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Make-Ahead Lentil Soup

These are interesting times we're living through these days, aren't they?

It's going to be my goal through this period of pandemic panic and social isolation, to help you as much as I can with recipes, tips and guidance on keeping yourself sane and healthy.

Without further ado, let's jump in.

I saw some advice circulating on social media recently, allegedly from a nurse. Who knows the original source? I don't. But it included some advice to the general public that seemed really quite wise to me.

The author wrote:

"What I have seen a lot of are recommendations for how to try to avoid getting coronavirus in the first place -- good hand washing, personal hygiene and social distancing -- but what I have NOT seen a lot of is advice for what happens if you actually get it, which many of us will. So as your friendly neighborhood nurse, let me make some suggestions:

"You basically just want to prepare as though you know you’re going to get a nasty respiratory bug, like bronchitis or pneumonia. You just have the foresight to know it might come your way!

[Here she lists things to buy for when you're sick... tissues, cold medicine, enough existing prescription medications, etc. But below is what really struck me.]

"This is also a good time to meal prep: make a big batch of your favorite soup to freeze and have on hand."

Yes! Brilliant.

Personally, I'm pretty well prepared on everything else she recommends, but I have NOT been preparing and freezing meals for a future illness.

It's a great suggestion.

Maybe we should all do that. Because we certainly won't want to do it (and we may be unable to do it) if/when we get sick.

And even if we manage to avoid COVID-19, it'll still be wonderful not to have to cook a future meal on a day when we really don't want to.

It's an act of love for your future self.

Below is my best recommendation for one delicious thing you can make this weekend -- from scratch -- to freeze now, and set aside in the event that you come down with a bug of any kind.

Ingredients

See below for suggested alternatives if you don't have some of these.

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • Dash of cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 1 32-oz (1 qt) box of vegetable stock
  • 2-3 cups of water
  • 1.5 cups dry lentils, any kind
  • ½ cup brown rice, rinsed and drained
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 Tbsp curry powder
  • Ground black pepper, to taste

Instructions

1. Before you begin, pass your lentils through a quick visual inspection to make sure there are no little stones in their midst. Rinse and drain until the rinse water runs clear.

2. In a large soup pot, warm the olive oil over med-high heat. Sauté the diced onion until it begins to brown. Add a dash of cayenne, if desired, to add a bit of heat to the soup.

3. Add the 4 cups of vegetable stock and 2 cups of water to the pot. Bring to a boil.

4. Add the brown rice. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes.

5. Add the rinsed, drained lentils. Simmer for 15-20 minutes longer, stirring occasionally. Add more water if necessary, to keep the soup at your preferred consistency.

6. Add the salt, garlic powder, curry powder & black pepper. Stir well.

7. Taste the soup to make sure the lentils are cooked, and that it is seasoned to your liking. Adjust as needed.

Serve and enjoy!

A soup like this goes great with a piece of whole wheat toast. You could also top it with slivered almonds, or a handful of roasted cauliflower.

Ingredient Alternatives

You may not have all of these ingredients right now, and/or it might be hard to find all of them at the supermarket. If you're lacking any of the food items listed above, try these instead:

Olive oil: Any oil will do -- it doesn't have to be olive -- but if you don't have any oil, you can skip it and sauté the onions in a splash of vegetable broth or water instead.

Onions: Shallots or leeks will be an excellent alternative. Failing that, skip the fresh onion and add ½ dried onion powder to the soup with the rest of the spices at the end of cooking. You could even skip the onion altogether if you want.

Cayenne pepper: This is optional anyway, but if you want to add some heat and don't have cayenne in your spice cabinet, try ¼ tsp crushed red pepper flakes instead. Or upon serving the soup, throw a dash of hot sauce on top.

Vegetable stock: You can replace the veggie stock with the equivalent amount of water (4 cups) but the soup won't quite be as tasty. If you have a vegetable bouillon cube, throw that in with 4 cups of water.

Or, for the future, consider adding a canister of this Dried Vegetable Broth to your pantry.

If you're feeling resourceful, blend 4 cups of water in your blender with 2 carrots (chopped), 2 celery ribs (chopped), 1 garlic clove, and a dash of sea salt, and use that mixture in place of the stock.

Brown rice: Any grain or pseudo-grain will do here. Farro, quinoa, barley, white or basmati rice, buckwheat groats, or even a potato (diced small) would be great.

If you use quinoa, white rice or buckwheat, add it at the same time as the lentils, because those won't need a head start like brown rice does (because they cook faster).

Failing that, cook some pasta on the side and add it to the soup before serving.

Lentils: This recipe requires dry lentils of any kind. Feel free to use a combination, as long as they total about 1.5 cups.

Red lentils, moong dal (split mung beens or petite yellow lentils), urad dal (split black lentils) brown lentils, French green lentils, beluga lentils, etc. are all wonderful choices.

If you don't have dry lentils at home, well... then you probably aren't interested in this recipe. But if you happen to have cooked canned/packaged lentils instead, then add about 3 to 4 cups of them to the soup once the grain is cooked, and simmer until the lentils are just heated through.

Garlic powder: If you don't have this in your spice cabinet, you could add a clove of fresh garlic just after the onion. Or, skip it entirely.

Curry powder: If you don't have this spice blend, you could make your own by blending several other spices together (usually turmeric, cumin, coriander, cardamom, cloves and black pepper, among others).

Or, simply use plain 1.5 tsp turmeric powder. If you have them, I'd highly recommend also adding ½ tsp cumin and ½ tsp coriander along with the turmeric.

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