Learning to love lovely lentils

I’ve discovered a perfect food.

Lentils.

Lentils are perfect because they are . . .

  • inexpensive (a pound of dried lentils is $1)
  • chameleon-like; lentils take on the flavor of their surroundings
  • quick and easy to cook
  • nutritious (protein, amino acids, minerals, and vitamins)

Yes, lentils are perfect.

I made two pots of ‘Lovely Lentils’ this week after stumbling on Jules Clancy’s Stone Soup blog.

Lovely Lentils

1/2 lb of dried lentils
1 onion
1-2 tablespoons soy sauce
1-2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
  1. Add dried lentils to a pot of cold water (water should cover the lentils).
  2. Roughly chop up an onion and add it to the pot.
  3. Bring the lentils to a boil.
  4. Turn down the heat to medium and cook for 15-20 minutes.
  5. When the lentils are the texture that you’d like (I like tender, but still a little firm), drain the lentils well.
  6. Put the lentils back into the pot.
  7. Stir in equal parts soy sauce and sherry vinegar (1-2 T).
  8. Stir in a tablespoon of olive oil.
  9. Add some pepper if you’d like.

Store leftovers in the fridge and reheat for an instant snack, a side dish, or breakfast. Yes, I said breakfast! After a few days of eating lentils for lunch, I woke up one morning craving lentils. Kind of crazy.

Variations: I added roasted red peppers one day and goat cheese another day.

Jules Clancy’s blog has delicious recipes and most have just 5 ingredients.

What do you think is a perfect food?

Go old school. Use a basket

My daughter grabbed a basket at the supermarket.

“Let’s get a cart in case we want to get something big,” I said.

“But this basket holds less. I’m trying to save you money,” she insisted.

And so we shopped with a basket.

We found a few things that weren’t on our list (pretty typical when shopping with a child). However, since we had less space and had to carry everything, many purchases were averted.

The basket forced us to carefully consider our purchases. We stuck to our shopping list like glue.

Which got me thinking… when were shopping carts invented? Shopping carts first rolled into stores in 1937. The concept was delightfully simple: make shopping easy for customers so that they’ll visit often and buy more.

Ah, but of course!

If you want to put the brakes on your spending (and improve your upper body strength), go old school. Use a basket.

What tactics do you use to buy less?

Cheap and healthy foods

I stumbled upon this list today:

The 10 Cheapest, Healthiest Foods Money Can Buy

… and was happy to see some of my favorites:

  • Bananas
  • Beans
  • Canned tomatoes
  • Carrots
  • Frozen spinach
  • Lentils
  • Oatmeal
  • Peanut butter (peanut butter on apple slices is a favorite of mine)
  • Peas
  • Sweet potatoes (I roast these and add them to salads)

What would I add?

  • Eggs
  • Potatoes (jacket potatoes)
  • Quinoa
  • Nuts
  • Hummus
  • Onions – I like to roast veggies and use them in omelets
  • Apples

What are your favorite cheap and healthy foods?

(I also like that many of these foods have little or no packaging)

Wrap it in plastic and call it good?

Plastic is everywhere. It’s even in places you wouldn’t expect – like wrapped around potatoes.

Microwave potatoes

Why would you take a perfectly good potato and wrap it in plastic?

OK, let’s be real. Potatoes are inconvenient. They’re dirty and take forever to cook. I can hear the advertisement now….

“Stop wasting your time washing and baking potatoes. You could be eating a clean potato with that “oven-baked-taste” in just seven minutes. Pop a shrink-wrapped nugget of potato into your microwave and BAM!” 

Sound good?

Not to me. I have a strict no plastic in the microwave policy, and I like to buy produce in the buff (without packaging).

I do like to save time though, so I’ve been known to…

  • Microwave potatoes for 5-10 minutes prior to baking them.
  • Cut my potatoes, boil them for 5-10 minutes, then smother them with olive oil and bake.

 Yep, I’m crazy. I like my potatoes without plastic. How about you?

Bee a locavore

What was once made up, is now for real. Locavore was the 2007 Oxford American Dictionary word of the year. 

What’s a locavore?

Locavore: Someone who eats locally produced food.

I’ve been a flexitarian for some time, but Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life, No Impact Man, and Sleeping Naked is Green – all sparked my interest in sustainability and supporting local farms.

I found a great “How-To” to Eating Locally Guide on the Simple-Green-Frugal blog. This guide tells you how to find (and eat) locally produced food.

Did you know that most food travels 1500 miles from farm to plate? When you buy local food, transportation costs are minimal, your money stays in your community, less pesticides are used compared to large corporate farms, and the products taste great.  

