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  • Chopped Kale and Red Lentil Bowl

    Friday, October 21, 2016

    Kale salad with red lentils
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    I have the heart of a hippie, and it’s not just because of my love of kale.

    Ok, maybe it’s solely due to my love of kale. Seriously, every time I think up a new way to incorporate this hearty green into my cooking, I have this Forrest Gump moment.

    So, naturally, when the team over at Recipe Redux issued a challenge to make a plant-based, protein-rich bowl, I reached for a bunch of kale…and a few other healthy and tasty ingredients I had laying around my pantry.

    I have to say, I would happily eat every meal in bowl-form. There’s something about the endless possibilities for getting creative by layering all manner of veggies, grains, beans, sauces and dressings that I find almost therapeutic at the end of a long day. Plus, it’s one of my favorite ways to use leftovers.

    Bowls are also a simple and sure-fire way to add more produce, beans and grains to your diet with minimal effort and, let’s face it, sometimes minimal is all the effort we can muster at the end of the day.

    My family is made up of just me and my husband Paul. Fortunately for both of us, he’s not much of a “meat and potatoes” guy. He’s happy to eat a plant based meal several times a week. Don’t get me wrong, he does have his culinary vices, including the doughnut shop around the corner that he waxes poetic about whenever a visitor is in town. Ever the gracious host, he uses our out-of-town guests as a convenient excuse to indulge because, you know, a visit to the city wouldn’t be complete without a blueberry bourbon basil doughnut.

     

    (He might be right about that)

    Kale salad with red lentils and feta

    I work from home, which means I eat 3 squares under my own roof on most days. While this makes healthy eating a cinch, it’s easy to not think about lunch until the moment I realize I’m starving. After years of working in an office and eating at my desk, I’m not particularly inclined to reach for frozen or packaged meals. I rarely go out for lunch since it often means losing whatever momentum I’ve built up to ensure I don’t get distracted by doing laundry, reading People magazine or playing with my irresistible cat.

    I was teetering on that familiar “hangry” moment when I found myself scrounging through the refrigerator hoping something would reveal itself lunch-worthy. I quickly uncovered a bowl of leftover brown rice, a bunch of fresh kale and a block of feta. Since I always have my monthly Recipe Redux challenge in the back of my mind, this kale and red-lentil bowl seemed to be destiny. The addition of the red lentils was to get a bit more protein in the dish. Fortunately they cook quickly, so within just a few minutes I had what is my latest favorite bowl.

    A couple of tips on this one. First, if you have left over rice laying around–great! You’re good to go. I’m not one of those super-disciplined health nuts who prepares a bunch of food on Sundays so it’s ready to eat all week, so it’s rare that I have leftover rice hanging out in the fridge. And, while I fantasize about becoming someone who whips up batches of grains, peels and slices veggies, and portions out perfect servings of protein, all ready to be tossed into lunches and dinners all week, I have come to terms with the fact that, for me, Sundays is about being low key.

    Oh, who am I kidding? I’m just too fickle. Can I really expect to commit to stuffed peppers on Wednesday when it’s only Sunday? Seems a risky proposition. So, if you’re like me and you don’t have leftover rice waiting to be made into your random Thursday lunch or dinner, it’s a good idea to stock your cabinet with cooked packets of rice  (Trader Joe’s also makes several varieties of great frozen cooked rice). You’ll be surprised at how often you reach for them.

    Second tip–red lentils. If you don’t eat them, you should. Not only are they are a healthy, economical, low-fat vegan source of protein, they cook  faster than you think, just 10 minutes or so. There goes your last excuse for not eating more plant-based meals during the week. I always have a mason jar full of raw lentils at the ready in my pantry. I can’t tell you how many times I reach for them when I’m at a loss for what to make for dinner.

    For those of you who aren’t (yet) kale aficionados, you’ll likely find more than one variety in the store. Final tip–if you’re going to eat raw kale, the best variety to choose is lacinato (also known as Tuscan or dinosaur kale). It’s far more tender than curly or red kale and is easier to chop or shred for a salad or, in this case, a bowl. If you want an even more tender kale, you could dress it with vinaigrette and let it sit for a few minutes while you prepare the rest of the dish.

    Note: one of the biggest mistakes kale novices make is not thoroughly washing it. Because of all of the nooks and crannies (and, um yea, the fact that it grows in the ground), dirt can hideout in the far reaches of the bunch. The best way to wash kale is in a water bath. If you have a salad spinner, this is a good time to use it. Just fill it with water and add the kale. Swish the kale around with reckless abandon (its tough, it can take it), drain, rinse and do it all over again. Don’t skimp on this step, trust me on this, a mouthful of grit will ruin lunch faster than you can call for takeout.

    Kale salad with red lentils

    With the main components in hand, I enhanced the bowl with whatever else I had on hand–a few dried cranberries, a sprinkle of toasted pumpkin seeds, a bit of feta cheese and some red onion. I dressed it simply with one of my favorite homemade vinaigrette recipes. This is what I love about making bowls, with the addition of whatever is a staple in your pantry (think chickpeas, olives, roasted red peppers…you get the picture), it easily becomes a satisfying meal.

    Are you a bowl fan? I would love to hear about what your favorites are!

    Chopped Kale and Red Lentil Bowl

    servings: 4 | time: about 20 minutes

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    ingredients:

    For the lentils:

    1/2 cup split red lentils, rinsed

    1 cup water or veggie broth

     

    For the bowl:

    1 large bunch of lacinato kale (you want to end up with about 8 cups of shredded or chopped kale)

    1/4 of a red onion, sliced into thin strips

    1/3 cup dried cranberries

    4 ounces feta cheese

    1/4 cup toasted pumpkin seeds

    3/4 cup cooked red lentils

    1 cup cooked brown rice

    directions:

    Make the lentils:

    1. Place the lentils and water (or broth if using) in a covered sauce pan. Bring to a simmer. Cover and simmer on low heat for about 10 minutes (you want them to be al dente, so make sure you don’t go past the 10 minute mark). Set aside while you make the rest of the salad

     

    Make the bowl:

    1. Thoroughly wash and dry the kale. Chop or shred the kale and place in a large bowl. Toss with a generous drizzle of your favorite vinaigrette (this is mine).

    2. Divide equal portions of the kale into 4 large salad bowls. Distribute the red lentils, brown rice, dried cranberries, pumpkin seeds, feta and red onion in equal portions for each salad. Drizzle with vinaigrette and serve with crusty bread.

     

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