Ina’s Lentil Soup

In Guangzhou we are extremely fortunate to have Armed Forces Network in our apartment. And while I’m typically not a huge TV watcher, when we first moved in and were without both internet and our DVD collection, AFN was my entertainment of choice. I quickly discovered that their broadcast repertoire includes my favorite TV chef, Ina Garten, aka The Barefoot Contessa. I enjoy watching Ina because not only is she a fantastic cook, but she has this way about her that’s just so calming. I suppose if I had a Hamptons-sized kitchen, complete with walk-in pantry, I might be pretty calm too when I cook. But alas, until I get a few more years of experience under my belt and maybe, just maybe, a Hamptons-sized kitchen, I’ll continue to suppress the inner culinary banshee that emerges when I’m putting together an especially difficult dish. Difficult in the “other people besides me will be eating it” sense of the term.

One episode that I happened to catch was when Ina made lentil soup and other goodies for some of her movie-producer friends (of course she did!). I suddenly had an overwhelming urge for lentil soup. A dish that, before now, I had eaten only once before. Such is the power of Ina.

This recipe is so easy and includes ingredients that are very easy to find. Well, easy to find in America. I did have to patiently wait until my Amazon shipment arrived before I had the main ingredient for my lentil soup. But my patience paid off because this is definitely a recipe keeper.

Recipe from FoodNetwork.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 pound lentils
  • 4 cups chopped yellow onions (3 large onions)
  • 4 cups chopped leeks, white part only (2 leeks)
  • 1 Tbs minced garlic (3 cloves)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 Tbs kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp dried thyme or 1 Tbs minced fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 3 cups medium-diced celery (8 stalks)
  • 3 cups medium-diced carrots (4 to 6 carrots)
  • 3 quarts reduced sodium chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 2 Tbs red wine vinegar
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

In a large bowl, cover the lentils with boiling water and allow to sit for 15 minutes. Drain.

In a large stockpot on medium heat, saute the onions, leeks, and garlic with the olive oil, salt, pepper, thyme, and cumin for appx. 15 minutes, until the onions & leeks are translucent and very tender. Add the celery and carrots and saute for 8-10 more minutes. Add the chicken stock, tomato paste, and lentils. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for 1 hour, until the lentils are cooked through. Check the seasonings and adjust accordingly. Add the red wine vinegar and serve hot, sprinkled with grated Parmesan.

Notes from Paige: Although Ina uses French lentils, I used the regular kind and it turned out great. I also subbed in reduced-sodium stock and nixed the cheese.

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Our Favorite Chicken Noodle Soup

A record-breaking snowfall hit the DC area this weekend, making a hot bowl of chicken noodle soup the perfect meal for a night in from the cold. I called my mom for her recipe, then doctored it just a bit to fit our ingredients and taste. The result was superb!

-Paige

Ease of Preparation: Easy

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 large boneless chicken breasts (if frozen no need to thaw)
  • 5 reduced-sodium bouillon cubes
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 16 oz bag baby carrots, chopped
  • 1 bag celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 medium to large onion, diced
  • 1/4 cup diced fresh parsley
  • 1 bag egg noodles
  • 1 Tablespoon corn starch, sifted
  • salt, to taste
  • pepper, to taste

Fill large pot with water. Add chicken, bouillon cubes, salt & pepper, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for approximately 1 hour. Meanwhile, chop vegetables and parsley. After 1 hour, take chicken breasts out of pot and add vegetables and parsley (also add more salt & pepper if needed). Bring to boil and let simmer for 8-10 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Cut chicken into large chunks. After vegetables are tender, add chicken, noodles and corn starch. Bring to a boil and simmer for 9-10 minutes or until noodles are tender. Serves 4-6, depending on your appetite!

Notes from Paige: My mom’s recipe called for regular bouillon cubes and 1/2 can of cream of chicken soup. We prefer a reduction of sodium whenever possible, so we used reduced-sodium cubes and a bit of corn starch in place of the cream of chicken to thicken the soup just a bit.

Italian Sausage & Spinach Soup

This classic comes from the Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer magazine. It says to serve immediately, but it’s just as tasty reheated the next day. The spinach, rice and tomatoes give this soup a colorful, feel-good appearance.

Ease of Preparation: Easy

Ready To Eat!
In The Pot

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 Package Chicken Sausage
  • 2-3 Containers (64-96 fluid ounces) Low Sodium Chicken Broth
  • 1/2 Medium Onion, chopped (unless you really like onion like us…then dump the whole thing in)
  • 1 Large Can (28 ounces) Chopped Tomatoes
  • 1 Cup Rice (White or Brown)
  • 6 ounces Baby Spinach (or more, to taste)

We make ours in a dutch oven, but any large pot should do. Remove Sausage from casing and saute with onion over medium-high heat until cooked through, breaking the sausage apart as it cooks. If you only have access to the pre-cooked sausage, cut it up before sauteing with the onions and cook until the onions start to become transparent. Add Chicken Broth and heat until just boiling. Add Tomatoes and Rice; reduce heat, cover and simmer until rice is cooked, about 20 minutes (longer if using brown rice). White rice actually adds more to the overall color, but the taste is a personal choice. You’ll know when the rice is done when you see it bubbling up to the top. Add spinach and cook until spinach takes on a vibrant green color. Serve immediately. For thicker soup, take the lid off and let it boil down for an additional 5-10 minutes. Garnish with your favorite shredded Italian cheese and serve with a warm loaf of crusty bread. Enjoy!