Support local farms. It’s good to have food grown close to home.

Slow Food USA: Supporting Good, Clean and Fair Food

Local Harvest.org: Find farmers’ markets, family farms and CSAs in your area

What the world eats

While reading Barbara Kingsolver’s excellent book entitled Animal,Vegetable, Miracle, I learned a new term: nutrition transition. Nutrition transition refers to the concept that as wealth climbs nutrition falls. What? Is it just me, or does this seem backwards?

You can see nutrition transition in a series of images on MSN last week. The images show families from around the globe with a week’s worth of their food purchases. 

What the World Eats

"Hungry Planet" excerpt © Peter Menzel and Faith D'Aluisio

"Hungry Planet" excerpt © Peter Menzel and Faith D'Aluisio

"Hungry Planet" excerpt © Peter Menzel and Faith D'Aluisio

"Hungry Planet" excerpt © Peter Menzel and Faith D'Aluisio

"Hungry Planet" excerpt © Peter Menzel and Faith D'Aluisio

© Peter Menzel www.menzelphoto.com from the book Hungry Planet: What the World Eats

Which week’s worth of food would you like to eat?

As a country’s wealth climbs, foods that are naturally rich in vitamins, minerals, and micronutrients are often replaced with foods heavy in sugar, sodium, and saturated fat. But why?

Being wealthy doesn’t have to mean eating foods high in sugar, sodium, and saturated fat. Wealth doesn’t have to mean switching to products found in boxes and plastic, or foods shipped from thousands of miles away. We can choose to eat local, whole foods regardless of our income level or level of busyness. 

The easiest way to do this is to shop at your local farmer’s market. See LocalHarvest.org to find local markets, farms, and Community Support Agriculture (CSA) opportunities.

OK, I’m getting off my soap box and on to my bike. It’s time to see what’s new at the farmer’s market. It’s a gorgeous sunny fall day in Seattle; time to get some vitamin D.

Sidenote: Food and family images, typical family recipes, weekly family food-intake lists, and essays are included in the book Hungry Planet: What the World Eats; photographed by Peter Menzel and written by Faith D’Alusio. I just put a copy on hold at my library, along with Peter’s earlier book: Material World: A Global Family Portrait.

NPR story on ‘Hungry Planet: What the World Eats’

Reusable: The other produce bag

Inspired by plastic blogs such as Fake Plastic Fish, I’ve been reducing my plastic consumption. One item I’ve targeted is the super-thin, plastic produce bag. 

At first, my plastic reduction strategy was to simply reuse the produce bags. I stored used produce bags in my cloth grocery bags, and brought them back to the store. This worked pretty well, but punctures happened and I was left holding a useless piece of plastic. Also it seemed silly for me to use cloth grocery bags, but still use plastic produce bags. After all, plastic is plastic.

A couple puncture resistant bags that I love to reuse are these mesh bags:

freemeshbag

These bags are durable and free.*      

*with the purchase of citrus

Driven mad by my desire to avoid plastic, my mouse stumbled upon EcoBags.com. I bought three mesh bags for produce and a few non-mesh bags for flour or oats.

egobagsproduce

The cotton bags seem durable and I can wash them in my washer. The downside? Are you sitting down? Did I mention that the bags are organic, fair wage, fair labor? The mesh bags above are $4 a pop and the non-mesh variety are $3. The bags are not exactly ‘an exercise in frugality’ price-wise, but for me frugality is much more than cost. Frugality is about my consumption. And in this case, my desire to consume fewer plastic bags.

And finally, for those reluctant to spend a small fortune on cotton bags, I bring you Tidy Totes.

tidytotes

I found this inexpensive, eco-hack at Wise Bread. Hack? It’s a hack because these bags are marketed for car organization, not reusable produce bags. But, I’m sure they’d work just great. A 4-pack of expandable Tidy Totes sells for $1 on Amazon, or keep your eye open for them at Walgreens or your local dollar store (look in the automotive section).

If you’re a do-it-yourself type, you can make your own bags from old t-shirts or pillow slips. Wisdom of the Moon has a great step by step guide for making your own fabric produce bags.

I like this idea from EnviroWoman at Living Plastic Free – just plunk your produce in your shopping cart and don’t use a bag at all. Nothing says “I’m green” quite like carrots, apples, and tomatoes sitting right on the checkout conveyer belt. Really. Why not? You’re going to wash everything before you eat it anyway.

The next step for me is sandwich bag reduction. Oy! There is so much plastic in my life. I’m drowning in a sea of it.

What about you? Are you reducing your plastic consumption? Please share your ideas via a Comment.