Recipe: French Lentil and Roasted Vegetable Soup

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Have you tried French green lentils?

 

Two weeks ago, a family health crisis forced us to quickly learn about the ulcer-friendly or “bland” diet. My husband learned that he had a bleeding ulcer, and that onions, garlic and spicy foods were out of the question for the time being. As a family who loves to cook, we were determined to find flavorful alternatives to these cooking staples. Of course, if you have an ulcer or other digestive condition, ask your doctor about the foods that are best for you.

Soups are a favorite meal at our house, and I’d been meaning to try French green lentils. These small, dark gray-green lentils have a lovely sweet flavor and creamy texture. The caramelized roasted vegetables, along with some mild cooking herbs, add a rich flavor that helped us forget about the term “bland diet.”

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Roasted, slightly caramelized vegetables replace onions and garlic.

 

My husband likes to add zucchini and other vegetables to roasting meats, so I decided to use that idea for this soup.  My mom and I had fun cooking this soup and refining the recipe. No garlic, no onions, and lots of healing thoughts went into this soup. Here’s the recipe:


Ingredients

1 cup French green lentils

4-inch strip of dried kombu

1 bay leaf

1 teaspoon dried ground thyme

Sea salt to taste

2 medium carrots, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1-1/2 cups diced potato

2 zucchini, sliced

1 to 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Dried oregano

Directions

1. Sort and rinse lentils. Place lentils and kombu in a medium bowl and soak for 4 hours (Available in health food stores, kombu is a sea vegetable that helps make beans and lentils more digestible) .

2. Just before the lentils have finished soaking, preheat oven to 425 F. Lightly coat a 2-quart baking dish with cooking spray. In a mixing bowl, toss the carrots, potatoes and zucchini in oil. Sprinkle with dried oregano and sea salt, then toss some more. Place the vegetables in the baking dish and bake for 40 minutes, turning the vegetables halfway through cooking time. Vegetables will be ready when they are tender and slightly caramelized.

3. Drain and place the lentils and kombu in a large soup pot. Add enough water to cover the lentils and add bay leaf and thyme. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer. Cover and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, or until lentils are soft. Remove from heat and set aside until the vegetables are finished roasting.

4. Add roasted vegetables to the pot of lentils and stir to combine. Sample the broth and add more water, salt and additional thyme if needed. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer, and cook the soup for 10 to 15 minutes.

5. Ladle the soup into bowls, and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese and serve.

Bland diet? What bland diet? You’ll be amazed at the depth of flavor, even without the tried and true onion and garlic base. Hope you’ll give this soup a try!

Wordless Wednesday: It’s All About the Food

Thanks to Create With Joy and Frugal Plus for hosting Wordless Wednesday…and Happy Birthday to that precious feline, Legend 🙂

Wordless Wednesdays

I have to bribe myself to do my cardio workout, so I save some favorite nutritious foods for post-workout snacks.

Here are my real reasons for getting on that bike:

My favorite Greek yogurt…

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Homemade guacamole…

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Whole grain toast with peanut butter (good for breakfast, too)…

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Hope to see you at Wordless Wednesday…great community!

Fuel: What to Eat After a Workout

You’ve eaten your pre-workout snack and replenished fluids and carbs during your workout. It’s time for a quality snack or meal and more fluids to help your body recover after you exercise. There are some general guidelines for post-exercise foods, but check with your doctor if you have diabetes or other medical condition.

Remember the high-carbohydrate food you ate before your workout? You feel tired after you exercise because your body has used some of the stored carbohydrates and energy from that food. You will feel better and your muscles will recover faster if you eat a combination of carbohydrates and protein within two hours after your workout, recommends the Mayo Clinic. Replenishing carbohydrates and protein is especially important if you exercise intensely more than once a day or are training for a marathon or triathlon, according to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM).

After a 30- to 40-minute cardio workout, a light snack within 30 minutes works best for me. Good post-workout snacks with a balance of carbohydrates and protein include Greek yogurt and fruit, toast and peanut butter, or cheese and crackers. Sometimes I have half a turkey sandwich on whole grain bread.

You may want to schedule your workout before a meal. Opt for protein, fresh vegetables and carbohydrates. Protein could be meat, tofu, or beans, and good carbohydrate choices include brown rice or sweet potatoes. Low-fat foods may be easier for you to digest after exercise.

Remember to drink water or a sports drink after you exercise. If you weigh yourself before and after your workout, you’ll know the amount of fluids you need to replenish. Drink 2 or 3 cups of water for every pound you lose during your workout. A sports drink is especially helpful if you do not feel like eating as you’re cooling off and resting.

Have a great week, and let me know how you’re doing!

Fuel: What to Eat During a Workout

My last post outlined what to eat before a workout, and explained the body’s need for carbohydrates for fuel. You won’t always have to eat during a workout. During a typical 30- to 60-minute exercise session, you generally only need to worry about fluids and staying hydrated.

But if you plan to exercise for 90 minutes or more, you will need additional fuel during your workout. During prolonged exercise, your body will run out of energy from the carbohydrates you ate 30 minutes before your workout.

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends 30 to 60 carbohydrate grams every hour during a two- to three-hour workout. During a hike or other all-day exercise, aim for 60 to 90 carbohydrate grams per hour.

Granola Bars
Try granola or fruit for a snack before or during exercise. (Photo by jenn.b)

When you choose foods for a mid-workout snack, look for easily digested, high-carbohydrate foods. Digestion is especially an issue during prolonged high-impact exercise, such as running. You don’t want an upset stomach during your workout! In fact, a sports drink may be a better carbohydrate source than solid food during a prolonged run.

