Hot Skinny Soups for a Cold Winter’s Day

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Did you just discover that the extra padding you are feeling around your waist and hips is not from the down jacket you are wearing? In fact, look again. You aren’t wearing a down jacket. Oh, dear. Welcome to the last week of February. We have all had a little too much chocolate (can’t risk hurting your sweetheart’s feelings by turning down another bon-bon) and not enough exercise (even I am not going on my long walks these cold, wet mornings). My first step when I want to shed a few pounds is to make a big pot of vegetable soup.

Both of the following soups are easy to make, low fat and full of vitamins. Start off by taking a trip to your local farmer’s market. I know it’s hard to drag yourself out of bed on a cold Saturday morning but the riches of a winter’s market will reward you greatly. A chilly walk through the Farmer’s Market yields only the hardiest of produce: chards, kales, carrots, and cabbages. Some folks find the sparse offerings in the stalls a little depressing. I prefer to see these lavish deep greens and bright oranges as a testament to the earth’s bounty and hard working farmers.

Winter Chard and Tomato Soup/Stew
I love the chards. Both red and rainbow will work well in this delicious, easy and fast recipe. Especially comforting if served in an oversized bowl with a large spoon.

1 bunch chard, about six to eight leaves. Leaf sizes vary, so pick ones about the size of your shoe.
2 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Sea salt, to taste
1–28 ounce can Muir Glen Fire Roasted Whole Tomatoes (the smoky flavor really adds a needed dimension to this simple soup)

1. Rinse chard leaves. Remove center stem. Chop into large pieces. It is okay if they are wet.

2. Using medium heat, heat oil in a six to eight quart cooking pot. (I love to use my Le Creuset enameled cast iron dutch oven for this recipe). Add garlic and red pepper flakes. Saute for one minute, not allowing garlic to burn.

3. Add chard. Stir well.

4. Add tomatoes with juice. Break up tomatoes with a large wooden spoon. Cover and simmer until chard is tender, about ten minutes.

Serving suggestions:
Serve with warm olive bread. For protein add a poached egg.

Skinny Soup
I call this ‘Skinny Soup’. Make a big batch. Freeze some. Eat it for lunch or dinner. Not only is it delicious, it will make you feel virtuous at the same time because it is so good for you. If you want to make your own chicken stock, feel free. I get mine at Whole Foods in the deli department and it is delicious. Swanson’s canned will do in a pinch but watch out for the salt levels. All I ask is that you use French green lentils. There is a difference.

1 pound French lentils (green)
2 large leeks, white part only, chopped
2 large onions, chopped
2 tablespoon garlic, minced
3 tablespoon olive oil
2 tsp fresh thyme leaves (or 1 tsp dried)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
2 cups celery, diced (more if you would like)
2 cups carrots, diced (more if you would like)
2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper (I prefer Tellicherry, freshly ground)
3 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon port, sherry or Madeira
3 quarts good quality chicken stock

Prepare lentils:
Place lentils in a bowl. Cover with boiling water. Set aside for 15 minutes. Drain. Get out your largest soup pot that has a lid. Pour in the olive oil. Place over medium heat. Allow oil to heat through. Add leeks, onions, garlic, thyme, salt, pepper, cumin, and coriander. Sauté until vegetables are limp. Add celery, carrots and sauté for five more minutes. Add chicken stock, tomato paste, and lentils. Cover. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for one hour, with lid slightly ajar. Stir occasionally. Soup is done when lentils are just soft. (Do not cook too long or they will get mushy).
Adjust seasonings. Add the port, sherry, or Madeira. Serve.

Note: I have a special strategy for my trips to the Farmer’s Market. This is especially important in the winter when I don’t want to dawdle. In the fall, summer and spring I take a complete stroll of the market, meet friends for coffee or breakfast and then start shopping. But in the winter I hit the market with only one thought in mind: getting home fast. I always go with a list and three shopping bags—I like the bags that have a square flat platform bottom. One bag for fragile purchases like eggs or pastry. One bag for the ‘dense’ like heads of cabbage or rounds of bread. One bag for hot savory foods like the roasted chicken or pork. My wallet goes in my right pocket for easy reach (ones and fives).


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