Following Signs and Cooking Lentils

It has been almost three months since I sat down to write a blog post. What the heck!?!

I’ve been busy with my thesis (my defense is exactly one week away!!!), wedding planning and job searching.

I finished one book, and cracked open at least four new ones. I have always been a reader, but recently I have been addicted – I can’t wait to get done with school and spend all of my time reading. Maybe I should factor that into my job searching. If you’re curious about what I’ve been reading, check out my Goodreads profile.

Now that you’re all caught up…let’s talk about signs.

I believe in signs. I believe that if something keeps coming up I should pay attention to it.  Currently, my topic of obsession is my strengths. I was thinking about them a little due to interview prep, my thesis defense and the general state of unknown that my very near future holds.  Then I had an assignment for a class to do the Strengths Finder test. Then I received Tools of Titans for my birthday. Then I did yoga this morning and Adriene was all about balancing softness and stability, thinking about our strengths, being kind to ourselves in regards to our weaknesses. All of this strengths talk emphasizes the fact that we can become infinitely talented in the areas of our strengths, and only marginally talented in the areas of our weaknesses – so forget about your weaknesses and focus on developing your strengths.

For me, it’s critical to think about when I am the happiest. Professionally, I know from experience that I hate work and am less productive if I am not passionate and fulfilled by what I am doing.  Why are we wasting so much time doing things that make us miserable? Even if you get  a paycheck out of it – at some point you cross a line, ultimately wasting your time and energy. Channel that into something that is going to help you shine and thrive.

French Lentils and Balsamic Mushrooms | Vegan

This recipe grew out of a “sign”.  There was a picture of lentils and mushrooms on my Pinterest feed recently. I dismissed it  – I didn’t read the caption or click the link. But the image is imprinted in my mind. I have not stopped thinking about it. I think that’s a sign that I just need to get in the damn kitchen.

This is one of the funnest ways to cook. I am inspired, but I’m also challenging myself to create a recipe based on a picture of a plated dish. I’m grateful for this experience. The fact that a lot of people don’t have the financial means to “experiment” with food or the base of knowledge to just wing it is not lost on me.

So, how do you create a recipe based on a picture? 

  1. Identify ingredients: Start with what you can see and add things that you like and make sense.
  2. Identify technique: Think of how to cook each ingredient. Can you cook them together or should you cook them separately? How will this decision impact the texture and flavor of the dish?
  3. Try it! And take lots of notes. What did you do? What would you change for the next time? Should there even be a next time? Pretty is fine, but taste is what counts.

So for this French Lentil with Balsamic Mushrooms dish, I could see lentils, mushrooms, a shiny brown drizzle and a green. I added onions, because everything needs onions (I might even eat a chocolate covered onion). And I made the green arugula because its peppery flavor complements that of the lentils and it adds freshness to an otherwise cooked dish.

I cooked my lentils according to package directions with homemade veggie broth. I wanted my mushrooms to be completely browned on both sides, so I knew I would cook them separately and use a heavy cast iron pan.  Everything else comes together at the last minute.

French Lentils & Balsamic Mushrooms

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: Medium
  • Print

This recipe is naturally gluten free. Serve with a crostini or toast for a light lunch or as a compliment to a big dinner. Don’t be intimidated by the time, only 30 minutes are active in this recipe.

  • 1 cup dried lentils*
  • Vegetable broth*
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • Half of a yellow onion, sliced thin
  • About 10 cremini mushrooms, washed and sliced
  • 2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 cup fresh arugula
  • Salt, to taste
  • Vegan Feta**, optional
  1. Measure and rinse the lentils. Cover with cold water and let soak for 45 min – 1 hour.
  2. Drain and rinse the lentils. Transfer to a small pot and add vegetable broth. I use 2 cups of broth for every one cup of lentils because I like to have a little liquid leftover when they’re done cooking, but I advise reading the package instructions. Heat over medium-high heat until the broth is boiling. Reduce to a high simmer (medium-low heat) and cover. The lentils should be al dente in 20-25 minutes.
  3. Wait about 5-10 minutes to start step 4 so that everything is done at the same time. Use this time to slice your mushrooms and onion.
  4. Heat the olive oil in a heavy bottomed skillet, like a cast iron pan over high heat. Add the onion and toss to coat in oil. Cook until translucent. Remove the onions from the pan. Add the mushrooms to the pan, arranging the slices so they sit in a single, flat layer. Cook for about 5 minutes, until they are nicely browned. Flip each slice of mushroom (tedious, I know). Let them cook for another 2 minutes and then add the balsamic vinegar. Cook until all of the vinegar is reduced.  Turn off the heat.
  5. Add the onion back to the pan and toss with the mushroom slices. Add salt to taste.
  6. At this point the lentils should be cooked, they should be easily squished between two fingers, but not mashable. Use a slotted spoon to scoop lentils into a bowl or onto a plate. Top with the mushroom and onion mixture, and then with arugula and vegan feta.

*I used French lentils, because they’re hearty and peppery, but use what you’ve got! Red and yellow lentils cook a lot faster but tend to clump and mash, so the texture is totally different from Green lentils, like the French variation. Different types of lentils will require a different amount of liquid to cook, so read the package you use for more details.

**I use this recipe for vegan feta and it is super easy and super delicious. I highly recommend you give it a shot.


Laura Lemon