As I pulled out last bag of lentils from my kitchen cupboard, I thought back to March, when shelves were empty at the grocery store. This was the first time I had saw a store sell out of beans (canned and dry). Next to where the dry beans would have been were fully stocked bags of lentils. I laughed, realizing that people were still willing to pass on the lentils even with bare shelves. Not knowing how long until the beans would be available, I grabbed quite a few bags knowing I would have to get creative.

If you’re a fan of beans, you’ll enjoy lentils. Lentils are small legumes that have a natural, earthy taste and absorb the flavors of the dish you prepare. They are a relatively inexpensive and versatile food you can incorporate in a variety of dishes. They add hardiness to meals when added to chili, curries, soups, and stews. You can use pureed lentils to thicken up soups, sauces and substitute for half the amount of fat or butter in a baking recipe. Mix them in with rice, vegetables, salads, or use them as a meat substitute in tacos, pasta, and other protein-rich dishes. Lentils are nutrient-dense, rich in fiber, protein and are naturally a low-fat food. They are also a source of folate, iron, and potassium.

Virginia Aparicio is Health and Human Science educator with Purdue Extension Elkhart County. She can be reached at 574-533-0554 or vaparici@purdue.edu.

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