Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Quick Lentil Soup with Greens, Mushrooms & Root Vegetables

If you've ever been pinched for time and settled for one of those blander-than-bland canned lentil soups, this quick lentil soup recipe is for you!  My trick is to use Trader Joe's steamed lentils (in the refrigerator section) to save time, but you could easily adapt this recipe to add some serious fresh flavor and seasoning to a canned lentil soup. Fresh potatoes, carrots, portobello mushrooms, kale and spinach all compliment those sturdy lentils and I played with the spice/herb combination on this soup to fab results! Herbes de Provence, ground cumin and a little fresh rosemary, along with garlic, shallots, kalamata olives and a little tomato paste added a warming depth and complexity to this soup in a hurry. Don't skip the sherry vinegar - it really brightens this soup.

And keep in mind, lentils are anything but bland nutritionally. Protein, fiber, and iron rich, lentils are filling and really don't need fat to dress them up. Excellent for balancing blood sugar levels, this lentil soup makes the perfect power lunch that won't slow you down. I like to add a little butter to the mushrooms, but, if you're vegan, leave it out or use a vegan substitute.

Want a spicy soup?  Add finely diced fresh jalapeno along with the root vegetables.

Quick Lentil Soup with Greens, Mushrooms & Root Vegetables:

1 TBS olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1 large shallot, finely diced
pinch of Herbes de Provence
pinch of ground cumin
1/2 cup potatoes, small dice (I used fingerlings)
1 large carrot, peeled and small dice
1 tsp butter (or vegan sub)
2 portobello mushrooms, diced
1 inch sprig fresh rosemary, stem removed
3 cups vegetable broth
1 cup water
1/2 cup kale leaves, stemmed and torn into bite-sized pieces
5 kalamata olives, finely chopped
1 tsp tomato paste (invest in a tube of tomato paste - always handy for rounding out soup broth)
8 oz cooked brown lentils (TJ's pack is 17.6 oz, so half the pack)
1 1/2 tsp sherry vinegar
3/4 cup baby spinach
salt & black pepper to taste

In a heavy bottomed saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat and cook the minced garlic and shallot for 2-3 minutes.  Add the Herbes de Provence and ground cumin and stir like crazy, cooking for 1 minute. Add the diced potatoes and carrot, cover and cook for 4 minutes, stirring once to make sure the vegetables are evenly cooked. Add the butter, melt, then the mushrooms. Add a pinch of salt and black pepper.  Stir well and cover and cook for 2 minutes.  Add the vegetable broth, water, kale leaves, olives, tomato paste and cooked lentils and cook uncovered for 5 minutes (If using a canned lentil soup, skip the broth, water and cooked lentils and add the can of soup with the kale and tomato paste at this point).  Add the sherry vinegar and cook 5 more minutes. Add the spinach, cook until just wilted, and adjust salt and pepper to taste.

Friday, October 04, 2013

Raw Beet, Apple & Avocado Smoothie

I love this bright raw beet smoothie for breakfast, but, as I usually have a spoon handy, "soup" is probably a fair description.  Just the right blend of earthy beets, sweet apple and creamy avocado to get your taste buds excited, it's cleansing and gives you enough sustenance to make it until lunch.

The recipe is from one of my favorite raw cookbooks, Raw Food: A Complete Guide for Every Meal of the Day by Erica Palmcrantz and Irmela Lilja. The Swedish authors have their own straightforward and inventive approach to raw food and the book has lots of appealing recipes for anyone interested in adding raw meals to their day.

You could add ginger or a little horseradish to spice this up if you like, but I like it straight-up:

Raw Beet, Apple & Avocado Smoothie:

2 small beets, peeled and diced
1 apple, diced
1 small avocado, peeled and chopped
lemon juice from half a lemon
water, as desired

Add water to cover the chopped beets in a blender and blend until smooth. Add the chopped apple and more water and blend. Add the avocado and lemon juice and blend. Add water to get to desired consistency.

Makes 3-4 servings.  Enjoy!