Soup for the Heart and Soul
” To feel safe and warm on a cold wet night, all you need is soup.”
It’s that time of the year when we ban all the sugar from the house and search deep in our souls for inspiration to exercise and eat healthy foods. Limiting calorie intake is also a big goal this time a year so that we can once again fit into our favorite jeans without our eyes bulging out when we bend over. Knowledge is power and it is also an excellent incentive for inspiration. I thought I would be part of your motivation and share with you some of the darker side of the bulge.
Heart disease is still the leading cause of death in our country. Every 34 seconds someone dies in the United States from heart disease. The estimates for 2004 were that 79,400,000 people in the United States have one form or the other of cardiovascular diseases, be it high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or grease filling arteries. The number one reason this number one disease is killing so many Americans is because of our diet. Every year, it is estimated, Americans consume 135 pounds of fat. That is one ton of fat every 15 years so by the time we are sixty years of age we will have consumed four tons of fat! Imagine that if you dare. No wonder the human body develops heart disease, stroke and various cancers when forced to contend with such a greasy burden!
Okay, now for some good news. We can change most of this with our mouth. A great food to focus on in the new year is beans and legumes. People who eat beans at least four times a week have a 19% lower level of heart disease. Beans and legumes only have 2-3% fat, a whopping 20 % protein and are chocked full of cholesterol reducing fiber. My favorite way to eat legumes is in soups. In fact I think soups are the perfect food, full of vegetables, beans and warmth. Lentil soup is my most beloved soup. Here are some very heart warming recipes. The first one I encountered at a friend’s house recently. It is from a semi local cookbook, “Alice’s Kitchen.” It is a wonderful Lebanese cookbook written by a Portland woman honoring her grandmother.
Lebanese Lentil Soup
6 cups of water or low sodium stock, I used chicken
1 cup of brown lentils
1 onion chopped
2-4 cloves of garlic, grated
1 tablespoon of olive oil
3 or 4 celery stocks, chopped
2 large potatoes, diced
2 small low fat chicken sausages diced, (optional)
Salt to taste
Some cracked black pepper
¼ to ½ teaspoon of cayenne pepper
1/3 cup of fresh squeezed lemon juice
2-3 cups of chopped chard, kale or spinach
Put water, lentils, onion, garlic, olive oil, celery, potato, and sausages in a large happy soup pot. Cover and bring to a merry boil, turn down and simmer for about an hour till you are dancing around the pot with anticipation. Add the salt, pepper and cayenne, simmer about another 15 minutes. Then add the chopped greens and cook for another 10 minutes. Add the lemon juice right before serving.
Here is another Lentil soup recipe that I really love!
Moroccan Lentil Soup
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 onions chopped
2-4 cloves of garlic grated
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
6 cups of water or stock
1 cup of Lentils, brown or red
1 can (15oz) of garbanzo beans drained
1 (14.5 oz) can of low sodium diced tomatoes
2-3 large carrots diced
2-3 stalks celery chopped
1 teaspoon garam masala (spice available at Mother Nature’s)
½ teaspoons ground cardamom
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper or smoked paprika
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 Tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
Salt and cracked pepper to taste
In large pot sauté; onions, garlic, and ginger in a little olive oil till aromatic, about 5 minutes. Add the water, lentils, chickpeas, tomatoes, carrots, celery, and spices. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, then reduce the temperature to a simmer and cook for about 1 to 1 ½ hours until the fragrance is too much to resist. Puree half the soup in a blender or food processor, careful not to burn yourself, and return it to the rest of the happy soup. Add the vinegar, salt and pepper to taste, stir and enjoy! I like to serve both of these soups with a fresh green salad and warm, whole wheat pita bread. A little bit a feta cheese and fresh tomatoes sprinkled on top is a lovely touch. Enjoy the new year brimming with hope, health and possibilities.