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!

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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!

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!

Mary Garden Update

I mentioned our new Mary garden project in a post last month, and I just wanted to share this update. May was a hectic month, so we didn’t really add plants to the garden until last week. We bought some herbs associated with the Virgin Mary:

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis), known as “Mary’s Rose”, and Thyme (Thymus vulgaris), known as “Mary’s Humility”:

Rosemary (left) and Thyme (right)

Traditionally known as an herb of protection, rosemary adds a pine-like fragrance to the terrace. Rosemary is a versatile culinary and medicinal herb. For example, its aroma has a clarifying, rejuvenating effect, and a tea made from its leaves can soothe an upset stomach. Thyme is a traditional cough remedy and disinfectant, and of course, it tastes wonderful with fish or chicken. Its fragrance combines with that of rosemary when we have a cool breeze on the terrace.

We also added a collection of succulents, including Aloe Vera and Hens and Chicks (Sempervivum). Although these plants are not traditionally associated with Mary, we thought they belonged in a garden in this Texas climate.

Assorted Succulents

My husband enjoys the early mornings here, and I like to fuss with the decorations during the day. Haven’t decided the final placement for everything, but there will be more plants in the future. My husband’s daughter and my stepdaughter gave us these pretty wind chimes and hummingbird feeders:

I especially like the way the colors of our wind chimes reflect on this statue:

Mary Garden Colors

More pictures to come as we add to our garden. Have a wonderful weekend…take time to enjoy the beauty around you!

Five Dinner Guests — HAWMC Day 19

Day 19

5 Dinner Guests. Who are 5 people you’d love to have dinner with (living or deceased) and why?

My husband and I were sitting in our living room when I read today’s Health Activist Writer’s Challenge prompt aloud. John brightened and said, “That’s easy: Meriwether Lewis, Walt Whitman, Jane Kenyon, Susun Weed and Gail Faith Edwards! I couldn’t add or subtract from that list, so here it is…a group of individuals who could share and learn from each other and teach me so much. Does my husband know me or what?

From History:

Meriwether Lewis

The early American explorer and I have a few things in common — namely, a knowledge of herbal remedies and a love for nature’s beauty. When I first read about the legendary trek across the country in search of the Northwest Passage, I was surprised to learn that Captain Lewis was well-versed in medicinal plants. He learned about herbal remedies — known as “simples” — from his mother, who was a respected wise woman in Virginia. As he traveled across the continent, Lewis wrote long, romantic passage about the mountains, plains, plants and animals around him.

Walt Whitman

Walt Whitman’s poetry always sets my spirits soaring. From “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry” to “Come, Said My Soul” and “Song of Myself”, his poems capture the mystery and beauty of nature, the soul, and the human body. As a poet, I would be completely floored if I could share a meal with this American.

Jane Kenyon

Jane Kenyon, who passed away in 1995 at age 47, is my favorite poet. As a New Hampshire native and wife of a poet, I relate to her poems about her life in New Hampshire with her husband, poet Donald Hall. Now that I live in Texas, her poems about the inner psyche and everyday life in an old farmhouse carry me back to my ancestral home. Maybe we even knew some of the same people.

Alive and Well:

Susun Weed

Herbalist and author Susun Weed is one of the most important teachers of my life. She inspires me to take care of myself and my family with infusions and tinctures made from nourishing, healing plants. I treasure the letters I received from her as a student, and I look forward to reading every new book that she publishes. I know that I would have a list of questions if I could sit down to dinner with her.

Gail Faith Edwards

Gail Edwards wrote two of my favorite herbal books: Opening Our Wild Hearts to the Healing Herbs and Through the Wild Heart of Mary. She writes often about the role of the community herbalist, and the importance of studying every aspect of plants — including botany, history and medicinal properties. As a home and garden writer, I would love to hear what she has to say about the “useful plants”.

That’s my dinner guest list. Can’t wait to read yours!

 

Open a Book — HAWMC Day 18

 

Day 18

Open a Book. Choose a book and open it to a random page and point to a phrase. Use that phrase to get you writing today. Free write for 15-20 without stopping.

Rosemary is an herb of protection. One of my favorite herbs, rosemary has a soothing and refreshing fragrance that reminds me of the piney woods of my childhood home. New Hampshire was a place of awakening and inspiration, and I carry all that i learned with me wherever I go. Today in my home in Texas, I still cook with rosemary and make rosemary tea.

Herbs have always had a special place in my heart. It was probably the fragrances that captured my heart first…in New England, early morning, dewy grass held intense perfumes of clover, white pine needles and other wild plants. If I close my eyes, I can still remember the secure, innocent years when all those mornings took place. The memory heals my heart today.

I was not aware of the folklore surrounding medicinal plants when I was a child. Today, I understand the idea of a plant — like rosemary — having protective qualities. Besides the physical medicinal properties of plants, there is a beauty that heals and protects as well. In her book, Opening Our Wild Hearts to the Healing Herbs, herbalist and author Gail Faith Edwards describes “protective” and healing qualities of plants. As I learn about my own heart health, I remember when I read this book that emotional and spiritual healing is as important as physical healing for the heart.

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)

I enjoyed writing from the inspiration of a favorite book. Why not give it a try at Health Activist Writer’s Month Challenge?

 

Letter to 16-Year-Old Me — Day 10 of HAWMC

You can join us at the Health Activist Writer’s Month Challenge here http://blog.wegohealth.com/2012/04/10/hawmc-day-10-2/

Day 10

Dear 16-year-old-me. Write a letter to yourself at age 16. What would you tell yourself? What would you make your younger self aware of?

Dear me,

You already know everything, but it doesn’t hurt to have a glimpse into your future self, does it? There are many wonderful days ahead of you — and some not so wonderful. But look, you’re still here at age — gulp — fifty, and going strong!You know what, you’re married! Yes, you who never had a date in high school — you are married to a fellow writer and artist who is also your best friend. That should keep you going!

Those allergies will get better. In fact, you’ll be free of the wheezing in another year or two. College will be a happier experience than high school, but don’t let the difficult years after that discourage you. No matter what happens, take time to do the things that give you joy — sing, draw, plant your garden, and write, write, write. You’ll need the practice, because after you’ve lived through the challenging years, you’re going to be a professional writer. Just like you always wanted! But please, honor your commitments to yourself…for your heart’s sake.

Can I tell you something? Promise you’ll stay positive, because everything will turn out beautifully.

Here goes. Your worst fear, I remember, is that you will become homeless, right? Wait, come back! Listen to me: it will be a blessing beyond your wildest imagination. While recovering from your homeless adventure, you will travel, find the deepest friendships you’ve ever had, and you will be led into the arms of the man you are going to marry.

You will have joys and heartaches in the years to come, but you will discover a deep faith that will sustain you and nourish you. You will have to discover that for yourself, but let me tell you, yo will come to know a peace that surpasses all understanding.

Now tuck this letter into your memory, and take it out and read it whenever you need to. You’re gonna be alright, trust me!

Love,

Me