Minty Lentil Salad with Goat Cheese

The world's leading lentil producer? Canada. Yeah, Canada.

The world’s leading lentil producer? Canada. Yeah, Canada.

The first time I had lentils was in college when a good friend of mine, Bonnie, made them while we were vacationing on a shoestring. She made an amazing soup and I was hooked. They’re tasty, cheap, filling, and good for you. Full of protein and fiber with zero fat. A no-brainer, right?

But, as I found when I gorged myself on several bowls of my own lentil stew, there are consequences to lentil love. Once you eat them the lentils and all their fiber put up a fight. And folks, things can get gassy. Really gassy (Though I maintain that nothing tops the amount of methane produced from eating two FiberOne bars in one day).

But eat lentils anyway- it’s a good life decision! Strategies I’ve incorporated into my lentil consumption include:

  • 1. Eating them for lunch only so by the time I’m paying the consequences I’m by myself with nobody to offend.
  • 2. Eating them and chasing them with probiotic yogurt.
  • 3. Eating them and standing downwind.

The first step in all of these is eating them, and for that you could try this minty lentil salad.

For the Dressing:

  • 1 TBsp Olive Oil
  • 1 1/2 TBsp Vinegar (I like cider or white wine vinegar)
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper

For the Salad:

  • 1 package pre-cooked lentils (Or cook 1 Cup of dry lentils from scratch)
  • 1/2 C fresh mint leaves, chopped
  • 1/4 C parsley leaves, chopped
  • 1 C raw spinach (It wilts into the salad)
  • 1 C cherry tomatoes
  • 2 oz goat cheese, very cold and crumbled
  • 1/2 C pitted olives, chopped (optional)

1.)  Separate the pre-cooked lentils  (they tend to be vacuum-packed into a big clump, crumble them so they’re all separated). Add the olives, mint, parsley, tomatoes, and spinach.

2.)  For the dressing, whisk the wine vinegar with the shallot and garlic. Add the sugar, salt, and pepper, then slowly drizzle in the olive oil.

3.)  Toss the dressing into the salad and mix well. Add the crumbled goat cheese on top (but don’t toss in- it makes the salad look milky and weird) and refrigerate for an hour. Try adding red pepper flakes and siracha and making it spicy! Serves 4

Calories: 135  – Fat : 9 grams –  Carbs: 10 grams – Fiber: 4.3 grams – Protein: 7.5 grams

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Cold Soba Noodle Salad with Cilantro Pesto

Yummmmm. It looks and tastes too good to be healthy. Beware of midnight munching on this…

I’ve found that as long as I manage the oil used, I can save a lot of calories by consuming Asian noodle dishes versus Italian because they tend to include a lot of vegetables and never call for butter and cheese. And let’s face it, Italian pastas taste better with butter and cheese.

My father is Japanese, and my mother is a German hailing from the Midwest. Only as an adult do I really have an appreciation for the many dishes my mother learned to cook to suit my dad’s Japanese tastes. This recipe was inspired by a dish my Mom used to cook for New Years. You can make this a day ahead as a wonderful side-dish or you can add chicken and make it the main event. As a side dish, this easily serves 6. The leftovers are almost better than eating it fresh!

For the salad:

  • One 9 oz package of buckwheat soba noodles (or 3 little “bundles”)
  • 3 medium bell peppers sliced thin, it’s prettier if they’re different colors
  • 8 oz fresh sugar snap peas
  • 1/2 bunch cilantro, de-stemmed and chopped
  • 1/2 small red onion, sliced thinly
  • 1 tsp rice vinegar

For the Cilantro Pesto:

  • 1 1/2 bunches cilantro
  • 3 scallions
  • 3 Serrano chiles
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 TBsp rice vinegar
  • 1 TBsp honey
  • 1 TBsp peanut butter
  • 2 TBsp sesame seed oil
  • 1 TBsp water
  • 2 tsp kosher salt (NOT table salt)
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper

1.) Start with the Pesto: If you want this dish mild, de-seed and de-vein all three Serrano chiles, the more seeds the hotter it gets. Roughly chop the chiles, scallions, cilantro, and garlic. Place in food processor with vinegar, honey, peanut butter, sesame oil, water, salt, and pepper. Blend thoroughly and check for taste.

