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On the Menu: Lentils, chickpeas and other beans

Tara Martin, RD shares recipes and talks about the health benefits of these tiny plants.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Versatility, sustainability and convenience are ideal for many people when it comes to their cooking ingredients nowadays. 

Mercy Health Registered Dietitian Tara Martin shares recipes featuring some small, but mighty plants. These include options such as beans, chickpeas and lentils which are all included in the pulse family. 

These nutrient-rich foods have been consumed all over the world for as long as 10,000 years thanks to their functionality and their low carbon footprint. 

Not only are they good for the planet, these plant proteins are filled with health benefits and have been proven to lower the risk for chronic diseases. ¼ cup of cooked pulses is equal to 1 oz of protein. They are also packed full of fiber, to help you feel full longer, and other nutrients such as folate, manganese and potassium. It is recommended that adults consume a total of 1 ½ cups of pulses per week as part of a healthy diet. 

Cherry Lentil Almond Granola Bars
This recipe features red lentils. Lentils are part of the legume family; they are nice because they do not require any presoaking like a dried bean would. It is important to cook them before consuming them, as they should not be eaten raw. Lentils come in a variety of different colors. These red ones are usually the sweetest, so they work nicely in a dish like these cranberry lentil energy bars. You can also customize these to the season, for example I used cranberries rather than cherries.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup dry red lentils
  • 1 cup oat flour
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted almonds, chopped
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries, chopped
  • 1/4 cup flax meal
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 2/3 cup almond butter
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste

Instructions

  1. Combine the red lentils and 2 cups water in a medium saucepan over high heat and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to low, cover and cook for about 10 minutes or until the lentils are just tender. Most of the liquid should be absorbed, but if there is a lot drain them.
  2. Preheat oven to 350° F. and line a 9x13 baking dish with foil. Spray with cooking spray.
  3. While the lentils cook add the remaining ingredients to a large bowl. Add in the cooked lentils and stir together until everything is incorporated.
  4. Pat the mixture evenly into the prepared baking dish. Bake for approximately 25-35 minutes or until the center is firm to the touch and the edges are lightly browned. Allow to cool slightly, then cut into bars.

Roasted Carrot and White Bean Salad
This recipe features white beans, this type tends to have a nice and mild flavor. Again, beans are full of nutrients including antioxidants. This dish also features carrots which are a common root vegetable that provide numerous health benefits along with beautiful seasonal color. This can be served as a hearty side dish that provides some extra protein and will help you feel full and satisfied.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. multicolored carrots, cut into ½-inch coins
  • 2 shallots, quartered
  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
  • ¾ tsp. kosher salt
  • ¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp. harissa paste or sauce
  • 1 Tbsp. apricot preserves
  • 1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. finely minced garlic
  • 1 (15-oz.) can unsalted white beans, rinsed and drained

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375° F. 
  2. Toss carrots and shallots in 1 Tbsp. of the oil, ½ tsp. of the salt and black pepper.
  3. Bake for 30 minutes, tossing once halfway through.

Kale and Chickpea Stew
This recipe is perfect for fall. It features chickpeas which are also part of the pulse family. They can be bought dried or canned; if you are crunched on time buying them canned would probably work better. These are common in Mediterranean dishes and work great to toss in a vegetarian salad or a soup to add a little extra protein and calories. This stew doesn’t have any meat so the chickpeas are really the bulk of it, but you could easily add some meat if you desire.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 shallot (minced)
  • 2 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 1 can chickpeas (drained and rinsed)
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme
  • 1 can Diced Tomatoes 
  • 2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan
  • 2 cups chopped kale (about 4 ounces)
  • Parsley (for topping)
  • Salt (to taste)
  • Pepper (to taste)

Instructions

  1. In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add shallots and let cook until tender. Add garlic, thyme and salt and pepper to taste.
  2. Pour in chickpeas and let cook one to two minutes.
  3. Add diced tomatoes, vegetable broth and Parmesan. 
  4. Bring to a boil then add in chopped kale. Stir, reduce heat and let cook until the kale is wilted, about 5 minutes. Serve with a sprinkle of parsley and Parmesan.

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