Hello, all! Happy New Year!!! I hope you had a safe and abundant holiday season full of relaxation, physical and mental recharging, and hopefully lots of cooking and eating of good food.
I’m glad to be back to writing on this blog after an unplanned month-long holiday break. December was a lovely time of connecting with oft-too-little-seen family and friends, enjoying decadent food and drink, and spending more time than usual in my beloved fleece sweatpants. All of the rest, relaxation, and socializing has been great. But I’m ready to get back into the game and give 2017 all that I’ve got!
OK, I don’t know about you, but I am one of those people: a New Year’s Nerd. In the way that most people are excited by the just-ended holiday season, I am excited about new years. I can’t help it! At my core, I’m forever an optimist, declaring that every year will be the “Best Year EVER,” inspired by the freshness that a shiny new calendar brings. I love being prompted to set and achieve new goals; I love all of the unblemished pages in my new planner waiting to accommodate my chicken-scratch scrawls (any fellow planner nerds out there with me?). I love picking my Core Desired Feelings for the year, a lá the philosophy of Danielle LaPorte. I haven’t gotten to do any of this stuff yet, and I’m planning on starting on it tonight. And I’m thrilled!
Life is about the simple pleasures, right? A new planner, a colored pen to write in it with, the promise of a brand-new year to inspire you . . . and the warmth and goodness of Crushed Red Lentil Soup. One could say that all of these pleasures are small, inexpensive and therefore, unimportant – but in their own simple ways, they are invaluable.
Take the Crushed Red Lentil Soup, for instance. It is definitely cheap to make. You can make your own vegetable stock by boiling produce scraps you’ve collected – broccoli stalks, herb stems, the tough outer layer of onions, etc. – at a gentle simmer for one hour, then straining out the scraps so the stock remains. I collect and freeze veggie scraps so that when I’m ready to make stock, there they are. And dried crushed red lentils are super inexpensive to buy in bulk. The market near my house sells them for $1.99 a pound. Add some fresh tomato, onion, garlic, lemon juice, and spices to the mix, and you have an easy-to-make, simple-yet-satisfying vegan soup.
Besides being inexpensive, red lentils provide some great health benefits. They are high in protein and fiber, helping to keep you full longer, and rich in vitamins such as iron, manganese, and folate.
The bold spices used in this soup – cumin, curry powder, coriander, cayenne – lend it a vibrant flavor that will warm your body and help to chase off those winter blahs! If you aren’t fan of heat, omitting the cayenne will reduce the spiciness.
Overall, this Crushed Red Lentil soup is an excellent antidote to all of the heavy, meat-laden, cream-sweetened, wine-doused meals of the past month that you’ve been consuming if you’re anything like me. I am all about the heavy, meaty, creamy, and wine-y aspects of the food world, but we all know that for every month of the year apart from December, a philosophy of moderation is the wise philosophy to follow.
OK, on to the recipe and the bright year ahead!
-3 cups dried crushed red lentils
-1 tbs. high-smoke-point cooking oil, such as grapeseed or coconut
-1 medium onion, diced
-4 cloves garlic, minced
-1 medium tomato, diced
-6 cups vegetable stock
-2 tbs. lemon juice
-1 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
-1 tsp. curry powder
-1 tsp. salt
-1 tsp. black pepper
-1/2 tsp. ground coriander
-1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
Rinse the red lentils in a fine-mesh strainer and pick out any funky-looking pieces you see.
To a large pot over medium heat, add the oil, onion and garlic. Cook until softened, about four minutes. Add the tomato and let cook for another two minutes. Then stir in the vegetable stock, lemon juice, lentils, and spices. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a gently rolling simmer and let cook for 30 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool a bit, then carefully transfer half of the soup to a food processor or blender. Blend until smooth, then mix with the soup still in the pot to achieve a creamy yet still chunky consistency. Excellent served with crusty bread and some lemon wedges to provide additional bright citrus flavoring. Makes about five to six servings.