Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Armenian Apricot Lentil Soup

So, yesterday morning I realized I had no leftovers to bring to work for lunch. This is normally fine on Mondays, as Mondays are traditionally the day to Skillet. The verb, 'to Skillet', being to go to Skillet. A little back story: while still certainly not that of Portland's, Seattle's street food scene is experiencing a bit of a boom lately, with Maximus Minimus and Marination Mobile being two of the more noticeable. But my personal favorite, one which I discovered almost two years ago, is Skillet. Created by Chef Josh Henderson as a means of providing delicious food made from high quality ingredients, Skillet is served out of an old Airstream trailer that has been rigged to be a full-kitchen. They're two original staples were 'The Burger' (organic, grass-fed, local beef [previously Wagyu], arugula, cambanzola cheese and their homemade bacon jam on a toasted brioche bun) and poutine (which for those who have never had it is the wonderfully delicious and fattening Quebecois creation of french fries covered in gravy and cheese curds). For a little extra, you can even get the french fries that come with the burger to be 'poutined' for the ultimate in midday food comas.

Skillet offers two or three other choices (usually one other sandwich, a salad and a soup) which change every one or two weeks. Some of my favorites have included king salmon and confit of duck which were priced under $10 with their sides. It became so beloved and such a part of my weekly routine that I went almost every week for the last year and a half. Hell, the only downside was that if you didn't go right after they opened at 11, it could take a while to place your order and get your food. Recently, though, Skillet has been expanding. They opened a 'walk-up window' in SODO, started going to Mariners and Seahawks games, and built a second trailer to serve the Eastside. Slowly the prices started creeping up, different people began working (a sad day when they no longer knew my name when I came), and I could tell that the winds of change were in the air. But I was surprised when last Monday David and I went to find that in an effort to streamline order time they have decided to concentrate solely on burgers. The new burger is a little bigger and can come with a variety of different types of bacon jams (they are also working on a veggie burger). While this is saddening that there will be less variety, the real kicker came when we found out that after revisiting their books, they realized they would need to raise the prices again. Now it is $10.50 for just a burger and $13.50 for the burger with fries. This seems to put their food in a new price bracket, one which has not yet been visited by street food. Even at sit-down restaurants, $13.50 would be a lot for a burger with fries (even of the awesome quality that is their's), but part of the appeal of street food is that you curb your need for service and seating in exchange for lower prices and well....the curb. As much as I love Skillet, I can't see being able to go every week anymore. I still plan to go once a month, but it feels like the Skillet that I've known and loved is evolving into something I no longer recognize.

Wow, now that I've completed my super-long-winded introduction: Armenian Apricot Lentil Soup! Back when I started the project, my friend Maggie recommended a blog she frequents, both because of the quality of the commentary and recipes, but also because it has been arranged by ingredients (and one of those tabs was lentils). So knowing that I had no food at home and would need to go the the co-op, yesterday I thumbed through the recipes and decided that this one looked good. The recipe is from the 'Soup Peddler', a man in Austin, Texas who has started a business by making soups and delivering them weekly to people on his bicycle: an awesome idea. The ingredients are simple: onion, carrot, red lentils, cumin, dried apricots, olive oil and water. That's it. Super simple preparation, too. Saute and sweat onions and carrots, add lentils and water to cook, add apricots and hit it with my all-time favorite kitchen appliance: the stick blender! Then ladle and you're done! Amazing! I <3 soup.

The soup was a nice integration of the red lentils' 'meatiness' and the sweet tang of the apricots. Also, it wasn't quite as earthy as say a butternut squash or other similar type of soup, which was nice seeing as how it is still 86 degrees and sunny here in Seattle. (For being the 'Rainy City', we've probably only had eight days and one inch of rain since May.) Still, for anyone who wants to try it, I recommend it in the beginning of October, when the last remnants of summer fade away to the blanket of fall.

Not sure what I'll make next, perhaps Alton Brown's Lentil Cookies!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Stuffed Lentil Pancakes!

Ok, now that I've had a little post-lentil cleansing and since I'm totally out of leftovers, it is time to make some more lentil recipes! On the menu for a nice Sunday breakfast: Stuffed Lentil Pancakes.

