Being an ex-pat and having lived in multiple countries, I feel like a citizen of the world. A little piece of my heart resides in each country. The beautiful people, cultures, art, and amazing food always enrich my life. Because of this, my support of other citizens of the world holds a special joy. Recently I found a great way to do this through food while restricted at home.
Food Changes Lives
Food is universal. It is a symbol of love when mothers (or fathers) cook for their families. Food is life. It sustains us and provides good health. For me, who has a passion for cooking, there is no greater joy than sharing healthy, delicious food with friends, family, and loved ones.
Healthful plant-based home cooking has seen a considerable jump in worldwide popularity over the past year of COVID restrictions. Families renewed focus on their health and a new way of eating.
Having been a vegetarian for years, I have loved this global shift in eating consciousness with more meatless dishes offered than ever before. Now people are asking me for recipes embracing my vegetarian existence rather than criticising it.
Recently, I found a way to support the United Nations and the U.S. with their healthy food effort. My friends and I embraced raising awareness to eat sustainably, save water, and treat the environment with respect. Our concept might even change the world. The secret food source? Lentils.
Saving the World With … Lentils?
Each year the United Nations General Assembly picks a topic of interest for their global competition. In 2016 it was the Year of the Pulse.
Pulses (which include dry, edible legumes like dry peas, beans, lentils and chickpeas) provide positive and significant health, economic, and environmental impact for a better world. For the global competition, countries around the globe compete, each submitting one recipe. Making the number one recipe in the U.S. a regular staple in my cooking repertoire shows my support of this global effort. Plus, it is not hard to be supportive when the food is so delicious.
A favorite recipe is Roasted Cauliflower and Lentil Tacos with Creamy Chipotle Sauce. It sounds unusual, but wow, it is mouthwatering. Healthy and impressive, this dish is embraced by every person whose plate it has graced, if it gets that far. Every time I make this recipe, the savory lentils get scooped up before the tortillas are ready. The roasted cauliflower is gobbled up before it even gets a chance to be added to the recipe.
Great For Cats & Carnivores
Even my cat hungrily devours both the lentils and cauliflower. It is that delicious. Friends didn’t believe me, so I made a little video of him eating cauliflower. After a few good laughs, they all wanted the recipe because they couldn’t believe it was so delicious that a cat wanted to eat lentils and cauliflower. Now, this recipe is either their favourite, or on their weekly rotation and made regularly.
I love raising awareness, supporting the environment, and sharing healthy, flavourful recipes. Educating my carnivorous friends (Meatasaurus as I like to call them) that pulses can be delicious is quite rewarding.
Before this recipe, none of my friends would try lentils. One told me he was forced to eat them in his British boarding school, and they tasted like cardboard. He hadn’t eaten a lentil in 30 years. Now, he comes back for a second helping of these tacos. Reintroducing someone to the food they thought they hated brings a special joy. So does trying new things.
Roasted Cauliflower Changed My Life
I had also never roasted cauliflower, which amazes me. However, armed with a love of cooking and a healthy sense of adventure, roasting cauliflower seems like something that should have happened in my kitchen.
Ripping apart a head of cauliflower is so much fun. If you have never had the pleasure of doing this, it’s quite therapeutic, so you might want to give it a try. After about 10 minutes in the oven, the house starts to smell amazing. The best thing is that after 25 minutes, it is melt-in-your-mouth tender with an almost sweet taste.
The mixture of flavours may seem like an odd pairing, but there is a reason this recipe was the #1 winner of the USA’s entry. No wonder it is delicious.
The combination of lentil and cauliflower with creamy chipotle sauce and chopped fresh cilantro is a perfectly balanced mouthful of flavour. If you don’t like things spicy, even without the creamy chipotle, it is delicious.
Lentils, lentils, lentils…
Lentils aren’t usually associated with a yum-yum-get-in-my-tum response from most people. Yet, this amazes me as most cultures around the world have amazing lentil recipes. Nepalese and Indian dals are comfort food to hundreds of thousands worldwide. Italians have delicious lentil dishes in most regions that turn legumes into an art form. Lentil Bolognese is a crowd-pleaser, with the hardest core carnivore coming back for a second helping more than once in my house. One time this meal even landed me a marriage proposal.
The French serve lentils with a few other ingredients like fresh herbs, garlic, lemon, and butter in a more elegant, truly mouthwatering style. You’ll find them in everything from soups and stews to hearty main dishes like the Lebanese Mugadara. Although it’s only lentils, rice, and caramelised onions, it could change your life. That is probably why entire countries love it.
Why Lentils? Lentils vs. Pulses
Due to their sustainability, low impact on the environment, and low water needs, pulses are excellent crops. Lentils and pulses, considered high value as a renewable and reliable high protein food source, are more popular than ever. For clarity, let me explain what a pulse is. The group of plant proteins called pulses are legumes (lentils, beans, and peas) harvested dry. You probably have them in your cupboard right now.
Chickpeas, green or yellow split peas, black beans, red, green, brown, or black lentils, red kidney beans, or some other variety of beans all fall under the category of pulses. Each has an individual flavour and texture.
In most countries of the world, pulses make up a large part of the population’s diet.
Heart Smart and Healthy
Beans have gotten a bad rap. Some people are under the impression they are a poor person’s food. In fact, they are a powerhouse of fibre and protein that will keep you fuller longer without the artery-clogging fats.
Travelling through Central America, it was delightful to discover new beans with each country. For example, in Honduras, they have a little red bean which makes the most delicious dip I’ve ever had. Anafre is a warm bean and cheese dip served warm in a small clay pot held over a candle. Usually served as an appetizer, it is so filling that it became my dinner more than once.
While living in Guatemala, I fell in love with the big red piloy beans grown in the highlands. A type of scarlet runner bean, these buttery smooth beans are the thing I ask visiting friends from the region to bring with them.
Pulses are plant protein. They are filled with a load of health benefits, aiding in preventing chronic health issues and diseases like digestive issues, diabetes, and even as a preventative measure for cancer. Plus, their lack of animal fats means they help lower cholesterol and are the heart-smart choice of protein recommended by physicians worldwide.
Yes, We Can Save the World With Lentils
With outstanding nutritional value and health benefits, education around the globe has picked up, showing favouritism toward pulses. The success of the United Nations 2016 Year of the Pulse has continued with the first-ever World Pulse Day held in 2019.
Celebrating pulses’ contributions to health, sustainable food supply, and a more economically and environmentally green future means that yes, we can save the world with lentils. Pulses are doing their bit for the planet and our health.
So, perhaps next time you sit down to lunch, throw some crunchy roasted chickpeas in your salad. Make taco Tuesday black bean tacos or try a Greek Lentil Salad bursting with flavour. A friend shared, “Oh my god, what am I eating? This is the best salad of my life.”
If you would like to explore further, check out Lentil Magazine. There are tons of free recipes and cookbooks, nutritional facts, and how-to-cook advice. Plus the link to this lentil recipe is listed above so be sure to give it a try. I’ll bet there is something in there the whole family will love.