Pulses and Dairy: A Dynamic Duo!

By Shannon Crocker, MSc RD. www.shannoncrocker.ca Follow Shannon on Twitter and Instagram: @shancrockerRD

The United Nations has declared 2016 the “International Year of Pulses” highlighting this food as a sustainable, nourishing food source for the world.

What’s a pulse, you might be wondering? A pulse is a dried seed that grows in a pod. Examples are dried beans, dried peas, chickpeas and lentils. Think black beans, kidney beans or black-eyed peas. Canada is one of the world’s leading producers and exporters of pulses.

Pulses are considered a “superfood” as they are highly nutritious, packed with protein, fibre, B-vitamins and minerals such as iron and zinc.

Pulses pair easily with dairy to make nutritious, delicious and affordable meals. Try a new recipe or add pulses to tasty dishes that you already love.  Here are a few of my favourites – give them a try!

Creamy Lentil & Cumin Soup

This simple soup is a warm bowl of comfort on a cold winter’s day. Dried red lentils are one of the easiest pulses to work with; they don’t require pre-soaking and have a short cooking time. The soup is packed with veggies too – carrots, onions, tomatoes and celery. Try topping this soup with Nothing But Cheese instead of sour cream for a crunchy twist and a calcium boost.

Shannon’s Kitchen Tips: Make this soup on the weekend when you have more time, then heat it up for a quick weekday meal. Serve it with slices of rustic whole grain bread and a glass of milk.

Salsa Chicken & Black Bean Cannelloni

This dish is a fusion of Mexican and Italian cuisine. It’s a tasty way to introduce pulses to your family. The recipe calls for canned black beans (a nutritious choice that saves cooking time). Draining and rinsing the beans help reduce sodium and some of the carbohydrates that can cause gas. The light ricotta has less fat than regular ricotta and, along with the cheddar cheese, makes this a scrumptious dish that boasts bone-loving nutrients like calcium, magnesium and vitamin A.

Shannon’s Kitchen Tips: Leave out the chicken and add the rest of the can of black beans for a hearty vegetarian meal. Serve it with a simple salad drizzled with a lemony vinaigrette.

Sweet Peppers à la Milanese

Cheese and chickpeas complement each other amazingly well, both in taste and texture. In this recipe, you can add 1 cup (250mL) of drained and rinsed canned chickpeas. The cottage cheese, provolone and chickpeas give you protein and the chickpeas bump up the fibre, making this an even more satisfying vegetarian meal.

Shannon’s Kitchen Tips: This stuffed pepper would be even more delicious and nutritious if you use barley instead of white rice. Barley needs more liquid (add another cup of stock in Step 3) and a little longer cooking time (add about 30 minutes to Step 3), but you’ll love the great taste and nutritional benefits that barley delivers.

My final thoughts… Adding pulses to familiar dishes like cheesy pastas or stuffed peppers is a great way to get started if you’re not familiar using them in your cooking. And if you’re looking for even more ways to enjoy pulses, take the Pulse Pledge and get great meal ideas delivered right to your email.

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