From soups and curries, to salads and burgers, these tiny little legumes are nutritional powerhouses capable of improving digestion, helping to maintain a healthy heart, as well as helping to control diabetes and cancer, aiding in weight loss and fighting anemia.
Lentils are a low calorie, fat free food that are high in protein and are a rich source of vitamin B (folate, B1, B6), iron (needed for oxygen transport and energy production), copper (needed for collagen), manganese (good for blood sugar control), and phosphorus (bone strength). They’re a good source of energy as they're high in carbohydrates with nearly 50% of them being dietary fiber making this a good food choice, especially for diabetics, as the high fiber content acts to slow down the body’s absorption of food into the bloodstream thus maintaining constant sugar levels.
One of my favorite ways to make lentils are as a soup and this recipe was born out of my desire for a nourishing bowl filled with healthy ingredients that was filling enough to be a meal all by itself. The addition of the soy chorizo adds tons of flavor and boosts the protein to a whopping 25g per serving.
In the past, I would have thrown in potatoes but since I try to avoid them and their quick conversion to sugar in the blood, I went in search of a suitable substitute. Enter the chayote, a favorite squash in many Mexican households, though not mine when I was growing up. I admit, I had never seen one cooked until I moved in with my grandmother who eats them regularly. Curious one day, I tasted one of her little boiled veggies and thought they had potential (I love my grams but am not a fan of how she boils all her squash, my least favorite way to prepare it made even more so by my grandmother’s tendency to boil them until they nearly fall apart in the water, completely obliterating any texture they might otherwise have; she loves it that way, go figure).
Chayote (pronounced “chah-YOH-teh”) – a member of the gourd family – is native to Mexico. Also known as a squash pear or chayote squash pear, it's available year-round at most major supermarkets. This fruit is typically not that much bigger than the average pear, it’s texture is a cross between a potato and a cucumber and the fruit, seed, stems and leaves are all edible. The flesh itself can be rather bland, a blank canvas that can take on the flavor of mostly anything it’s cooked with so it’s especially tasty in this stew that’s heavily spiced from the soy chorizo.
With it's high water content (nearly 93 percent of it’s total weight), this food is an excellent choice for healthy eats: one chayote is a mere 39 calories, nearly fat free, no cholesterol, very low in sodium, high in potassium and low in carbohydrate (9g with 3.5g of fiber). I plan on doing much more experimenting with this fruit in the coming months and I plan on posting my successes.
In the meantime, I hope you try this stew and let me know what you think in the comments below. It’s vegan, gluten-free, diabetic-friendly and heart-healthy. For a lower sodium option, nix the commercial vegetable broth for plain water, it will still be delicious!
Until next time … xo, ani
MEXICAN LENTIL STEW
Makes 6 servings as a first coarse or 4 servings as a main
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 cup diced onions
1 cup diced celery
1 cup sliced carrots
2 cloves garlic, pressed through a garlic press or finely minced
1/2 to 1 serrano chile, seeds removed, then diced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
10 ounce package soy-based chorizo
2 cups French, brown or green lentils
2 quarts low sodium vegetable broth
1 chayote, diced
1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt, or to taste
1/2 bunch cilantro, roughly chopped
6 ounces organic baby spinach
Optional garnish: Cilantro Lime Salsa Verde
Heat a large dutch oven on medium heat. Add the olive olive and heat for 30 seconds. Toss in onions, celery, carrot; sweat for 6-7 minutes, stirring to keep from browning. Add the garlic, chile and cumin, stirring constantly for 30 seconds or until garlic and chile are fragrant. Squeeze in the chorizo, breaking it up with a wooden spoon. Brown the chorizo for 4 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally to keep from sticking. Toss in the lentils, stirring to incorporate then pour in the broth and water. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Add the chayote, bring to a boil again, cover and reduce heat and cook for an additional 15 minutes or until lentils are tender. Add salt to taste then stir in the cilantro and spinach, cover, turn off heat and allow spinach to wilt into the stew for 5 minutes before serving. Garnish with my Cilantro Lime Salsa Verde.
Nutritional facts below are for 6 servings and do not reflect the optional garnish.
|Amount Per Serving|
% Daily Value *
|Total Fat 10 g||
|Saturated Fat 1 g||
|Monounsaturated Fat 1 g|
|Polyunsaturated Fat 0 g|
|Trans Fat 0 g|
|Cholesterol 0 mg||
|Sodium 701 mg||
|Potassium 1059 mg||
|Total Carbohydrate 57 g||
|Dietary Fiber 26 g||
|Sugars 8 g|
|Protein 25 g||