I would make a wretched vegetarian, but I’m cooking/preparing food for a client doing the Standard Process Cleanse this month. The general idea of this cleanse is consuming all vegetables (at least 1/2 consumed raw) and fresh fruits with a few allowances for small servings of psuedo-grains (lentils or quinoa only), scant amounts of healthy fat options, plenty of fresh herbs, and thank goodness – chicken stock.
I had a brief stint as a vegetarian, about age 17, which was resoundingly squashed by my mother, who was then also functioning as my personal chef. In her mind, this was merely a small act of temporary insanity on my part. Hers was an act of true love. Surely I would have died of malnutrition or at least rickets, since my then diet included very few vegetables, no legumes, and a limited grain palate. I think I was planning to live on white bread and ketchup. Oy, teenagers.
Starting in my mid 20’s, I discovered lentils. We mostly eat them straight, simply cooked in chicken broth and topped with a very modest amount of real butter. Our children prefer to smother them in Parmesan courtesy of the Italian New Year’s Day Tradition. Since Parmesan, all Dairy, meat based main dishes for variety, and basically anything fun ; ) are out for my client, this lentil soup was born.
Lentil soup may not be the prettiest dish, but it’s packed with nutrition and can be quite satisfying. Lentils are very high in protein, fiber, and iron. When I follow any kind of nutrition plan, I aim for the 30-30-40. 30% calories from protein, 30% calories from fat, and 40% from healthy carbs – meaning mainly vegetables. It’s hard to do, but I feel confident that this the best plan for *me*. Just me. We all work within our own science of interpretation. Lentils are about the only thing outside of a meat based entree that comes close to this 30-30-40 ratio. When 1 cup is prepared in chicken stock with 1 tbsp of butter, it comes in at 24-31-45. It’s the only thing I can think of that comes this close without adding some lean meat or egg whites to up your protein percentage of calories. Therefore, I deem lentils a super-food.
If you can satisfy or nearly satisfy multiple nutrition programs – you’re doing something right. As a bonus, all three of my kids eat lentils. And both of us. If your kids won’t, encourage one bite with a heaping amount of Parmesan if they’re into it. If they’re still out – move on. I’m living proof that you can have horrible childhood dietary preferences and become a healthy and varied adult foodie. Plus there’s just too much else to worry about in life, Food Battles should not be a thing.
Lentil Soup Recipe
makes about 6 qts or 12-15 servings
1 whole garlic
2 organic white onions
8 organic carrots
8 stalks organic celery
4 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp kosher salt
3 1/2 c. French Green Lentils (french green are more expensive, but hold their shape. Brown lentils will not affect flavor)
1 tbsp Ground Cumin
1 tbsp Ground Coriander
3 1/2 qt (14 c.) Homemade Chicken Stock – or Kitchen Basics if you’re in a pinch
2 bay leaves
8 sprigs fresh thyme
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
20 turns fresh ground pepper
Preheat oven to 350. Brush whole garlic with olive oil. Roast garlic in a small skillet until soft, approximately 45 min. After placing garlic in oven, rinse, peel, and dice, onions, carrots, and celery. Heat an 8qt stock pot over medium high heat. After heated, add the 4 tbsp of olive oil and heat for 1 minute. Add diced vegetables and season with kosher salt. Saute vegetables, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes. During this time, pour measured lentils into a strainer and rinse. Add lentils to stock pot, stir to combine. Season with the cumin and coriander, then stir and let continue sauteing for 2 more minutes. Pour in chicken stock, add bay leaves, thyme, and peppers. Add more cayenne if you’re not cooking for children, perhaps up to 1/2 tsp depending on your level of heat tolerance. Lop the top off that roasted garlic, and squeeze out the insides whenever your 45 min garlic timer goes off. (Note*** use timers! Cooking is actual science, people!) Bring to a boil, then simmer for 40 minutes. Enjoy!!