Perfect Lentil Soup

Perfect Lentil Soup

Although autumn arrived last month, Northern California clearly hasn’t gotten the memo. In late October we were still enjoying the spoils of 70+ degrees. I’m sure you are appalled at someone complaining about such ‘perfect’ weather but hey, sometimes you just want to layer! I love summer as much as the next girl but just like a house guest over staying their welcome, one soon tires of being sweaty. Every year around early September I eagerly await the changing colored leaves and smell of pumpkin bread wafting out of my kitchen. But much to my chagrin, this year it seemed that summer just didn’t want to let go… Finally on one glorious morning a few days ago, I woke to a brisk 50 degrees and excitedly brought my knit scarves and cozy boot socks out from hibernation.

As the chill in the air grows ever stronger and the nights grow ever longer I am inspired to stay home, cuddle up to my family and enjoy hot soup out of well insulated mugs. A tried and true staple in my home is lentil soup. I’ve been playing with this recipe for years and with each little tweak it further evolves into one of my favorites. As with any good recipe you can use the bare bones of this to experiment and make it your own. Spices and veggies can be tweaked to your liking and you can puree a lot or a little depending on your preference. I prefer mine heavy with tomato and spice and pureed just a little so I can still experience the texture of the ingredients.

Perfect Lentil Soup

Ingredients

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  • 4 tbsp coconut oil or ghee
  • 1 yellow or white onion, chopped
  • 2 organic carrots, chopped
  • 2 organic stalks of celery, chopped
  • 3 tsp salt
  • 1 3/4 cups dried lentil soaked for 12-24 hours
  • 1 quart (4 cups) bone broth or veggie broth for a vegan option
  • 1 large organic heirloom tomato, chopped
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • black pepper to taste
  • 1 bunch organic Swiss chard, de-stemmed and torn into manageable bites

Process

  1. Place coconut oil or ghee in a large dutch oven over medium heat until oil is hot
  2. Add onion, carrot, celery and salt and cook for about 5 minutes
  3. Add lentils, broth, tomatoes and spices, increase heat and bring to a boil
  4. Once boiling, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for about 25 minutes
  5. Add Swiss chard and with pot uncovered gently cook until tender, about 8-10 minutes.
  6. Take soup off heat and using an immersion blender, puree soup ever so slightly to add a creaminess without losing the texture of the lentils and vegetables.

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Celery Onion Soup

Celery Onion Soup

I’m one of those nutty people who adores celery. I like it so much that I’d prefer if you didn’t muck it up with peanut butter or cheese or ranch dressing or any of the other toppings that most people turn to to make celery palatable. I love it just as it is, in its crunchy, fibrous, earthy perfection. I realize that I am in the minority. This last weekend I had a 20 minute conversation at a good friend’s birthday party about how much this particular group of people disliked celery. They all agreed that they had trouble getting it down without covering it in gobs of something else. I recently found an article written exclusively about the author’s seething hatred for this delicious and endlessly nutritious vegetable. Looking for a good laugh? Check it out here. My husband belongs to the ‘not so crazy about celery’ club. He’ll eat it but he definitely won’t be doing a happy dance about it. Just why are so many adverse to this nutritionally dense stick of deliciousness? It’s beyond me, really.

As most of us can agree, winter is the season for soup. Soup is warming, soup is comforting, soup is a wonderful way to pack a bunch of nutrition into one pot. My favorite thing about making soup? Clean up is virtually nonexistent. How cool is it to have only 1 pot and 2 bowls to clean after bopping around in the kitchen for an hour or more? So very cool.

So, on a recent particularly chilly day, I decided to marry my love of soup and my love of celery. When I told my sweetheart of a hubby that I’d be making celery soup for dinner, he so tried to put on a happy face… but his underlying disappointment didn’t get past me. I let him wallow in his trepidation a bit while I went to work on changing his mind.

