Following a plant based diet is easy compared to when I started in 2008! The increase in demand for plant based foods has resulted in tons of readily available, tasty products. In fact, The Economist and Forbes predict that 2019 will be “The Year of the Vegan.” I became a registered dietitian 10 years ago, the same year my 11-year old son told me he never wanted to eat an animal again. I wanted to protect and support him so, together, we adopted a “vegan” diet, which was a more common term than “plant based” at that time.
There were very few commercially prepared plant based foods available then, and even fewer available in restaurants. Ten years ago, when you asked a server if there was a vegan or plant based option on the menu, you’d get a confused look and perhaps, if you were lucky, some french fries. So, we were forced to make our own meals from scratch, through trial and error or by using a vegan cookbook we’d find in a library or a bookstore.
But the biggest challenge was having to explain our new eating habits at the Thanksgiving dinner table where the roasted turkey (that took hours to prepare) sat proudly in the center. Despite its “seat of honor” my son and I were not going to eat it. We also couldn’t eat mashed potatoes, because they were made with cow’s milk and butter. And let us not forget the stuffing — that was also out of the question because it contained egg, stock and was cooked in the turkey…and so on. Let’s just say that this dietitian heard a lot of inaccurate nutrition advice from angry family and friends in those early years!
Fast forward 10 years, family and friends are requesting my mashed potatoes and vegan gravy! These days, eating plant based is less complicated. Most restaurants have at least one plant based option on their menu, there are lots of vegan restaurants and bakeries across the country, and plenty of plant based food items available in grocery stores. Even hospitals and schools have standard vegan and vegetarian options and menus. And it’s certainly not uncommon to see one of our Teaching Kitchens feature a plant based recipe, like this Farro & Lentil Shaker Salad!
About the Recipe
I love this vegan bowl recipe because it’s delicious and plant based! The term “plant based diet” was coined by T. Colin Campbell, author of The China Study, in the 1980s. It’s now a common term, as is the term vegan, but plant based and vegan are not exactly the same.
Vegan refers to a complete lifestyle that does not include eating or using animal products or any product containing animal products, i.e., meat, milk, cheese, honey, gelatin, leather, fur, etc. Plant based refers to a diet, generally without animal products, that is rich in whole, minimally processed foods, i.e., whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. The Farro & Lentil Shaker Salad checks all of the plant based boxes. It’s also super healthy, super yummy, and can be applied to anyone living a vegan lifestyle!
It’s also very filling, too, because of the added grains, legumes, and vegetables. I love the addition of the fresh herbs (I always set aside a few mint leaves for my sun tea), the tang of the lemon dressing with the sweetness of the apricots, and the crunch of the roasted pecans. My kids love it, too! Plus, it’s fun to shake!
Farro and lentils are excellent sources of fiber and plant protein. Just a half cup of cooked farro provides 7 grams of protein and 3 grams of fiber. A half cup of cooked lentils contains 9 grams of protein and 8 grams of fiber.
As an added benefit, they are environmentally friendly proteins! Production of plant based proteins requires significantly less of our natural resources, like water, land, and fossil fuels than the production of animal proteins. So, it makes sense for us at Morrison Healthcare to use these sustainable protein sources. They are good for our health and the environment, and they taste great, too! To me, this is The Power of Food.
Why I Love this Recipe
The Farro & Lentil Shaker Salad is one of our many Teaching Kitchen recipes. I love that we created the recipe as a shaker salad because it makes it playful and fun. However, when feeding my family of six, I just toss it all in a big salad bowl and that works great, too. For busy days when we’re all coming-and-going, I’ll keep the dressing, the lentils, and the farro on the side and everyone eats when they can. It really keeps well in the fridge this way, too. Great to pack for lunch the next day, as well. In my house, this is a leftover that does not get thrown out!
Also, be creative! This recipe is perfect as is, but feel free to play around with it. I recently saw a recipe for roasted radishes, which I never tried, so I roasted a few and threw them in, too. Try experimenting with in-season, local produce to create an even more sustainable, environmentally-friendly dish. You can change up the lentils and farro. Since farro is not gluten-free, you can easily replace it with quinoa to make this recipe gluten-free. This recipe is just so versatile, you can’t mess it up. I think that’s one of my favorite things about our Teaching Kitchen recipes; they taste great and provide us with the confidence to work with ingredients that may be unfamiliar.
The Farro & Lentil Shaker Salad is a culinary trifecta, good for our health, good for the planet, and tastes great!
For the Vinaigrette:
For the Kale & Brussels Blend:
For the Shaker Salad:
Mise en place. Mise en place is a French culinary term that translates to “put in place.” In other words, you’ll want to get each of your recipe ingredients prepped ahead of time. Chop the kale, brussel sprouts, and herbs, roast the pecans, make the vinaigrette, etc. Once you’ve done the prep, then assemble the salad. For me, having the ingredients ready takes the chaos out of the cooking experience so I can relax and enjoy the experience.
Cooking the Grains and Legumes
Shaker Salad Ratio
|● 1/2 cup kale & Brussels blend
● 1/4 cup cooked lentils
● 1/2 cup cooked farro
|● 1/4 cup cherry tomato
● 1/4 cup diced cucumbers
● 3 tablespoons thinly sliced dried apricots
● 1 tablespoon toasted, chopped pecans