plant fuel

Red Lentils and Spicy Collards

Last Wednesday was a happy day, as is every Wednesday when I get to pick up my bi-weekly Foodshare stash. Basically, Foodshare is like a veggie co-op that encourages low-income people to make fresh fruit and vegetables a bigger part of their diet. Anyone at all is welcome to participate, though, and I do because it means getting a big box of fruits and veggies for $20 every other week that would have cost me more than $20 as well as more time deliberating in the produce section of the supermarket. I also think the element of surprise is more fun than shopping from my own list; the focus is on seasonal produce, but you never know what you’re going to get until pick-up day!

If you live in Columbia and are interested in learning more about Foodshare, click here.

So on Sunday I made the following, which turned out so well that I wanted to share it with you and give you a suggestion for putting random foods together that work out to dinner and leftovers for the next couple of weekday lunches at work!

First, a quick explanation of the health benefits of each.

Why lentils are awesome plant fuel for runners:

Plant protein for growth, repair and recovery – plus carbs! Lentils are also high in iron, which becomes more bioavailable when paired with a source of vitamin C such as tomatoes (see below). Many runners, especially us ladies, struggle with fatigue that may be related to an iron deficiency. Lentils and other beans and legumes are a great way to boost iron consumption without any of the annoying ride-alongs like cholesterol or saturated fat (or yucky hormones or antibiotics) that are prominent in conventional meat products.

Why collards are awesome plant fuel for runners:

Collards are a cousin to cabbage and broccoli, which pretty much makes them a superfood by association. They are a great source of a LOT of vitamins (read this article on World’s Healthiest Foods for the exhaustive list). Chief among these is vitamin K, a natural blood clotting factor – so runners can fall down on trails and even  asphalt and scrape knees with little worry about how long it will take for the bleeding to stop. Keep running and don’t worry about it – it’s just a flesh wound!


I seldom cook from recipes anymore; rather, I go by feel, tweaking as I go, or by memory of what worked the last time. The following measurements are approximations, but if you’re an analog cook like me and want to try this at home, feel free to ignore the amounts and just dump things in pots until they taste good to you.

So, here’s most of what I started with:


This preparation (not going to call it a recipe) is similar to a recipe for Ethiopian red lentils that I found online a few years ago and have been tweaking ever since. In this simplified version, you start off by melting some butter (or, in my case, Earth Balance) in a pan, add a teaspoon of kalonji seeds (onion seeds used in African and Indian cuisines, available at Indian grocery stores) and cook them for a few minutes to release their aroma.


Next, add lentils and water, stir, cover, and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to medium-low and add two diced Roma tomatoes, about a tablespoon of Berbere (hot Ethiopian Spice mix) plus a tablespoon of paprika. Cover it again, leave it alone for 30 minutes or so, and you’ve got lentils!


While the lentils are simmering, make the collards.

Start by rinsing and chopping up all the collards (if you have two giant plants’ worth like I did; otherwise, use half or all of a big bag from the produce section). Next, heat 2 tablespoons of oil (I used canola, but any vegetable oil works fine) in a big soup pot. Once hot, add your chopped collards with 1 teaspoon of lemon pepper, 1 teaspoon of turmeric and 1/2 teaspoon of crushed red pepper.


(Fresh ginger’s also good for taking the edge off the collards, but I was fresh out.)

Give everything a good stir, making sure that the collards come in contact with everything else in the pot, cover and walk away. Fifteen minutes later, come back to stir,  cover it back, and walk away again.


Repeat 15 minutes later; if they’re not done, repeat one more time for a total cook time of 45 minutes.

You know they’re done when they look like this:


If desired, add a couple of tablespoons of apple cider vinegar, stir well, turn off the heat and enjoy with some of the lentils and whatever starch you like and/or have on hand. Rice, quinoa, boiled potatoes, stovetop corn cakes – they all work!

So what are some of your go-to plant foods for workouts and long runs? 








Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s