Why Dried Legumes Should Be On Your Shopping List
Ideas come in many weird ways. Sometimes a single word can lead to a discovery.
For me, it was the word “lentils.” I had never tried them. Bought a bag, made one dish that was a big hit and now cannot seem to stop trying dried legume recipes in my Dutch oven. In most grocery stores you’ll find the dried beans – including lentils – in the canned veggie aisle. I was pleased to see a full pound was less than $2.
I recommend starting with lentils, because they are easier and require less soaking. Make sure you have a heavy-bottomed pot that you can put in the oven. My Dutch oven has been a “bean machine” for weeks. You can also do beans in an Instant Pot or crock pot.
I simply cooked some onion and carrot in some butter, added a little Polish sausage cut into bite-sized pieces, threw in the lentils, stirred them a bit and then added some chicken broth. I put the whole works into a preheated 350-degree oven and about 40 minutes later I had a delicious, robust meal that lasted all week long.
All dried bean need sorting – you will find tiny rocks in there – and rinsing. Some need more time to soak or more time in the oven. (My pinto beans needed a few hours of soaking and cooking – I learned a lesson. But they tasted great.)
But in every case, the finished product was so much better than canned. Simply put they are:
- Super cheap
- Tasty as can be
- Easy to prepare
I’m a writer, not a nutrition expert, so I turned to Avera Heart Hospital’s dietitian Lauren Cornay, RD, LN. She explained these important facts:
- Legumes are a class of vegetable that includes beans, peas and lentils.
- They are naturally low fat and cholesterol free.
- Legumes are a good source of protein since they pack about 14 grams in each 1-cup (cooked) serving. That’s comparable to 2 ounces of most meats.
- While they can have as much as 45 grams of carbohydrate per cooked cup, they are easier on your blood sugar than an equivalent amount of rice or pasta would be.
- They pack about half of your daily recommended fiber.
- They are a good source of phosphorus, potassium, iron and magnesium, but excellent sources of folate, an extremely important vitamin for pregnant and nursing women. (Great for moms!)
Plus they make perfect additions to soups, salads, or casseroles. Perhaps you’ll develop a dried beans habit, too.
Oven-Baked Lentils and Vegetables with Sausage
- 1 all-beef Polish sausage, cut into bite-sized coin-like pieces
- 2 carrots, lightly peeled and cut into thin coins
- 1 yellow onion, chopped
- 2 teaspoons chopped garlic
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 3-4 cups (enough to cover lentils) chicken or vegetable stock (or just water, if you wish)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 16-ounce bag all-natural lentils, sorted and rinsed
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Sort the lentils on a cookie sheet, removing discolored or odd-looking ones. Watch for little pebble and remove. Put lentils into colander or bowl and rinse well. Drain thoroughly.
- In a Dutch oven or other heavy-bottomed pot that can be baked, melt butter and cook vegetables until onion is shining/see-through. Add garlic and if you like, you can add other seasonings – like curry, more garlic or cayenne pepper.
- Add cut-up sausage and cook until browned on both sides of the coins.
- Add lentils and stir, allowing them to pick up flavors from vegetables, meat and seasoning.
- Cover lentils with stock or water (about a half-inch above mixture) and cover. Transfer to oven.
- Bake for 30 minutes and check – stirring as needed. Sample a spoonful to check lentil tenderness.
- If you want them to be more stew-like, you can remove them (if tender) at this point, or remove lid and keep baking until all water is absorbed.
- Check every few minutes to avoid scalding or sticking to bottom. If they become too thick, add a bit more water and remove.
- Enjoy this alone, as a hearty side, as an addition to soups or atop rice, quinoa or other “base” you like.