in Idaho and other Western states. Look for lentils in the dried bean section of almost any grocery store.

Lentils are nutritious and delicious, but also very inexpensive. A one pound bag of lentils costs about $1.50. With this one bag you can make one lentil loaf or a dozen large lentil burgers or four dozen ‘wheatballs’.

Lentils are also ideal for a busy cook because these beans do not require a lengthy soaking time and cook quickly in about 20 minutes. Look for lentils in the dry bean section of most grocery stores.

One cup of cooked lentils contain 230 calories and only one gram of total fat. Lentils are low in sodium with four milligrams and they are a very good source of dietary fiber with 15 grams or 63 percent of daily value needed.
Lentils are also a great source of iron by providing 37 percent daily value. Lentils are high in protein with almost 18 grams per cup and provide calcium and vitamin C and are cholesterol-free. The website, (www.calorie-count.com/calories/item/16070.html) calorie-count.com gives lentil an A rating for all around nutrition.

Delicious Lentil Loaf can be served steaming hot as a main dish or sliced cold for sandwiches. Lentil Burgers are very inexpensive to make, costing just pennies each. These are a fun and tasty way to introduce legumes to the family. These ‘burgers’ are cooked like pancakes so there is no forming of messy patties by hand. Lentil ‘Wheatballs’ are great served as appetizers dipped in low-fat Ranch dressing or added to spaghetti sauce.

1 cup uncooked lentils
4 cups cold water
1/4 (one-quarter) teaspoon salt, if desired
1 cup uncooked old-fashioned oatmeal
1 cup dried wheat bread crumbs or crushed crackers
1/4 (one-quarter) cup chopped walnuts 
2 Tablespoon finely chopped onion
2 Tablespoons chopped green pepper
1 shredded carrot
1 celery stalk, chopped fine
2 eggs or soy egg substitute

Wash lentils under cold running water in strainer. Drain and place in a two-quart saucepan. Add water and salt. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer with the lid ajar for twenty to thirty minutes or until water is absorbed and lentils are tender. Pour into strainer to remove excess water. Place back into pan and add oatmeal. Stir well and tightly cover with lid. Set aside to cool for one hour. Add remaining ingredients and stir well. Pack into lightly oiled 9-inch loaf pan. Bake in preheated 375 degree oven for 50 minutes to one hour, or until very well set. Remove from oven and allow to cool fifteen minutes. Invert onto serving platter. Slice and serve eight.

LENTIL BURGERS: Add one-half cup whole wheat flour to Lentil Loaf mixture. Allow to stand for ten minutes. Heat a griddle pan over medium heat. Lightly oil or spray. Like cooking a pancake, use one-third to one-half cup uncooked lentil loaf mixture to form into patties on hot grill with a spoon. Cook until well set and very browned, about three to five minutes. Carefully turn and cook other side. Place a slice of low-fat vegan Monterey Jack cheese on burger to melt, if desired. Serve on warm whole wheat burger buns with all the works: sliced red onion, tomato slices, dill pickles, lettuce, vegan low-fat mayonnaise, mustard and catsup is my favorite lentil burger. Yields one dozen.

LENTIL WHEATBALLS: Add one-half cup whole wheat flour to Lentil Loaf mixture. Allow to stand for ten minutes. Form into small balls with a tablespoon, about ping-pong ball size. Place on lightly sprayed or oiled cookie sheets without touching. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for twenty to thirty minutes or until brown and crisp. Serve hot with low-fat Ranch dip for appetizers or add to hot spaghetti sauce. Yields about two dozen balls.

NOTE: The lentil burgers and lentil balls freeze well after baking and can be easily warmed in the microwave or in frying pan.

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