When you think of a salad (as if a salad were a prominent part of your daily thoughts), I bet you don’t typically think of it as a winter meal. This recipe changes that. How? Well, as it turns out, a salad is more than just lettuce and dressing. In fact, this recipe contains no lettuce whatsoever. Unless you count parsley, which I don’t.
When I was younger, I wasn’t a fan of beets. It wasn’t the taste necessarily, it was more the texture. And, honestly, sometimes it still turns me off of beets today. However, I use a trick in this recipe that makes it so the texture isn’t a problem. It works so well that I can confidently say this recipe is a part of my normal meal prep rotation. I would even go so far as to say it’s towards the top of the favorites list. How’s that for someone who didn’t like beets?!
So, what IS my trick? If you chop the beets into very small pieces, you don’t get any of that rubbery, slimy texture. All you get is YUM. Though it may sound like a lot of work, this recipe calls for the beets to be boiled before chopping, which makes them incredibly easy to cut. I promise you, it’s worth it. Not only because this recipe is delicious, but also because beets are a nutritional powerhouse.
Beets are rich in antioxidants, anti-inflammatory, support heart health, help your body detoxify, and increase endurance and stamina. And that’s just the brilliant red bulbs that dye your hands and everything else they touch. The beet greens are a powerhouse of their own. In addition to all the benefits of the bulbs, beet greens contain more iron than spinach. I like to clean them and add them to smoothies in place of (or in addition to) other greens. I haven’t personally eaten them raw on their own, but I’ve heard they can be a tad bitter. Putting them in a smoothie or lightly sauteing them masks any bitter taste they may have.
Other nutritional benefits of this recipe include:
- Lentils: not only do lentils contain complex carbs, which are slow to digest and help keep blood sugar levels stable, they are also full of soluble fiber, which increases your satiety and helps to regulate blood glucose levels. Lentils are also very high in protein. In fact, 1 cup of lentils contains about 18 grams of protein.
- Walnuts: besides being delicious, walnuts contain Omega 3s, which (among other things) are great for brain health and memory. They are also rich in essential fatty acids (EFAs), in particular, ALAs, which lower your LDL (bad) cholesterol and may improve metabolism.1
- Carrots: high in antioxidants, including carotenoids, which help protect your body against free-radicals and can lower your risk of cancer.2 The beta-carotene in carrots is converted to Vitamin A, which is necessary for healthy vision and protects your skin.
You know who else
likes *loves* carrots??
If you guessed PJ, you would be correct. She would do almost anything for a carrot.
Since I don’t consider myself an experienced chef (most of my cooking skills were learned through YouTube) and tend to get overwhelmed if there are too many parts of a recipe cooking simultaneously, I usually make the lentils ahead of time. For me, it’s easier to make the lentils the night before and store them in an airtight glass container in the fridge. They are easy enough to cook, but sometimes having one less step in a recipe makes it seem much easier to accomplish on meal prep day. Plus, I don’t have to watch as many pots on the stove at the same time. This is also a great tip if you know you’re going to be short on time – breaking it up into smaller sections makes it seem much more doable.
Did I mention that beets turn everything red?
If you want to make the recipe last an extra meal or two, or just add some variety, you could always put the salad over cauliflower rice. It just adds a little something. Plus, extra vitamins and fiber are always a good thing.
A simple, delicious salad with roasted beets, lentils, and walnuts that’s filling without being heavy.
- 2–3 medium beets, scrubbed clean(ish) and quartered
- 2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into half moons
- 1 1/2 cups French green lentils, uncooked
- 1/4 cup red onion, diced
- 2 tbsp fresh dill, chopped
- 2 tbsp fresh flat parsley, chopped
- 1/4 cup toasted walnuts, chopped (organic when possible)
- 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar, I use Bragg’s
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tbsp grainy mustard
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1/2 tbsp maple syrup, optional – I typically leave this out
- To toast walnuts, preheat oven to 350°F (175°C). Spread walnuts in a single layer on a baking sheet (I put parchment paper down first). Roast for 5-10 minutes, tossing them occasionally to ensure even cooking. Make sure you keep an eye on them because they can burn very quickly. This step can easily be done ahead of time and the toasted nuts can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge. Make sure they are completely cooled before storing so they don’t build up moisture.
- Rinse and sort the lentils, removing any stones. Place lentils in a pot, cover with water and bring to a boil. When the water begins to boil, turn down the heat to simmer and cook for about 25-30 minutes, or until the lentils are tender. When the lentils are cooked, drain any excess water and set aside.
- Simultaneously, add the beets to a large pot of water and bring to a boil. Once boiling, turn down the heat to a simmer and cook for 15-25 minutes (depending on how large your beet quarters are) or until you can easily pierce the beets with a fork.
- The carrots can either be boiled with the beets (add the carrot half moons to the beets when the beets have about 8-10 minutes left) or roasted in the oven. To roast the carrots in the oven, preheat oven to 400°F (200°C). Toss the carrots lightly with 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil and place on a parchment lined baking sheet in the oven for 15-20 minutes, tossing about halfway through to ensure even cooking.
- Drain the beets (and carrots if you added them) and set aside. Once the beets cool, peel off any remaining skin (some of it likely came off while boiling).
- Chop the beets into the desired size (I like them VERY small).
- To make the dressing, add all the ingredients except the oil into a bowl and combine. Once combined, add the oil slowly as you stir to emulsify.
- Place the cooked lentils, chopped beets, carrots, and chopped red onion in a large bowl. Add the toasted walnuts, parsley, and dill, then mix in the dressing.
- Adapted from this recipe by Sophie MacKenzie of Wholehearted Eats. By the way, her site is beautiful – check it out if you get a chance.
- You are more than welcome to peel your beets before boiling them. However, it is much easier to peel them after they’ve been boiled. The skin (if that’s what you’d call it) just falls off. Make sure you scrub them fairly well before boiling though — beets tend to be pretty dirty.
- French green lentils are a little different than regular green lentils. They are about 1/3 the size of the regular kind and usually hold their shape better when cooked. If you can’t find French lentils (sometimes I find them in the bulk section), regular green or brown lentils will work, but they may turn out mushier at the end. Still delicious though!