Nutritious, delicious and inexpensive, the tiny but mighty lentil is a culinary superstar. These heart healthy pulses (the edible seed inside a legume) are packed with nutrients including protein, potassium, folate, iron and calcium. They are low in calories, low on the glycemic index and high in fiber. Lentils are also free of cholesterol, sodium and gluten.
Lentils come in a variety of sizes and colors. Brown lentils are one of the most common varieties found in grocery stores. Unlike dried beans, dried lentils do not need to be pre-soaked and cook relatively quickly. Their long shelf life makes them an excellent ingredient to keep on hand.
Lentils can be found dried, canned and even refrigerated. If substituting precooked lentils for dried remember to rinse well, drain and reduce your cooking liquid. Add during the last 10 minutes of cooking so they do not become mushy. Be aware that store-bought precooked lentils will increase the sodium content.
Substitute frozen diced carrots for fresh. Add to soup during the last 5-10 minutes of cooking. Bring back to a simmer and continue to cook as directed.
Get your kids involved! You may be surprised by their eagerness to help. Participating in food preparation increases kids’ willingness to try new foods and is a great opportunity for quality time. It is also an excellent way to practice reading and math skills.
- Read the recipe aloud.
- Peel the garlic and onion.
- Measure the ingredients.
- Peel the carrots, with supervision.
- Operate a can opener, with supervision.
- Sort, rinse and drain the lentils.
- Pour the carton of stock.
- Stir the soup, with supervision.
|1 tablespoon olive oil
|3 large carrots
|3 large celery stalks
|4 garlic cloves, minced
|1 large onion, chopped
|2 tablespoons tomato paste, no salt added
|1 lb dried brown lentils
|1 32oz carton vegetable or chicken stock, no salt added or 4 cups homemade stock
|6 cups water
|2 bay leaves
|3-4 stems of fresh thyme
|2 cups baby spinach
|3-4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- Sort through dried lentils and remove any debris or lentils that appear damaged. Rinse well, drain and set aside.
- Peel carrots and cut carrots and celery in half lengthwise. Slice into thin half moons.
- Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large Dutch oven or pot with a lid. Add carrots, celery, garlic and onion and sweat for 10-12 minutes or until vegetables are beginning to soften. Turn heat down if vegetables begin to brown.
- Add tomato paste to pot and continue to cook for an additional 2 minutes, stirring to incorporate. Add lentils and mix well.
- Add stock, water, bay leaves and thyme to the pot. Increase heat and bring to a boil. Decrease to a simmer and cover, stirring occasionally. Cook soup for 30-40 minutes or until vegetables and lentils are soft.
- Stir in fresh spinach and allow it to cook just long enough to wilt. Remove from heat, stir in 3-4 tablespoons of red wine vinegar and season to taste with salt and pepper. (For a creamier soup, use a hand blender or traditional blender to carefully purée 4-5 cups of slightly cooled soup before adding the spinach. Return purée to the pot and stir to combine.) Serve hot.
Serving Size: about 1 ½ cups