If your workout involves cycling or other low-impact exercise, try a granola bar, raisins, crackers or other light carbohydrate snack. You will still need to replenish fluids, so remember to drink water with your food. Drink 3 to 6 ounces every 15 to 20 minutes, rather than gulping large quantities all at once. If you cannot tolerate solid food during a workout, you can have a sports drink instead.

Through trial and error, you will discover the best carbohydrate fuel for your workouts. If you have diabetes or other medical condition, ask your doctor about snacks and exercising.

Next, we’ll look at fuel for recovery after exercise.

Fuel: What to Eat Before a Workout

The type of food you eat before you exercise can determine the success of your workout. Eating the wrong food at the wrong time can lead to low energy, lightheadedness and stomach upset, and can even undermine your fitness program. If you know a few basic rules, you can find pre-exercise snacks and meals that work best for you.

Caution: these are general guidelines. Ask your doctor about the best pre-workout foods for you, especially if you have diabetes or other chronic condition.

1.  Exercise 2 to 3 hours after you eat a meal. The food that you eat hours before you exercise provides the fuel for your workout. Your body needs this time after the meal to digest carbohydrates and fats before you exercise. Larger meals and meals that have high protein or fat content will take the longest time to digest.

To keep steady blood sugar and energy levels during workouts, your meals should contain 50 to 60 percent carbohydrates. Fresh fruits and vegetables as well as whole grains, such as oatmeal, brown rice and whole grain pastas are good carbohydrate sources. Include a little protein, such as an egg, nuts or sliced turkey. Your muscles will use the protein during recovery after your workout. Watch for an upcoming post about protein and post-workout food.

2. Eat a snack 30 minutes to 1 hour before you work out. A light, high-carbohydrate snack, such as a banana, crackers or a granola bar will give you energy if you eat it 30 to 60 minutes before your workout. Eating a snack immediately before you hit the treadmill may not do any harm, but your body will not have time to break down the food for energy.

My favorite pre-workout snack is whole grain toast with natural peanut butter. It’s easy to digest, and the carbohydrate-protein combination keeps my energy levels steady.

3. Hydrate! Getting enough fluids is just as important as eating the right foods when you’re going to exercise. Drink 2 cups of water 4 hours before you work out, and 1 to 1 1/2 cup of fluids 15 minutes before you exercise, recommends the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM).  If your workouts last an hour or longer, drink a sports drink instead of water to help keep your electrolyte and energy levels steady.

It’s important to stay hydrated during your workout, too. If you exercise for less than an hour, ACSM recommends drinking 3 to 8 ounces of water every 15 to 20 minutes during your workout. For workouts longer than an hour, drink 3 to 8 ounces of sports drink every 15 to 20 minutes.

4. Find what works for you. Certain pre-workout foods will work better for you than other foods. If you give your body time to metabolize nutritious foods rich in complex carbohydrates, you will stay energized throughout your workout.

Stay tuned for posts about eating during and after your workout. Let me know how you’re doing with your fitness goals!

Good for You: Cook With Greek Yogurt

My new favorite snack is a small container of Greek yogurt, especially black cherry or pineapple. I’ve learned that you can use plain, non-fat or low-fat Greek yogurt as a healthy substitute for butter, oil and other cooking fats. It was music to my ears when my dear meat-and-potatoes-loving husband said, “We need to get more plain Greek yogurt!”

Buttery, creamy Greek yogurt adds flavor and improves texture in baked goods.

Much of the liquid is strained from Greek yogurt, so it has a thicker texture than other yogurts. With more protein and fewer carbs than regular yogurt, you’ll add a guilt-free tang to your dishes and baked foods.

For example, you can use Greek yogurt instead of cream cheese in a frosting recipe. Top a baked potato with Greek yogurt, or mix it into mashed potatoes. Use the same amount of yogurt as you wold cream cheese or sour cream, or use it in place of mayonnaise in tuna salad.

In baking recipes, you can substitute some of the oil or butter with Greek yogurt. The live yogurt cultures won’t survive the heat, but the yogurt gives baked goods a moist texture with fewer fat grams. For excellent information on measurements and substitutions for baking, visit My New 30 .

Plain Greek yogurt is a delicious topping for fresh fruit, but it’s good to know that you can cook with it, too. Check out Meg’s Kitchen on the Stoneyfield Farms website for a wide variety of recipes.

Hope you’ll try some of these ideas, and maybe share some of your own. Enjoy good foods!

Every Step Makes a Difference!

“I could never do that.”
“I don’t have time.”
“I keep skipping workouts, so I might as well quit.”

Before I started exercising regularly, I said all of these things and repeatedly talked myself out of taking those first steps. I felt overwhelmed when my doctor told me I needed to lower my blood pressure, lower my “bad” cholesterol, and increase my “good” cholesterol. I already knew I needed to lose weight. And I knew — in spite of myself — that diet and exercise are important factors in all of these health concerns.

Small Victories

What I did not know at that time was the positive effect of small victories. It is important to set long-term weight-loss and exercise goals, but your health can improve even before you reach those goals. For example, a long-term weight loss goal may be 50 or more pounds. But did you know that losing just 5 to 10 pounds or adding 30 minutes of exercise three times a week can make a positive difference? These changes can help lower LDL or “bad” cholesterol, raise HDL or “good” cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.

Do What You Can — It Still Counts!

It’s easy to feel discouraged when a goal is still a long way off. But I know that even the worthiest goals can make me want to give up before I start. When I started exercising, I could only manage five minutes on the elliptical machine. But those beginning five minutes led to 30-minute workouts.

Ask your doctor about the right exercise program for you. Start where you are, and know that those first steps are already making a difference!