A Simple Lentil Soup

I'm teaching a series of soup classes to a group of seniors at our local community center starting this week, and my first recipe will be a lentil soup. The goal of this soup series is to encourage seniors to cook healthily at home, rather than buy processed or prepared foods which can be high in sodium and fat. 

While I was picking up groceries for today's class, I overheard two elderly women talking about making lentil soup. It became apparent that what might appear to be a simple recipe to me was actually not so easy for these two ladies (they were trying to read a recipe on the back of a package of lentils). I couldn't help but ask if I could offer some suggestions, hoping to allay any anxiety they were having over making their lentil soup. I explained that they didn't have to worry about following the recipe exactly as written (they were debating whether or not to add celery even though the recipe didn't call for it).


Based on talking to the community director (and from reader feedback), simple recipes are a must for seniors. Any recipe with more than 5 to 6 ingredients can be overwhelming, so I thought it might be helpful to come up with a simple lentil soup recipe, with no more than 6 ingredients, but with optional add-ins, in case anyone wants to be a bit adventurous. This recipe is great for anyone who just wants to make a simple, but healthy and delicious lentil soup.

I tend to like lots of flavors, deep flavors, spicy flavors, and lots of herbs, so sometimes my soup recipes have long ingredient lists. However, since everyone's taste preferences are different, and it's always nice to have an easy soup recipe, the lentil soup I decided to make is very simple, a basic recipe that can be added onto. I love to play around with ingredients, so the add-ins were fun for me to put together. Soup is the perfect playground for experimenting with ingredients as it is so forgiving. You can add just about anything to soup and it will always come out delicious.

Here's the Simple Lentil Soup recipe, along with a list of optional add-in ingredients:

 

Simple Lentil Soup

You can use any kind of lentils - red, green, yellow, pink. Just adjust the cooking time as some lentils take longer to soften. Start with the basic recipe, and feel free to add as many or as few ingredients from the "Optional Add-In's."1 cup red lentils, rinsed and picked over for small stones

1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
2 celery stalks or 3 celery hearts, chopped
1 teaspoon dried oregano
12 cups (or three 32-ounce boxes) vegetable stock or chicken stock
salt and pepper

Optional Add-In's:
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup brown rice, barley, farro or other whole grain
1 1/2 cups chopped tomatoes
2 sprigs fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 sprig fresh rosemary or 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 teaspoon Herbes de Provence
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 bunch fresh spinach, swiss chard, kale or collard greens, cut into thin slivers
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley or basil

Place all ingredients in a large soup pot. Bring to a boil, then turn heat to low, and cook, covered, for about 1 hour, or until lentils are soft. Season with salt and pepper.

If you're using any of the add-ins (except for the spinach or other leafy green vegetables), just add them into the pot along with the other ingredients. The spinach or other leafy green vegetables should be added after the soup has cooked for one hour. Just stir in the vegetables and cook until they are just tender (spinach takes about a minute; kale and collard greens take longer).

This soup can easily be frozen.

Makes 12 cups.

 

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