The idea of lentil pancakes came from my sister Krista, which she had eaten at Pullman's Lentilfest (going back to the origin of the this whole project). As opposed to blueberry, bacon, or the Jack-Johnson-favorite-banana pancakes, though, lentil pancakes are made from lentils, as opposed to adding lentils to pancake batter. It is a surprisingly uncommon recipe as none of my usual suspects (foodnetwork.com, allrecipes.com) seemed to have a clue as to what I was talking about. (...seemed to have a clue about what I was talking. Sorry everybody. Sorry.) Luckily, we have Google and a quick search yielded a promising candidate. The recipe comes from a site called Passionate About Baking which, despite the fact that now Katie has a whole new arsenal of baking recipes to unleash upon my apartment and subsequently leave for me to overindulge and fatten on, look quite good (the left picture appears to be some kind of pistachio moonpie. Tasty!)

This particular recipe is called Moong Bean Pancakes, moong bean referring to another name for split yellow lentils. The recipe is pretty simple: make the batter by soaking lentils overnight, draining and blending them with just a bit of the drained liquid (I probably used maybe 3/4 to 1 cup) as well as some green chili, fresh coriander, ginger and asafoetida. Couple things to note: upon further investigation, the woman who writes this blog is from India and uses slightly different terminology than we may find common. For example, when we say coriander in the States, we usually refer to the dried seed that is ground as a spice; however, if you instead plant and grow that seed to make 'fresh coriander', this little plant is better known to us as cilantro. Same plant, two diversely different tastes. Crazy. As for asafoetida, it is a spice found in the subcontinent that has a pungent, slightly unpleasant aroma that disappears in cooking and forms a taste similar to leeks. I happened to recently pick some up at a tiny Indian market store, but if you don't have any, leaving it out should work just fine.

Filling! After all, the only thing better than pancakes is stuffed pancakes. The filling is made from cilantro leaves, green chilis, scallions and....grated cottage cheese? This conjures up the idea of frustratingly trying to press a tub of cottage cheese up to a box grater with needless-to-say no success. So again comes a little bit of confusion in terminology. With a little internet research, here's what I've found. A few things could be used for this: dry curd cottage cheese is probably what was intended, which is essentially just a tub of cottage cheese wrung out in a cheese cloth. Some other options would include queso fresco or queso blanco (Samish Bay Cheese is local and makes a good queso fresco) or, to follow with the Indian theme, paneer, all of which are just drained cottage cheese pressed into a mold (with various small changes). Unfortunately, I did this research after doing my shopping, so I stood in the kitchen looking confused down at the recipe with a tub of cottage cheese in my hand. I used it anyway and it was good, although I think next time I'll go for the queso fresco which melts nicely.

Finally, the cooking! I heated up a square, flat pancake pan sprayed with some PAM and dosed out a third of a cup of the batter, spreading it thinly (since they need to be folded, thin is key). The most important thing that I learned is to make sure you let it cook long enough before trying to flip it. Since there are no leavening agents, you can't rely on bubbles like you can with traditional pancakes, but I'd say on medium I probably gave it 4-5 minutes. Trying to flip early leads to disaster, as I learned when the whole thing essentially fell apart on the first try. Also, since these are bigger than most traditional pancakes, use a wide spatula to get under the center of the pancake and then flip in one quick motion to minimize breakage. After flipping, add a spoonfull of filling to one side and spread it out, then after about four minutes, put the spatula under the un-filled side and tilt up until it falls over and folds in half. (This approach seemed to work best for me, but feels free to experiment. Since the final product is significantly more malleable than normal pancakes, little cracks are easy to repair). Now just move to a plate and voila! Lentil pancakes! (One last thing to note: I started off having problems with the pancake sticking, but using ample spray on both pan and spatula made things go much more smoothly.)

Okay okay, so you made lentils into the shapes of pancakes, you say, but how did they taste? Quite frankly, delicious. This may be my favorite lentil application so far. A nice break from the sweetness of traditional pancakes, especially post-syrup, these savory, crepe-like pancakes have a good flavor from the lentils that is bumped up by the cilantro and chilis. The cottage cheese filling was a little off, although using something similar but, for lack of a better non-Taco-Bellian adjective, melty would be very nice. Next time I'll go for some queso fresco or paneer. You might even want to try a little something on the top. Say, take two tablespoons of simple syrup and mix into half a cup of sour cream, add a dollop to the top of each pancake and sprinkle on some finely minced chives. Mmmmm, that sounds tasty.

