If you, too, made a vow to eat better this year, this recipe may help. It definitely achieves some of the goals I set for myself—to eat more veggies, whole grains, and fiber and less meat and fat, and (as always) fewer calories.
For me, eating a healthful lunch is particularly problematic. I’m usually in the middle of working and don’t want to stop, so I simply slap some cheese or peanut butter on multi-grain bread and keep on going. Not the worst meal perhaps, but totally lacking veggies and not low in fat either.
So I’ve devised a plan to make myself a big pot of easy, hearty soup every week. With this stashed in the fridge I can conveniently pull out the pot and heat up a fuss-free, meal-in-a-bowl lunch. Depending on the recipe, this approach guarantees that some of the nutritious veggies, fiber and whole grains are routinely on my menu.
For my first healthy recipe of the new year (posted here), I created an herbed fresh salmon chowder that also featured lots of cauliflower, carrots, celery, and potatoes. This week I went in a completely different direction, focusing on lentils and brown rice to deliver the protein, nutrients, and fiber, and enhancing them with some vegetables from the crisper and a unique, heady blending of spices and herbs.
In case you’re thinking that lentils and brown rice sound boring and too health-foody, believe me they are amazingly satisfying in this soup. In fact, those who prefer bland may actually find this recipe too peppery. It’s not blow-your-head off hot, but it’s piquant and has so much enticing full-bodied curry flavor that nobody misses meat at all. If you like, dial down the heat by omitting the dried red pepper flakes, then serving a little bowl of them so diners can zip up their servings at the table.
This soup recipe not only satisfies my key nutritional goals, but it goes together quickly, cooks in about 30 minutes, and is extremely economical. Plus, it smells wonderful as it cooks, keeps well, and, if you use vegetable broth, is fine for serving vegetarians.
Hearty Curried Lentil, Brown Rice-Vegetable Soup
A generous bowl of this soup makes a great lunch served as is, but it can also be rounded out with some crackers and cheese. Garnishing the bowls with a dollop of plain yogurt is another easy way to boost the protein in the meal.
To streamline prepping tasks as much as possible, cut the vegetables into 1-inch chunks, then pulse until them in a processor until roughly chopped. Though the recipe calls 1/2 cup each of the onion, celery and carrot, feel free to use more or less depending on what you have on hand. Sweet peppers have a lot of vitamin C and add pleasing flavor, but they can be left out, if desired. If you don’t have red lentils, the more commonplace brown or greens ones can be substituted; they’ll just take 10 to 15 minutes longer to cook through.
If possible use reduced-sodium broth in the recipe; since many curry powders contain salt, the soup can actually come out too salty if regular broth is used. In a pinch, substitute broth made by reconstituting bouillon powder or cubes. I find that using half low-sodium and half regular bouillon powder produces a broth with about the right degree of saltiness.
Tip: For a healthful muffin to go with this soup, check out my Applesauce Muffins here.
1/2 cup each coarsely chopped onion, celery, and carrot
1/2 cup chopped sweet red or green pepper, optional
1 tablespoon olive oil
8 cups chicken broth or vegetable broth, preferably reduced sodium
2/3 cup uncooked red lentils
1/3 cup uncooked long-grain brown rice, preferably basmati
1 tablespoon mild to medium hot curry powder (your preference)
1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom or 1 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground hot red pepper flakes, optional
1 14- 15-ounce can diced or chopped tomatoes, including juice
2 tablespoons chopped chives, green onions, or cilantro, for garnish, optional
Combine the onion, celery, carrots, and sweet pepper if using in a 4-quart pot along with the oil. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until they are soft and beginning to brown, about 5 minutes.
Add the broth, lentils, rice, and the herbs and spices to the pot. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring well. Adjust the heat so the mixture boils gently; cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the lentils and rice are almost tender, about 20 to 25 minutes; take a taste to check. Stir in the tomatoes and their juice, and, if the soup is thick, enough hot water to thin it to a soup consistency. Bring back to a boil; taste and add salt if necessary.
Try my savory autumn bisque here. Another tempting soup, the minestrone pictured below is here.