Celery Onion Soup

Ingredients

  • 7 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 1 large leek, finely chopped
  • 1 yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 large shallot, minced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup ghee (Use butter or coconut oil if you’d prefer)
  • 4 cups bone broth (I recommend using homemade broth for increased depth of flavor and nutrition boost, use regular chicken broth if you prefer. Use veggie broth or water to make this vegetarian)
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 cup sour cream

Process

  1. In a large pot, melt ghee on medium to high heat.
  2. Add all the different onions, garlic, salt, pepper and garlic powder and sauté for 10 minutes or so, stirring every couple of minutes.
  3. Add celery and cook for another 4-5 minutes or until tender
  4. Add broth and bring to a boil.
  5. Once boiling, reduce heat to low and simmer for 40-45 minutes.
  6. Using an immersion blender, (if you don’t own one, use a standing blender, blending in batches) purée soup until smooth and creamy.
  7. Add sour cream and whisk together until just combined.
  8. Season with more salt and pepper to taste

celery soup

This soup was a home run. I topped it with some *gluten-free croutons and Hubby eagerly gobbled it up. He was very impressed and graciously made sure I knew it. ‘Babe, this is ridiculously good. I was a little worried when you told me we were having celery soup. I shouldn’t have been. This blew my mind.’ If I can blow his mind with a soup made with 7 whole stalks of celery, I’m pretty sure I can do anything…

*Gluten free croutons were made by chopping up half of this gluten-free baguette into little crouton shaped bites. Cook in a pan with ghee and salt for about 8 minutes or until they start to nicely crisp.*

Carrot Potato soup

Carrot Potato soup

I’ve been making this hearty, nutritious, insanely delicious soup for awhile now. It’s probably my favorite soup of all time, so I make it quite a lot. It’s perfect for when you don’t feel like cooking but want the satisfaction of a home cooked meal. It’s super simple to prepare and has always impressed my dinner party guests. I picked up the recipe from a cleanse that I participated in a few years ago. The initial recipe was fairly bare bones as it was created to cleanse you. 🙂 Coconut oil, water, onions, ginger, carrots and ume plum vinegar. I loved it so much that once I was off my cleanse I started to build upon it and it became a weekly staple in my home. If you haven’t tried ume plum vinegar I would definitely recommend it. It’s got a slightly sour, slightly sweet, very salty flavor that can add such a delightful flavor profile to soups, dressings, marinades, etc. A little goes a long way with this stuff so don’t overdo it. I find I can usually omit most of the salt from the recipe if I’m using this vinegar.

Carrot Potato Soup– This fed 2 adults and a toddler for one dinner and lunch the next dayIMG_4541.JPG

Ingredients (I use organic produce 95+% of the time, sometimes it’s unnecessary, stay tuned for an article going into more depth on that.)

  • 4 cups bone broth (I use bone broth because of how nutritionally dense it is, you can substitute veggie broth or water to make this vegan)
  • 4 tbsp coconut oil
  • 2 tbsp ghee (you can use butter if you don’t have ghee or for a vegan option , omit and up your coconut oil by 2 tbsp)
  • 5 large carrots
  • 1 medium peeled russet potato (sweet potato would be delicious too)
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2 inches of peeled ginger
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1-2 tbsp ume plum vinegar, depending on how much salt you use
  • salt to taste
  • pepper to taste

Process

  1. Chop up all of your veggies, garlic and ginger
  2. Heat coconut oil and ghee in a large pot on medium heat
  3. Once hot, place onions in pot and saute for 5 minutes or until translucent
  4. Add the rest of your veggies including ginger and garlic, salt as desired
  5. Mix and cook all together for 5 more minutes
  6. Add the 4 cups of whatever liquid you are using and raise the heat to high
  7. Once boiling, turn down heat to low, place lid on pot and simmer for 20 minutes.
  8. Once done simmering, take off heat and add ume plum vinegar and more salt if needed and pepper as desired
  9. With a hand held immersion blender, blend soup until smooth and creamy (If you don’t have an immersion blender, use a regular blender)
  10. Transfer soup to bowls and enjoy!

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Bone Broth (and why gelatin will change your life)

Bone Broth (and why gelatin will change your life)

I apologize in advance – this recipe will be short on photos. Chicken carcass is not very pretty on film and I didn’t want unappetizing photos to dissuade you from attempting to make this easy and incredibly nourishing super food. All you really need for this recipe is time, skill in the kitchen is completely unnecessary.

Before I go into my cooking process, let me give you some bone broth history and highlight a couple of reasons that adding it to your diet is an excellent idea.