One last note: Calculating the exact pounds of lentils for these is a little more tedious than expected, so I'm going to again change the challenge to be number of recipes. Between cooking and leftovers I'll still get plenty of lentils in, but this way I can concentrate more on the recipes themselves, then on trying to figure out the weight eaten each meal (especially when I'm sharing with others which is half the fun of eating). So let's say I've done two of...oh, say twenty lentil recipes. After that I'll move onto twenty of a different ingredient (feel free to leave suggestions).

On behalf of myself, the chairman, and everyone here in Crazy-Lentilland, I bid you good eating.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Arabic Lentil Salad

So, I realize it has been a while since I posted anything lentil, but I wanted to try to figure out how I would approach this newly-defined project. I've done some brainstorming and have a handful of recipes that should be a lot of fun.

The first recipe is courtesy of my coworker Elizabeth: Arabic Lentil Salad.

1 lb lentils
6 C water
1/2 C olive oil
3 T lemon juice
1/8 C cider vinegar
1 galic clove, minced
1 1/2 t salt
3/4 t cayenne
1 t cumin
1/8 t black pepper
1/8 t thyme
1/8 t dry mustard
2/3 C good quality pitted sliced olives

Bring water to boil and add rinsed lentils. Boil for 12-15 minutes until al dente. Drain well. Mix together remaining ingredients and pour over lentils. Allow to marinate for at least one hour stirring occasionally.

Elizabeth suggests serving with onion slices, red pepper strips, tomato as well as anything from cucumber to blanched asparagus (although she recommends serving veggies on the side as the leftovers will be better if the veggies are crisp).

Personally, I was in a bit of a rush when I made my grocery list and forgot to add onions or red peppers or any other veggies, so my version was as is but still quite delicious. It is remarkably easy to make: assembling all non-lentil ingredients can be done while the lentils are cooking (including the required extra olive grazing). The final product has a distinctive olive undertone, with extra briny bonuses with every bite-full that includes a succulent half (I used Kalamata and green). The dish is great either cold or warm and the flavors definitely mellow for the following day's leftovers. While I had this dish as a main course, it also would make a great side dish.

Perhaps in the morning, I'll make lentil pancakes...

As for the count, I'm not really sure what I'll do with it, but for now between this recipe and the leftovers I've been eating, I'm at around 9lbs.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Day 6

Attention. STOP. Change in challenge. STOP. Rather than finish forty pounds of lentils in thirty days, the time limit has now been removed. STOP. That is all.

Okay, so let me run you through my thoughts last night. First and foremost, I am not sick of lentils. In fact, I have gained a greater appreciation for them and am excited to continue using them in my cooking. Most of my posts have generally been positive as my outlook on this great adventure. This is because I tend to write them while starting dinner. Here's where the problem arises. What I am sick of is overeating. I'll eat half, maybe three quarters, of what I 'should' eat and feel full, then need to continue to stuff my face beyond satiety. Three meals a day. Everyday. This has resulted in the following:

1) Abdominal pain.
2) Prolonged periods of eating.
3) Temporary disinterest in lentils and food in general.
4) Lethargic food comas that increase in duration as the day goes on.

This is not what this 'challenge' was originally intended to be. The only question from the original 'purpose' that might have been related was: would I get sick of lentils after eating them for every meal for thirty days? Forty pounds was pseudo-randomly chosen. It was not originally intended to be a Supersize Me-style endurance challenge. After all, in said documentary, the 'over-eating' element had a purpose: each 'meal' is what McDonald's considers a one person meal and therefore Morgan Spurlock was trying to see what would happen if a healthy person were to eat a McDiet three meals a day for thirty days. With my personal project, there is no 'McDiet' to which I can compare. I was just straight up eating a shitload of lentils (no pun intended).

Knowing what I know now about the weight-to-time ratio originally chosen, I have decided to modify the challenge. No more time limit. I decided this last night after finishing the over-sized portion, most of which was painstakingly done in multiple steps (controlled breathing, food into mouth, controlled breathing, chew, controlled breathing, swallow, repeat [with pauses in between each stage]). My original thought last night was to shorten the challenge to one week: finish 10 lbs (3lbs more) by Wednesday morning (a total of one week). That would mean ~1.5lbs. today and tomorrow (around the amount I have been eating) with Wednesday breakfast making up for whatever I hadn't finished the previous two days. However, since I forgot the leftover lentils before coming to work today and would thus miss lentils for breakfast and lunch (minus the lentils in the deliciously curious Huckleberry Lentil muffins I brought for lab meeting), I figured I would just change things up today.