Just dump everything into a processor, push a button, then feel like you accomplished a lot today!

2.) For the salad: In a large bowl, add the thinly sliced onion with the 1 tsp rice vinegar and toss to coat. After 5 minutes add the sliced bell peppers, sugar snap peas, and chopped cilantro. Boil water in a large pot and prepare soba noodles according to instructions (It usually takes less than 5 minutes for al dente). Do not overcook buckwheat noodles- they quickly turn gummy and fragile. Drain noodles and rinse with cold water. Drain again and add to the bowl with all the veggies.

3.) With everything in the large bowl, immediately top the noodles with the cilantro pesto and gently toss until all of the noodles and vegetables are evenly coated.

Calories: 272  – Fat : 7.4 grams –  Carbs: 44 – Fiber: 5.2 grams – Protein: 9.2 grams

Love Your Onions

I love onions, but in raw applications they can be a bit overpowering. Never fear- the solution is here (and super low calorie!)

What gives cut raw onions that acrid umph are sulphonic acids, and they’re the same things that are responsible for making you cry while you cut them. There are two things that denature these compounds: heat, and an acidic liquid.

To make raw onions delicious in salads, sandwiches, or any other raw onion recipe, simply coat or massage your cut onions in a small amount of vinegar or citrus juice and let it sit for 5 minutes. I use about 1 teaspoon of acid per medium sliced or chopped onion. The resulting onions will be free of pungency, taste much sweeter, and have a nice pliant texture about them.

The powerful raw onion- some people are repelled by its animal magnetism...

See how a little acid can tame the wild beast? Like a hunky macho guy who decides to date the kind of girl who wears shirts that say "Princess" on them and then BAM! He has to walk her little rhinestone-collared chihuahua and pick up its number twos. So yeah... Onions in acid!

As a bonus, this also mellows the flavor of scallions, leeks, garlic, shallots, and chives (though if you’re cooking them that will take care of the sulphonic acids anyway).

Broccoli Slaw

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Inspired by a Good Eats episode, I set out to make a healthier Broccoli Slaw! They sell a great broccoli salad in Whole foods but it’s plastered in Mayo. This uses raw broccoli that has been sliced thinly (less than 1/4″) at a diagonal. You could use a mandolin but I sliced mine by hand. I also added a good hit of chili flakes to give it a nice heat. They say spicy foods up your metabolism after a meal, but it’s probably just a bunch of hooey. Besides, who needs a metabolic reason to make something spicy?!

This has an Asian slant to it, and although I use a little honey and sugar you could theoretically substitute Splenda ( I just feel weird whisking powdered sweetener into a dressing. It just seems wrong).

Salad:

  • 1 lb Broccoli, sliced thin at a diagonal (’cause it’s prettier that way).
  • 1/2 C Red onion sliced very thin
  • 1 C Cherry Tomatoes
  • 1/4-3/4 C Roasted Cashews or Peanuts chopped (depending on how caloric you’re willing to go)

Dressing:

  • 2 TB Fresh Orange Juice
  • 1 tsp Fresh Orange zest
  • 1 TB Rice Wine Vinegar
  • 2 tsp Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 1 TB Honey
  • 1 TB Sugar
  • 1 tsp Kosher Salt
  • 2 tsp Mustard
  • 1 TB Olive Oil
  • 1 TB Dark Sesame Seed Oil
  • Black pepper to taste
  • Red Hot Chili Flakes to taste

Prep all of your veggies but keep them separate. Prepare the dressing, adding the oils last. Whisk vigorously to combine. Add red onion to the dressing and let sit for 5 minutes.

Combine the broccoli, tomatoes, and nuts with the dressing. Toss to coat the broccoli well, then let it rest in the fridge for at least 1 hour, but preferably 3. It has to marinate a while so the salt can work on the Broccoli and give it a nice, manageable texture. Take out of the fridge at least 15 minutes ahead of time to let it come to room temperature before serving.

NOTE: DO NOT sub a bag of “Broccoli Slaw” stems for your own sliced broccoli in this recipe. This dressing wilt the little shreds until it’s an awkward texture.

Calories: 128  – Fat : 8 grams –  Carbs: 13 – Fiber: 2.5 grams – Protein: 3.5 grams