Vegetarian Lentil Soup: Hearty and Healthy
Very Low Sodium
This soup is a variant of one I used to make years ago, before my husband developed severe heart disease. He's been placed on a highly salt-restricted diet: not to exceed more than a 1200 mg of sodium per day. That's nearly impossible to acheive!
Now, go to your cupboard, and read the label on nearly anything in there that comes in a box or a can. Even bread has more sodium than you would think. Scary, right? There is no good way to achieve a diet that meets his restrictions without doing a lot of my own cooking from scratch, just as previous generations did.
And so, I have become a reluctant dietitian/cook. I am a capable cook; even a good cook, if the mood takes me. Unfortunately, it's not one of my favorite activities, so I favor one-pot 'fix it and forget it' type meals. This hearty soup fills that bill very well, and your belly to boot.
Lentils are in the legume family, and so are full of protein, just like their relatives, peas and beans.
The Basic Ingredients
- 1 Quart Low Sodium Vegetable Broth
- 2 Cups Water
- 1 small Onion, sliced into 1/2 rings
- 1 dozen or so Baby carrots, whole
- 3 stalks Celery, sliced diagonally into 1" chunks
- 1/2 Mild anaheim chili (or red bell) pepper, finely diced
- 1 pound bag lentils, sorted, rinsed and drained
- 1 Tbsp Olive Oil
- Ground Black Pepper, To taste
- 1/2 tsp. Rosemary/Garlic chips blend
- 1 Tbsp. Dried Sweet Basil
- 1/2 Tbsp. Dried Summer Savory
- 1 Medium potato, cubed, (Optional)
What Do You Think?
- Pre-Slice all vegetables, so they will be ready as needed. Cut the celery in half lengthwise, and again if they are large stalks, then slice on the diagonal.
- Baby carrots can be left whole; larger carrots can be sliced into rounds
- Saute the onion slices in the Olive Oil until transparent.
- Set prepared vegetables aside, and sort the lentils. Pour a tablespoonful or two at a time into the palm of your hand, and examine them. You are looking for shriveled lentils, and small rocks or pebbles which sometimes accidentally end up in the harvest. As you clear each handful, drop into a colander to be rinsed.
- Pour the vegetable broth and the water into a large soup kettle or dutch oven; the ideal capacity for this recipe is about 6 quarts.
- Pour in the rinsed and drained lentils, cover, bring to a boil, and add the vegetables and spices. Cover again, and return to a boil, stirring now and then.
- Leave covered, and turn heat down to a very low simmer. Cook for an hour and a half until lentils are tender, stirring occasionally.
- Alternately, you can toss everything into a slow cooker, set it on medium, and leave it all day long, or on high for 4 hours or so
Yum! Ready to Serve
Serve and Enjoy
This soup is a wonderful, hearty and filling main course. Just add some fresh garlic bread on the side if you wish, and you have a full and satisfying meal.
This recipe makes plenty for a crowd (up to about eight people), but as there are just two of us, I usually just pull out a serving or two, and freeze the rest to have on hand for "one of those days," when I just don't feel like cooking.
Lentils have kind of a spicy under-taste all by themselves, so there's no need to get carried away with the spices. I've put suggested amounts, but really, just "season to taste." I tend to be a bit heavy-handed with the pepper shaker, but not everyone shares my enthusiasm for pepper.
The Anaheim chili adds just a teeny hint of bite in the distant background, but not enough to render the soup inedible for those who do not like spicy foods. If you really don't want the chili at all, just substitute in the bell pepper--it will be just as good.
I also added the water to dilute the already-low-sodium broth, bringing the salt content to near zero per serving. You'll notice I specified garlic powder, not garlic salt, for this same reason. Use pure herbs, not pre-packaged blends, and you should be fine staying salt-free.
If you wish, you can omit the extra 2 cups of water, and it will come out even thicker, like a chunky stew. This is also where I would add the optional potato, if I were making it into more of a stew.
© 2013 Liz Elias