Let's be serious, we've all been there in some way or another. I remember taking 18 credits, working a full-time job, and having an internship my senior year. I slept, well, never. And I paid the price. My existence was based on power bars, gas station or office coffee [please cringe here!] and no sanity. I survived, which serves as definitive evidence that the human body can withstand a significant amount of torture [for a short time at least] and still somehow keep air flowing and blood moving. Now that I have graduated, held some great jobs, and am a mother, I have gotten quite a bit smarter when it comes to stress and diet [this may be an understatement now that I've admitted to my dietary doomed past and aired out that closet].
Anyway, my goal here is to provide you with a highly nutritious, allergy-friendly, cook-it-while-away meal, that is easy and husband approved [aka: picky eater approved] and to hopefully rescue you [or maybe offer a brief escape] from the insanity I dealt myself years ago.
I am sure the word "lentil" conjures up a variety of emotions. My husband generally says "Uhhh, lentils? Really?" with a scrunched up face. I've taken it upon myself to try to change his mind and, with this recipe, I think I have.
Lentils are a vital protein source, especially for vegetarians [they are 17 - 25 percent protein which is higher than most grains, eggs, and meats]. Because they cook much quicker than other beans [one hour on the stove at the most, 20 - 30 minutes if soaked first], they are more convenient than their other bean counterparts and have a more mild flavor. Lentils are easier on your digestive system than other beans and don't cause many of the unpleasant side affects that beans are famous for. Beans are especially helpful for people with diabetes as they digest slowly causing a gradual rise in blood sugar as opposed to the quick spike that commonly happens with other foods [specifically processed foods or high sugar foods]. They have a good amount of calcium, potassium, iron, zinc, and several B vitamins.
[AND A BONUS!]
In this post I am unveiling a new "perk" I am adding to this blog. For each recipe I create from here on out [and maybe some old posts as well], I will be designating each as an "inexpensive meal [$]", a "once-in-awhile experience [$$]", or a meal "reserved for special occasions [$$$]". In the recipe index you will find a link each of the to the appropriate recipes [look for the $ sign]. Generally you will find the $ per serving at the end of each post. My hope in doing this is to show you that healthy eating doesn't need to cost a lot or take a lot of time ["time" will be upcoming]. I would love feedback on this once I get it up and running!
And here's a secret: this meal costs $1.20 per bowl or serving [assuming you are using a standard size soup bowl]. This means pair the soup with some toasted bread and you have a meal for four at under $10 and for six at under $15. Your family's or roommates' tummies will be full, you will still have cash for gas, and you won't be drained heading into your late-night homework gig.
7 cups of dried green lentils*
2 quarts [8 cups] of vegetable broth
1 quart [28 ounces] of stewed tomatoes, with juices
1 heaping cup of chopped carrots [about 2 large]
1 heaping cup of chopped celery [about 3 - 4 large stalks]
2 large leeks or medium onions, finely chopped
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. of ground fennel
1 tsp. of ground cumin
1 tsp. of ground coriander
2 tsp. of Real Salt sea salt [or to taste]
*If you choose to soak the lentils [go here to find out why and for instructions], do so the night before for Options 1 and 2 or first thing in the morning if you plan to use Option 3.
Option 1 [if time is an issue - meaning you have none]:
Rinse lentils well and set aside. Wash carrots, celery, and leeks. Peel garlic. Chop into manageable chunks and throw the vegetables into a food processor [you could even use a blender, just add some of the broth to make blending easier] and chop until finely minced. Place into a Crockpot with all of the other ingredients, including the lentils. Cook 8 hours or until lentils are soft. Working in small amounts, blend half to three quarters [or as desired] of the soup in a blender for about 30 seconds [consistency should be lightly chunky but smooth] or use an immersion blender. Mix back in with the remaining soup. Serve with a slice or two of toasted bread.
Option 2 [if you have 5 - 10 minutes extra to spare]:
Follow all of the instructions for Option 1. However, saute the chopped vegetables in the olive oil for 5 - 8 minutes [or until just soft] prior to adding them to the Crockpot. Sauteing will deepen the flavor.
Option 3 [if you don't have a Crockpot]:
Follow all of the instructions for either Option 1 or Option 2 but place in a large soup pot. Bring to boil and then simmer 30 - 40 minutes or until lentils are just soft and still have their shape.
Serves approximately 12
This recipe is based on Alton Brown's Lentil Soup.