Easy Pasta with Lentils, Spinach & Leeks

The other day, I did a group presentation on "superfoods." You know, nutrient-dense, health-promoting foods? And when we came to a pause, I asked the crowd, "What is your biggest barrier to eating healthy?" "Time" was the overwhelming answer.

The women there talked about not being organized with their meal planning and grocery shopping, their kids not buying into new foods being prepared, about trying to avoid mutiny at 6 p.m. on a Wednesday, etc. And I told them, as I tell anyone who'll listen, that it's a misconception that cooking with real, healthful foods must be a time-consuming process. I'm not talking about making your own condiments - I'm talking about throwing together a few healthy ingredients to make a complete meal in a matter of thirty minutes or fewer. I can't guarantee your kids'll like the recipes. I can't guarantee you will, either - but unless you try (and isn't this what you're always telling your kids, if you have them?), you'll never know.

And I assure you: It. Can. Be. Done. We have the technology, my friends . . . and in the case of this recipe, it's dried whole wheat pasta, pre-cooked lentils and pre-washed baby spinach. This is an amazing meal that tastes fresh, is good  for you, and all you have to chop are a few leeks. My 8-year-old did that part - I KNOW you can do it. Have some faith in yourself!

Now did my 8-year-old eat this? No. I won't lie, and I didn't to that group, either. L. picks and chooses what she eats from a range of healthful options, but she almost never eats the meal exactly as I make it for me and D. When I made this, she ate, as usual, a component of the meal - the pasta - and she had it with jarred spaghetti sauce and ricotta cheese slopped on top . Apple and sliced strawberries on the side.

Pasta with Lentils, Spinach & Leeks (adapted from the Power Foods cookbook)

4 oz. whole wheat pasta (something like shells that'll hold sauce/ingredients well)
1 c. pre-cooked lentils (either cook your own, or buy something like Trader Joe's pre-cooked lentils in the refrigerator section - a real time-saver!)
1 clove of garlic, crushed
1 t. dried thyme
1 T. extra-virgin olive oil
2 large leeks, white and pale green parts only, washed well, dried, and sliced into 1/4-inch rounds
8 oz. baby spinach
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Grated Parmesan cheese to pass, optional

Cook the pasta according to package directions until al dente. Reserve 1/2 c. cooking liquid.

Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan over medium-low heat. Add the leeks and thyme and cooking, stirring occasionally, until the leeks are soft but not browned; about 5 minutes. Add the cooked lentils and garlic and a sprinkle of salt and a few grinds of pepper and cook for another minute.

Add the spinach and about 1/4 c. of the reserved pasta cooking liquid to the pan. Toss the spinach to wilt, about 2 minutes. Add more water if needed. Add the pasta to the pan, toss to combine. Serve immediately, sprinkled with Parmesan cheese if desired.

Serves 2, but easily double for 4.

So how 'bout you? What's your biggest barrier to eating more healthfully? Did you know that I can help? Email me and learn how I can take you through meal planning and marketing, step-by-step, to help you create a system that'll work great for your family (kids or no kids) and your lifestyle. I'll even escort you to the supermarket and help you navigate the maze . . . and/or go through your cupboards and fridge and help you weed out the junk, make room for delicious time-savers and health-promoters and leave you with a customized shopping list so you can do it all on your own. Want to start cooking with some new-fangled ingredients and not sure how? I can show you that, too, and even pull together recipes that'll meet your taste preferences and dietary restrictions. All with the down-to-earth, no-nonsense attitude you've come to love from Semi-Sweet!