Back in the proverbial day, bone broth was a huge part of out diets. We relied on our local butcher to supply us with animal bones which we would use as a base to make soup, gravy, etc. These days people have little to no relationship with their local butcher so they look to MSG to flavor their broth. This is due to the rise in agriculture conducted on commercial principles and using advanced technology starting in the 1950’s. Industry severed that tie and we no longer look to our butchers for the bony leftovers that are so vital to our health. The bulk of the meat that we are eating today is the breast of the animal. The problem with that is, we are missing the good stuff. The bones are where the nutrient treasure trove awaits. The benefits of consuming bone broth are many but here are a few exciting ones to wet your appetite:

1. Strengthens your bones and joints
2. Improves look and strength of hair and nails- makes skin glow
3. Improves digestion and overall stomach health
4. Regulates hormonal imbalances
5. Improves sleep
(I can attest to all of these)

When you simmer bones on low heat you are pulling out compounds in the cartilage and tendons like glycine, glucosamine, collagen, gelatin and proline which are extremely beneficial to your health. Bone broth is also rich in minerals like magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, and sulphur. Honestly, I didn’t realize sulfur was anything I wanted in my body until a few months ago. I recently came across this article on the benefits of sulfur, check it out of you’re curious. Here are a few excerpts from another article touting the benefits of bone broth,

Dr. Francis Pottenger promoted the stockpot as the most important piece of equipment in the kitchen. He advocated liberal use of homemade stock because it attracts digestive juices to itself in a manner similar to raw foods. Foods that attract digestive juices are much more easily digested and assimilated by the body.

Homemade stock used frequently in the diet offers protection from gastrointestinal illness, as the natural gelatin acts a neutralizer of intestinal poisons helping to relieve diarrhea and even dysentery.

Convinced yet? Even without all of these health benefits, the flavor of bone broth alone will convert you. Store bought broth will be a thing of your past.

When you add a few tablespoons of apple cider vinegar to your broth, you help to draw out even more of these compounds and minerals, so be sure to do that!

The bones are typically roasted before simmering to enhance flavor, it’s not completely necessary if you find yourself without the time, but I would strongly recommend it. Who doesn’t want a tastier broth?

Bone Broth

Ingredients:

• 2 pounds or more of organic animal bones

I used a carcass of an organic chicken that I roasted that night and added another organic chicken back and 4 organic chicken feet. Chicken feet are loaded with gelatin.

• 4 tbsp apple cider vinegar
• Onion – green, white or yellow
• 2 celery stalks
• 2 large carrots
• 1 head of garlic
• 1 zucchini
• 1 bunch basil
• 2 sprigs rosemary
• 1 inch of ginger
• 2 tbsp turmeric
• salt to taste
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You can use whatever vegetables you like. They add extra minerals to your broth. I just threw everything I had in the fridge in there. Onion, garlic and herbs will add an incredible depth of flavor.

Instructions:

1. Roast bones with a little salt in the oven at 400 degrees for 45 minutes.
2. Place bones in a large stock pot and fill with filtered water until bones are just covered.
3. Add apple cider vinegar and let sit for 30 minutes.
4. Bring water to a boil and skim off any foam that comes to the top. This foam consists of impurities.
5. Add all chopped vegetables, leave garlic and herbs until the last 30 minutes of simmering.

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6. Cover pot, reduce heat to very low and leave simmering for 24 hours.
7. Add garlic and herbs 30 minutes before 24 hours is up.

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8. Strain the broth of meat and veggies.
9. Store in airtight containers in the fridge if you plan to consume within the week or put in freezer to save for later use.

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10. If all goes perfectly, your broth will gel when cooled. Once heated it will turn back into broth.

Note:
*Sometimes bone broth does not gel. There are many possible reasons for this.

1. You simmered on too high a heat. This will destroy the collagen and your broth won’t gel.
2. You didn’t add enough of the bones that are high in gelatin, like feet.
3. You used factory farmed animals for your broth.
4. You used too much water for the amount of bones.

Even if your broth doesn’t gel, it is still incredibly good for you as it is still packed with minerals. As long as you use organic free range animal bones, your stock will be a potent health tonic. If it does gel, the benefits will be even greater. My last attempt didn’t gel, I think I used too much water. So, I’ve been taking a gelatin supplement. This stuff has changed my life. My hormonal pimples have calmed down, my menstrual cycle has regulated; I’m enjoying shorter, less painful periods, I’ve even noticed that my flexibility has vastly improved. The best part? I’m sleeping through the night, every night, without tossing and turning before hand. This is huge for me. I’ve had trouble sleeping for years now. Victory!!!

Bone broth can change your life, it has certainly vastly improved mine. With improved digestion, better sleep, and glowing skin, I’m a convert.

Please let me know if you tried this and how it turned out. I’m going to try again in a few weeks and get that sucker to gel! 😉