Red Lentil Soup

Red lentil soup

Lately I’m obsessed with lentils.  Our pantry shelves are lined with them—bags and boxes filled with miniature rounds of black, green and brown.  To those who rifle around looking for more readily edible snacks, my compulsion is slightly puzzling.  A collection of shoes in the closet or books on the shelf is easier to understand.  But mothers have other odd obsessions as well, best ignored, as teens well know; simply shove the legumes aside and move on to the chips.

Loving lentils makes sense to me, if to no one else.  I cook dinner every day for a vegetarian family, and legumes and beans offer us a rich source of vegetable protein that’s essential to our diet.  And beyond the nutrition, they’re a treasure trove of inspiration as well.  I’ve no doubt I could add lentils to the pot day after day, week after week, and never repeat the same concoction twice (unless I wanted to).  One day it’s soup, another a main-dish salad.  Then on to a stew or dal.

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Christine’s Crossing

Creamy Vegetable Soup with Kale

Starting today we’ll be featuring Freshness Farms enthusiast and health coach, Christine de la Cruz in a monthly column called “Christine’s Crossing”.  With Christine’s wellness-oriented coaching you’ll learn how to incorporate Freshness Farms produce into everything from soup to main courses to juice and smoothies—like her sneaky zucchini noodles and vibrant beet and carrot juice.  This week Christine shares how to turn a refrigerator bursting with veggies into a warming potful of vitamins and flavor….

I have a confession to make:  as a health coach, I love to eat and prepare healthy food, but I am a lazy cook.  I don’t really like to follow recipes or spend a lot of time slicing and dicing.  Confession two:  I don’t mind eating soup in the middle of summer.  In summer we have a tendency to mostly eat raw or cold foods, which can be tough on our digestion and cause bloating.  Warm soup is easy on our systems, plus it’s really nice to have a potful of something quick and healthy at the ready when we are hungry!  Making soup is a great way to use up any produce we have overflowing—which we can all relate to in the best possible way.  Right now my fridge is loaded with the last great delivery from Freshness Farms, and I want to use up every last bit, while it’s at the peak of freshness.

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Caldo Verde

Caldo Verde Soup

Leaf lovers are grateful to kale and its current rock star status—it’s the darling of restaurant chefs and home cooks, food blogs and magazine spreads.  This jaw-exercising leaf has single handedly dragged greens into the culinary mainstream, when for generations many of us have done our best to avoid them.  The surprisingly revelation that kale is not only nutritious but tasty as well, has opened the door to a whole new ruffly green world populated by the likes of spinach and bok choy, collards, beet greens and more.

Take collards for instance:  they’ve been regulars in kitchens across the globe for eons, from Africa to India, Spain, Portugal and even the American South.  Collards are loaded with good stuff including Vitamins K, A and C, folate, manganese, calcium, iron and even protein.

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This classic Italian vegetable stew is hearty and heathy—loaded with beans, leafy greens and a comforting layer of artisan bread at the bottom of the bowl.  You can vary the ingredients depending on what you find in the market, or tucked into the crisper drawer at home.  Try a bit of zucchini or cauliflower.  Turnips or parsnips would be perfect, too.  A Parmesan cheese rind (an inch or two) tossed into the broth, as the soup simmers, is an old Italian trick that adds wonderful flavor.  But no worries if you don’t have one, just add a bit more salt and a healthy sprinkling of Parmesan on each serving.

Ribollita is more of a stew than a soup, if you prefer something more brothy, simply add a bit more stock (or water combined with a tablespoon or two of tomato paste) to the mix—up to two cups.

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Roasted Kabocha Squash and Celery Root Soup

Kabocha Squash and Celery Root Soup

This soup is adapted (ever so slightly) from a favorite soup-oriented cookbook—Anna Thomas’ Love Soup.  If you don’t have turnips, substitute a slightly larger squash, more celery root or a few carrots.  Celery root is the gnarly subterranean root of the common celery plant.  It’s an overlooked treasure—loaded with vibrant celery flavor and a nice crunch.  You’ll enjoy it raw as well as cooked—shave some into a green salad for a change of pace.

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