You know when you want something warming and hearty but you don’t feel like soup or stew? Sometimes you wanna slurp on something and sometimes you don’t. Well, insert this lentil and beet dish! This totally did the trick for me on Saturday night. The combination of lentils, beet, spinach, sautéed onions, roasted eggplant all smothered in a tahini dressing and topped with dates, walnuts and sunflower seeds was explosive with flavour and warming comfort. I had worked all day and didn’t feel like exhausting any more effort. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good time-consuming, super extra and mess-making dinner, but sometimes my energy is too tapped out for that, y’know? Plus, I’ve been wanting to use up my dry legumes (if you caught my recent insta-story, you would know that I have huge bulk bags of dried legumes, like mung beans–thanks, Costco!) Legumes are an excellent source of protein and can easily replace your typical meat-heavy recipes. For example, lentils can replace beef in sheppards pie, tempeh (fermented soy beans) can replace your beef in a bolognese sauce and can also become tempeh “bacon” to replace the usual pork bacon.
A Small Bit on Protein
Jonathan and I make an effort to eat less animal products than we used to. When we first started dating, and before I hit up a Nutritionist for my own health issues, we would eat 3 or 4 different animal products for lunch or dinner. I’m talking lamb sausage, with a side of beef bolognese, topped with cheese and a small side salad (now that I’m typing this out, it sounds like a recipe for a bad bloated belly, and it definitely was…) A good rule of thumb for every meal is to keep the protein sources to one animal protein max. You can have vegetarian proteins in the mix as well, but incorporating multiple animal proteins is difficult to digest and will result in sleepiness, bloating, gas, constipation, you name it. It can be a little different for everyone, but that’s what I was feeling most of the time. Women can digest about 16g-18g of protein per meal, and men can digest about 20g. However, most Standard American Diets consists of double or triple that amount of protein, which is where the symptoms above come into play. Not only is it uncomfortable to experience those symptoms, but you’re not doing your body any favours by overloading on specific food groups. Your body must produce enough enzymes to help you digest your meals, and if you’re constantly loading up on a specific macro (carbohydrate, protein, fat), you can be exhausting your pancreas, gallbladder, liver and brush border enzymes in your intestines, resulting in faulty digestion, potential insulin resistance, and other issues. Once, I started to incorporate more vegetarian sources of protein throughout the week and found my digestion to be a lot easier. Believe it or not, vegetarian sources are typically a lot easier to digest because they come equipped with their own enzymes to help you digest them.
The Benefits of Lentils
Lentils are one of my favourite sources of vegetarian protein (and fibre!) They are pretty versatile, filling and cost effective! They can last a really long time in your pantry, and can be made into a meal in about 30 minutes. Lentils are part of the pea family and can come in a variety of colours.Their high protein and fibre content keep you full longer, balance your blood sugar, and pack an amazing nutritional punch. They are high in B6 which is important for managing stress and PMS symptoms; magnesium which relaxes your muscles, is responsible for energy production, and is important for heart health; Vitamin A which is important for eye health, and for maintaining a healthy immune system; iron which is important for red blood cell production, transporting oxygen throughout the body and metabolizing (breaking down and using) proteins. Now that you’re convinced their good for you, can I give you a recipe in which they are the start performer?
Warm Lentil, Beet and Spinach Salad with Roasted Eggplant
Preheat oven to 375 degrees celsius
2 Small eggplants
Salt and pepper
2 tbsp olive oil
Slice eggplants into 1/4 inch thick pieces, lengthwise.
Evenly space on cookie tray and roast for 15-20 minutes.
Flip, roast for additional 10-15 minutes, or until lightly browned and soft-looking.
Lentils, Beet and Spinach Salad
2 cups cooked lentils (approximately 1 cup dry)
2 small red onions
1 clove garlic
¼ cup olive oil
1 small beet shredded
2 tbsp cumin
1 bunch spinach
Salt and pepper to taste
Sauté onions, garlic, olive oil in large pan until onions are soft.
Add the rest of the ingredients and cook until spinach is wilted.
Note: To cook lentils, in a separate pot bring lentils to a boil in enough water to cover them, then turn down heat to a simmer, and cook for 25 minutes covered.
½ cup water
3 tbsp tahini
5 tbs olive oil
¾ tsp salt
1 tsp maple syrup
1 clove garlic
Add all ingredients to blender and blend until smooth.
Optional toppings: walnuts, sunflowers seeds, dates, pomegranate
For each serving, layer with the lentil salad on the bottom of the bowl, top with a few pieces of the eggplant and drizzle about 2 tbsp of the dressing on top. You can finish off this bowl with your choice of toppings above. I chose chopped dates, sunflower seeds and walnuts.
If you make this, tag me on Instagram @megan_rhn or use #meganhorsleynutrition ! Enjoy!