So here is the new challenge: finish forty pounds of lentils while attempting to maximally utilize the versatility of the ingredient. It's basically like the world's slowest Iron Chef competition (well, without an opponent....or judges.....or Alton). It no longer needs to be for each meal (because I most certainly don't have time for that), but probably a few times a week until I am done. This change helps redirect the whole approach of the project. (In fact the first change is that it is less of a 'challenge', but rather a 'project'.) Now, rather than needing to put everything else on the back burner (half-marathon training, applying to grad school, work and personal well-being), I can instead concentrate on how best to present, utilize and appreciate the lentil. Our battle of wits and intestinal endurance has evolved into a culinary courtship, and I must say for that I feel a wash of relief.

Do I regret the power-through-it, Fear-Factor-style attitude that started this journey? Not at all. By diving in head first, I enveloped myself in a crucible of lentils. I proved that even after eating uncomfortable volumes of a single ingredient every meal for almost a week, I did not develop a lifetime, or even temporary, aversion. Rather, in thinking solely about lentils, I was able to not only learn lots of cool facts, but ventured into ideas that might have taken me a while to explore otherwise (Lentil Beer!). I'll look back at this week as a very interesting time in my life that will hopefully give birth to some delicious and creative culinary adventures.

So what to should anyone who actually reads this expect from now on? (And modesty aside, it is nice when people are interested in what you have to say). Posts will be reduced to each time a new lentil meal is made, which should ideally be once or twice a week until the forty pounds are gone. I think I'll still stick with forty pounds as the standard because it helps hold a connection to the first part of the adventure but also because I think that there should be enough unique culinary creations to get up to forty pounds without completely exhausting the ingredient. I'm excited to start this new phase and, if all goes well, I can even see this becoming a regular part of my kitchen routine: picking an ingredient and exploring each use for it (perhaps I should rename it "Snail Iron Chef" [I'm sure I can come up with a better name than that eventually. {If anyone has any better names, please let me know. (Yeah! Embedded parentheses!)}]).

So now I say unto....me....in the words of the Chairman's not-actual-uncle............."Allez cuisine!"

and yes, I still plan on making lentil beer.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Day 5

Update on lentil sprouting: So three days was a lie. The lentils had started to sprout by this morning. Also, the sprouted lentils have probably increased in size by about five times, and are about to take over the mason jar. After flipping through the old homebrewing books, I'm still trying to figure out how to approach this lentil beer situation. Hopefully I will figure out exactly what I will do soon.

As for Day 5: It's Sunday in the fall and that means...FOOTBALL!! Luckily, I still had two tubs of soup left. Since yesterday's pancakes-with-cold-lentil-soup-spread actually wasn't too bad, I decided to start with that and then proceeded to finish the tub. For after the morning games, on to another tub! Then the mid-afternoon lentil coma. While driving around on an ill-fated journey to find an open restaurant supply store, Katie and I stumbled upon an Indian market on Aurora Ave. around 90th St. Found some cool yellow lentils there, so I bought them and decided to make them for dinner. Turns out, yellow lentils take a good bit longer to cook (at least these ones did). It probably took around two hours on the stove top, but eventually they we tender enough to throw in a little sauteed garlic and onion, topped with a bit of tomato and some basil leaves. Mmmmm tasty. Have leftovers for tomorrow, which will be nice. (So, I wrote this as I was beginning to eat; however, I gave myself a large portion which I am determined to finish, and now at the tail end of it, I am a low point for this adventure so far. So.....many......lentils..........)

Side note: Tomorrow morning is my day to bring food to lab meeting. Naturally, I thought I'd do something lentil induced, but also reasonable enough to serve to my bosses for breakfast. The solution? Huckleberry lentil muffins! It is essentially this recipe, except the flour was made from blending dried lentils in the blender and then sifting through a flour sifter. Haven't tried any yet, but they look pretty good! Lentil flour seems to have many possibilities.

P.S.: Thanks to everyone who has given me recipes. I will try to work them in at some point.

