Warming up to Healthy Eating- Lentil Soup

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Was last night the sixth holiday party we just attended? Yes, it surely was. Or perhaps it was the thirteen. I’ve lost count. While I relished every last friend, holiday/new year wish, hors d’oeuvre, cookie & cocktail with gusto, I am now carried away to a more sensible space. Here in Florida it’s a sometimes cold place we call January.

If you are like us and many others, who have spent the last month stuffed with stuffing and tipsy with holiday cheer, January brings with it a promising opportunity for replenishment, balance, and the only way to do that is by giving your body everything it needs to thrive. Lots of healthy foods and vegetables.

But to go right from cookies to carrots in 0 to 60 seconds seems crazy, we believe the body must be eased back into it’s normal patterns gently and reasonably. No fad diets, or pill will have you looking and feeling your best.

At Intelligent Gourmet, we know it’s not about losing weight – it’s about living your best life. That said, for many of us, part of becoming healthier, happier people involves undoing some of the less-great decisions of the last several weeks and, yes, losing weight. Unfortunately, changing your lifestyle doesn’t happen overnight (though one diet claims otherwise)

What matters is keeping your nutrition high, your calories controlled, and your exercise up!

Try working your way back into some better eating habits with a healthy soup packed with protein and vegetables. Here we share with you a recipe for a very versatile lentil soup that you can easily adapt to your families personal preferences and pantry inventory:

Ingredients

  • 1 # package of dried lentils (You can use any kind you like, red, green, brown and black beluga)
  • 1 medium yellow onion, (small diced)
  • 1 large carrots, (small diced)
  • 2 ribs of celery (small diced)
  • 2 cloves of garlic smashed
  • 1 12 oz package of winter squash cubes (available at most grocers)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon yellow curry powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cumin
  • cayenne pepper
  • 4-6 cups of vegetable or chicken stock
  • 2 hand full of your favorite greens chopped, (kale, spinach, mustard, or chard)
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • flat leaf parsley (for garnish)
  • olive oil

Directions

  1. Start my heating some olive oil in a heavy bottomed pot over moderate heat, (you do not want the olive oil smoking) Add the chopped, carrot, celery and onion and allow these vegetable to sauté slowly about 8 – 10 minutes stirring occasionally. Once the vegetables are soft and the onion is translucent add in your chopped garlic, salt and spices, stir and cook another 2 minutes until fragrant.
  2. Add in your winter squash cubes of choice and toss to combine.
  3. Add 4 cups of your stock ( chicken or vegetable depending on if you are making this vegan or not), and bring to a boil.
  4. Add in your raw lentils ( Lentils do not need to be soaked like other beans but do rinse, Check the cooking time on the package, which can vary from one type to the next. Red lentils cook in as little as 15 minutes while the black ones can take as long as 45 minutes.)
  5. Reduce heat to low and simmer uncovered until lentils are just tender but not mushy, and your squash is soft. (Add additional stock if you want a thinner soup adjust to your liking)
  6. When the lentils are just tender, add the chopped greens. (They’ll only take a minute or two to wilt remove the pot from the burner as soon as the greens are wilted and bright green.)
  7. Finish with freshly squeezed lemon juice, a pinch of cayenne pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil, and a generous amount of chopped parsley. Adjust salt if necessary.

CHEF NOTE:

Change up your meal in any one of these 4 ways.

  1. You can trade 1/2 the stock with coconut cream for a creamy flavor.
  2. Season with smoked paprika, a touch of liquid smoke, and a ham bone.
  3. Add in a 14 ounce can of diced tomato for another variation.
  4. Serve with a tablespoon of greek yogurt on top.

Keep Your Memory Sharp the Mediterranean Way

Cold Spaguetti & Avocado salad
If I told you I had a pill that had no downside whatsoever and it helped reduce age related memory loss, would you take it? Guess what, it’s exercise! Open your door and walk 15 minutes in one direction and 15 minutes back.

You’ve probably heard of the Mediterranean diet and entertained visions of mounds of pasta drizzled in olive oil. Make that whole-grain pasta, and you’ve got yourself a deal. But the fresh fish, in-season produce, olive oil, wine, and yes, pasta, of the Mediterranean isn’t the whole story. Europeans walk. Everywhere.

It’s this balance of healthy whole foods (no Mediterranean mama would serve you out of a box or can) and exercise that is the real key to a healthy lifestyle – and long memory.

Let’s break down the diet first. Seafood and olive oil are everywhere and are both sources of Omega-3 fatty acids that help your brain function better. In Mediterranean cuisine, fresh green olive oil is often drizzled lightly over vine-ripened tomatoes from the morning market, with basil leaves picked minutes before from the terra cotta pot in the garden. The concentration is on eating whole fresh foods, and walking to and from that morning market!

  • Try grilling white fish lightly brushed with oil and served with a squeeze of lemon on top of fresh asparagus, or serve on top of zucchini “pasta” with cherry tomatoes and pine nuts.
  • Diets rich in leafy green vegetables like spinach, kale and chard also help memory function. Try Greek Spanikopita (cooked spinach wrapped in phyllo) or Turkish Cacik – a spinach yogurt dip with garlic, lemon juice, dill, parsley, mint and EVOO.
  • And let’s not forget coffee. Greek coffee, Italian espresso, or French café latte – caffeine has been shown to slow memory loss (black tea works just as well). Unfiltered coffee can raise your HDL cholesterol though, so if that is a concern, stay away from espresso and French Press methods. Check with your doctor before adding caffeine to your diet if you have high blood pressure, IBS, or Crohn’s disease.

But most importantly – remember to walk every day. Remember that, and you’ll be amazed at how much more you remember for the rest of your life.