Near the end of the summer, I made a deal with my parent's that I would come over in the afternoon and cook the meals, if Abigail and I could eat with them. I hated cooking for just two people and it was lonely eating by ourselves all the time when my parent's were just down the road. It has worked out beautifully. I must admit though that in the last few weeks, I haven't done as much of the work as I had been doing because my mom and I have been doing the C25K in the afternoons so it's been more of a group effort.
One of the things that we began to incorporate into our meal plans was Meatless Monday's. Every Monday we go the entire day without eating meat which means that we have to get our protein from other sources like quinoa or beans. Going meatless once a week is not only good for our health but our wallets as well! :) Some weeks it's a challenge to come up with new meatless recipes and we are always on the lookout for new things to try but we've quickly discovered some meals that are our favorites and we've tried a couple of things that we won't be eating again...like the supposed "Best Mushroom Soup You'll Ever Eat in Your Life" (gag) or the "Broccoli and White Bean Soup" that was supposed to a healthy twist on Broccoli and Cheese soup (disgusting). One of the things that constantly comes up in rotation is Giada De Laurentiis' Lentil Soup.
I had only ever tried lentil's a few times and I had only cooked them like you would regular beans and ate them over rice or quinoa but my parent's had a bag of lentils in their pantry and wanted a different way to cook them so I took to the Internet and searched out recipes. One of the first one's I came across was Giada's and I'm a huge fan of hers and the recipe was simple and didn't require a ton of ingredients. So on a Meatless Monday I made Giada's Lentil Soup. It was so good! It only needed a bit of spice, so I turned to my trusty bottle of Texas Pete Hot Sauce and a couple of dashes did the trick. We didn't waste any of that soup!
A few weeks later I took it to church for one of our Senior Sunday meals. My dad's church feeds the senior adult members every first Sunday of the month. It's usually a soup, salad, and sandwich deal and since my dad has been teaching a health and nutrition class on Sunday nights we try and make the meal as healthy as possible. So I took the lentil soup but this time with an addition of a can of mild Rotel tomatoes. I knew the senior adults might not like it too spicy but the soup really did need a kick. The mild tomatoes gave it just the punch it needed without being too spicy. It was a hit! After everyone took leftovers home, there wasn't any left for me to bring home! :)
So as the weather is about to cool down and the first part of next week is supposed to be pretty chilly I would suggest making this hearty but meatless meal! It will be easy on your wallet and your waistline!
Lentil Soup – Giada De Laurentiis
· 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
· 1 medium onion, chopped
· 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
· 2 celery stalks, chopped
· 2 garlic cloves, chopped
· Salt and freshly ground black pepper
· 1 (14 1/2-ounce) can diced tomatoes
· 1 pound lentils (approximately 1 1/4 cups)
· 11 cups low-salt chicken broth
· 4 to 6 fresh thyme sprigs
· 2/3 cup dried elbow pasta
· 1 cup shredded Parmesan
Heat the oil in a heavy large pot over medium heat. Add the onion, carrots, and celery. Add the garlic, salt, and pepper and sauté until all the vegetables are tender, about 5 to 8 minutes. Add the tomatoes with their juices. Simmer until the juices evaporate a little and the tomatoes break down, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Add the lentils and mix to coat. Add the broth and stir. Add the thyme sprigs. Bring to a boil over high heat. Cover and simmer over low heat until the lentils are almost tender, about 30 minutes.
Stir in the pasta. Simmer until the pasta is tender but still firm to the bite, about 8 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
Ladle the soup into bowls. Sprinkle with the Parmesan, drizzle with olive oil, and serve.
*For additional spice and taste, you may add a can of Rotel tomatoes to the above recipe.
*I use a bit of dried thyme instead of fresh sprigs.
*I use a whole cup of dried whole wheat elbow pasta
*I omit the extra drizzle of olive oil. It really doesn't need it.