Total so far: ~7.0lbs lentils consumed, ~33.0lbs to go. 25 days remain.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Day 4

Ahhh, for the teaser. Lentil beer anyone? That's right. The final goal. So, lentils contain carbs, which are just long sugars. Yeast ferment sugar to turn it into alcohol. Therefore, yeast should be able to ferment lentils into alcohol. Right? I haven't seemed to be able to find anyone online who has done it, but it should work. I briefly thought about it the other day, but one part was missing: amylase. In order for yeast to more easily ferment carbs, they need to be first turned into sugar. This can be done with amylase, the same enzyme in your saliva that helps break down carbs while you chew them. So while I could chew some lentils, spit them out and then ferment them, it didn't seem like the most appealing idea. (Although that is how some types of alcohol are made around the world). In the brewing industry, this is done by sprouting the barley, activating its natural amylase, before continuing with the brewing process. So in order to make lentil beer, I would need to sprout lentils. Possible? Turns out people do it all the time. All you have to do is soak the lentils in water overnight, and then rinse them twice a day and keep them open to air (via cheesecloth or something similar) for about three days. So I bought a nice big mason jar, soaked about a pound of lentils and hopefully in a few days they will be sprouted. In the mean time, I will try to develop a protocol for lentil fermentation. Wish me luck.

Now for Day 4- Still had plenty of soup left, so it appears that it would be my meals of the day. However, since I was starting the day by playing tennis with Doug, a full belly of lentils was probably not the best way to play tennis. A quick look in the fridge and.....leftover pancakes? Seems reasonable. But to keep up with the lentil theme I spread a little cold, lentil puree on top of two of them. After tennis though, might as well finish the rest of the aliquot. For lunch? More soup!

And for dinner? Well, Katie had some lentils and wanted to make curry with them, so after assurance that there would be ample lentils, I thought it would be nice to have someone else try a spin at lentilizing my stomach. She made a nice meal of lentils, curry made from lentils and coconut milk, sauteed mushrooms and tofu, and rice. Naturally, I couldn't have the rice or saute, as they would take up necessary lentil room, but for lentils and lentil curry I was psyched. Except for one problem, when she was draining the lentils, she accidentally spilled them into the sink. So now there are lentils all over the sink. Katie scooped up some where the sink was relatively clean, but since a lot of them went in the dirty food catch, it looked like they were lost. What was I supposed to do? Not eat lentils for the meal? Then I would be behind. I already know that I will probably need to skip some lentil meals when I run a half marathon on October 3rd, so falling behind now really isn't an option. My only option?: scoop the lentils out of the sink and food catch, put them in a bowl and pour the curry over top. Sure, I get a few extra bits, like the spinach Katie cut up earlier in the day (along with whatever else has been festering there), but I got my share of lentils! Oh, the sacrifices I must make to ensure I complete this.

Total so far: ~5.5lbs lentils consumed, ~34.5lbs to go. 26 days remain.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Day 3

A brief history of lentils:

According to Wikipedia, lentils are a type of pulse, which is a subset of the legume family. The seeds grow annually in pods, usually about two seeds to each pod. They were one of the first crops to be cultivated for agriculture in Mesopotamia thousands of years ago and have been referenced numerous times in many historical texts throughout human history. In fact, the lens was named after lentils (which is 'lens' in Latin) because the optical glass piece resembled the lentil's shape.

There are close to four million tons of lentils harvested each year (which makes my forty pounds seem pale in comparison) and they can be found all over the world. Almost half are produced in India, although they are consumed domestically. The largest exporter of lentils, and second largest producer, is actually Canada. That's right, Canada. The fields of Saskatchewan are apparently very good for lentil growth and produce the largest exported crop of lentils in the world. Domestically, the Palouse region of Eastern Washington, centered around Pullman, produces much of the US crop. (Which is in fact how this whole challenge got started. My sister, Krista, is a freshman at WSU in Pullman, WA this year and when we moved her into school, the Pullman Lentil-fest was beginning. This led to me explaining about Anthony's history with lentils, which later led to me telling Anthony that his name had come up in relation to lentils, and well, the rest is just lentil-filled history. So if I die, blame Krista.)

So yeah, lentils are many and plentiful all over the world (not just my belly) and apparently, unbeknownst to many, Canada makes and exports a lot of them. Interesting.

Oh, fun fact: close to 100 tons of lentils were used to cushion the obelisk at St. Peter's Basilica during its journey from Egypt. So there's that.

So, Day 3- Still had lots of lentil burgers left, so I ate three patties for breakfast and three for lunch. Three was definitely more manageable that four and after lunch, I felt like maybe I could even eat another. Upon re-reading the Wikipedia site, I realize that this is probably because red lentils, which I used to make the burgers, contain about a third the dietary fiber that green lentils do. They could be a good way to ween myself into super fiber mode.

For dinner, I chose a classic: lentil soup. Who doesn't think of soup when they hear about lentils? Loosely following online recipes, I sauteed some onion in olive oil and then combined my remaining red lentils (~2.2lbs) with the last bit of green ones (~.2lbs plus the leftover liquid from their cooking), as well as water and my last three cups of duck stock. Add a little parsley, coriander, cumin and star anise, cook till tender then hit with the stick blender and you've got a soup! Plenty of soup. The pot contained thirty ladle-fulls. I started with a bowl of five and then since I wasn't full, went back for five more. The end of that bowl was a bit of a struggle and I'm currently feeling the consequences, but I'm back slightly ahead of schedule! Yeah! The remaining soup was put into four Tupperware containers and should have about 0.4lbs of lentils in each: a good meal amount. Soup is tasty, but I don't know if I'll try to go through two at once again. Ugh.

Total so far: ~4.3lbs lentils consumed, ~35.7lbs to go. 27 days remain.

Teaser!: Future recipe- Lentil Beer! (to be continued...)

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Day 2

It's day two of the adventure and already I can tell this will be tough. I have yet to experience any major symptoms of my 150-200g of fiber diet, except perhaps that it is so filling. In fact, looking for a diet? Try the Lentil Lite!! (patent pending) Just eat one lentil meal (let's say, lunch) a day per day and you'll be trim as a whistle!

I need to force myself to finish more than 2000 calories of lentils each day. Sure some of the extra additions, like ketchup, increases that amount, but the lentils themselves are the bulk of the stomach filling.

Speaking of nutrition, it's time to look at these healthy little buggers. Lentils have the third-highest protein of any plant (behind soy and hemp). But they also have sooo much more:

Lentils, raw (Dry Weight)
Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy 350 kcal 1480 kJ
Carbohydrates 60 g
- Sugars 2 g
- Dietary fiber 31 g
Fat 1 g
Protein 26 g
Thiamine (Vit. B1) 0.87 mg 67%
Iron 7.5 mg 60%

Nutrition facts, according to the all-knowing Wikipedia, tell us that one serving of lentils contains 350 calories, 60g carbs, 1g fat and 26g protein while being a good source of Vitamin B1 and Iron. Also, of the 60g of carbs, more than half is fiber! So one serving of lentils give essentially all of your recommended amount of daily fiber. (Take that fortified cereals!) But here's the rub: this serving is 3.5oz. by dry weight. In order to eat 40lbs. in 30 days, I need to eat 1.33lbs. per day which is 21.3oz. or just over six of these servings. So the daily lentil toll looks more like this:

Lentils, raw (Dry Weight)
Nutritional value per 610 g (21.3 oz)
Energy 2133 kcal 9020 kJ
Carbohydrates 366 g
- Sugars 12 g
- Dietary fiber 189 g
Fat 6 g
Protein 158 g
Thiamine (Vit. B1) 5.3 mg 408%
Iron 45.7 mg 366%
A couple things stand out here: 1) One hundred fifty-eight grams of protein is a whole lot. As in three times the recommended amount. To top it off, while lentils are almost a complete protein, they are not completely, and thus I will need additional protein to get all essential amino acids. 2) One hundred eighty-nine grams of fiber! For a male my age eating around 2500-3000 calories a day, 38g of fiber is recommended. So five times that is, well, a lot. That can lead to several problems relating to intestinal discomfort and all the fun that creates downstream. However, despite claims that excess fiber reduces nutrient absorption, I'm going to go with Wikipedia on this one that says that is bullshit (in fact, soluble fiber may actually help nutrient absorption). And while around 400% iron and thiamine are probably not necessary, as long as I make sure that lentils are my only source of them, I should be fine. I think.

So, day two. Time to eat some lentils! Still had a bunch left over from cooking the other day, so breakfast was a half pound aliquot (dry weight, as always) with two fried eggs on top for a little diversity (seeing as how I'm consuming only six grams of fat from all of these lentils each day, a little extra ain't going to kill me). Still more lentils, so another half-pound for lunch, straight up. But now dinner! I'm running out of lentils, so it is time to do the first crazy lentil recipe! For this I chose............Lentil Burgers! (http://homecooking.about.com/od/vegetablerecipes/r/blv296.htm). These red lentil and hazelnut (though I used walnuts) burgers looked tasty and, with three cups of lentils per batch (even though that produces ~16 patties), it uses just enough lentils to be feasible for this challenge. The burger patties were quite tasty, although it took a little effort to finish four of the thirteen (guess mine are a little bigger) made in order to come to ~0.4lbs of lentils for the meal. Plus it made enough lentils for two more meals, so I guess you know what is for breakfast and lunch tomorrow.....

Oh god. So many lentils. I'm only on day two and the thought of finishing the rest of those is starting to pain me. I think these burger patties are the absolute minimum lentil-to-finished-product ratio in order to eat the proper amount each meal. Feeling so full. Tomorrow should be intersting. Wish me luck.

Total so far: ~2.9lbs lentils consumed, ~37.1lbs to go. 28 days remain.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Beginning


For those who don't know the back-story, here it is to the best of my knowledge:

When Anthony was younger, his mother (via his uncle) once acquired lentils in bulk at a discount price. The lentils were many and thus Anthony learned the perils of eating lentils for every meal. Sure there was diversity, in such forms as lentil lasagna and even lentil juice, but the frequency and sheer volume of lentils steered him away from their leguminess to this day (although he has reached the point where he no longer flees screaming upon their very sight.)

The discussion:

While hanging out after Anthony and Maggie had finished their Canadian adventures, the topic of lentils was addressed. Half-jokingly, I proposed the idea of recreating a lentil odyssey myself. But laughter fueled the cogs of thought and soon the idea seemed plausible, well.... not impossible, as a reality. Perhaps it could and would, if not should, be done.

The challenge:

40 pounds of lentils (dry weight), 30 days.

That's it. No restrictions on type of lentils or what else I can eat. As long as the lentils are consumed, the challenge will be completed. I felt it best to leave it bare-bones, both to allow for a little more flexibility (since there is no prize or reward for finishing) as well as provide a more monolithic challenge: like climbing a mountain, it doesn't matter how long it takes or what route one climbs, but reaching the summit that means everything.

The why?:

Honestly, several reasons. A little to function as a culinary experiment. Lentils are very versatile food that, despite fueling much of the world (particularly vegetarian populations), are rarely used by the American home-cook, let alone the monstrous American microwave-cook population. Be they in stews, sides or even ground into flour and made into baked goods, lentils should provide an ample palette with which to create a full-month worth of meals. Mostly, though, I'm doing it for an adventure. I haven't had a good one of those in a while and maybe it is just from the shouting "LENTILS!!!!!" all day, but this does seem quite exciting. I may regret these thoughts over the next thirty days, but given my demeanor, I doubt it.

Day One

Breakfast: Ahhh, after cooking a batch (~2.5lbs) of lentils last night it's time to start off breakfast with.....a peach danish. A lentil peach danish, you ask? No. Just a peach danish. No lentils. Sure this might seem like a slightly lackluster way to start an undertaking of epic proportions, but I didn't wake up early enough for a pre-breakfast breakfast and David brought tasty danishes to lab meeting for breakfast. So I'm one meal in and still 0-40lbs, but still optimistic.

Lunch: First meal of lentils! Since this adventure was thrown together rather quickly, I didn't have time to figure out any elaborate lentil recipes before last night. So the first lentil meal will start much like the framework for this journey: simple. Just boiled lentils. I brought two 0.5lb aliquots of lentils in to work-- one for lunch today and one for lunch tomorrow. A quick microwave and I dive into the lentily goodness. Boiled green lentils unleash their tasty, healthy richness on my tongue as the outer shells rolls around. Simple, but tasty. Luckily, they were not as filling as originally thought. Potential for a second lunch....

....yes! A few hours later, one more aliquot down. Now I'm one pound down, thirty-nine to go. 2.5%! Huzzah! Although I experience a little lentil overload in the form of minor stomach discomfort (next time I should probably wash/soak them first), it feels like a good start.

Dinner: Had to let the lentils digest a little longer than desired before going to the gym, but no problems arose. Back home it is time for dinner of lentils. Again simple, I chopped some mustard greens and then heated up another half-pound of lentils on top along with some balsamic vinegar, raw blue agave nectar and black pepper. Nice to have a little something else to go with the lentils. Perhaps tomorrow I'll make lentil burgers for dinner as the first processed lentil meal in honor of the start of football season (FOOTBALL!), er, uh... LENTILS!!!