Easy Slow Cooker Green Lentil Soup

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Lentil soup has been on my mind for the past couple months. For some reason, the thought of cooking lentils was intimidating, since my family didn’t eat them growing up and I was never taught how to cook them. To my delight, an article showed up in my email inbox entitled, “Lentil Soup Without a Recipe”. This was just the motivation I needed to start thinking about actually making this soup. While cooking soup on the stove-top is my usual go-to cooking method, I wanted to use my slow cooker to be able to leave it alone and bring that heavenly homemade soup aroma into my apartment while I worked. After browsing a few recipes, I was confident I’d be able to conjure up the exact soup I was longing for. I must admit, this was one of the easiest recipes and requires minimal prep. Feel free to experiment with adding your favorite vegetables and spices!

Easy Slow Cooker Green Lentil Soup

Inspired by Food 52 and these two recipes

Ingredients:

4 cups water

4 cups vegetable broth

2 cups green lentils, rinsed

1 sweet potato peeled and chopped

3 carrots peeled and chopped

3 ribs of celery, chopped

1/2 large yellow onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 bay leaves

1 1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled, finely grated

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon cumin

Salt and pepper to taste

1-2 bunches kale, washed and chopped

3 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley

Directions:

Add all ingredients to slow cooker except for kale and Italian parsley. Wait to add these until the last 10 minutes before serving. Set heat at low if heating for 7-8 hours, or set at high if heating for 4-5 hours. Serve warm with your favorite crusty bread or a dollop of plain Greek yogurt and fresh cilantro!

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Food for thought: Which is your favorite color lentil to cook with?

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Holidays in NYC…Day 2

We woke up to bright sunshine on Saturday morning and were happy to start our day. Having one full day in NYC, we compromised and set out to explore, starting with our walk to Central Park. The wind let us know its presence as we followed the crowd to the skating rink, admiring the skyscrapers towering above us. We walked through a corner of the park, and realized how its 6.1 mile loop would be more than a breath of fresh air. Carriage rides, ice skating and a hot chocolate stand were a few of the sights that took the chill from the air, offering the city’s holiday spirit.

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As it neared lunch time, we tested our navigation skills and hopped onto the subway to head down and experience the culture of NYU and Union Square. We wandered the streets for a cozy eatery and stumbled across just what we needed, a Roman restaurant named Lupa Osteria Romana. While waiting for a table, we browsed the wine menu and chose an enticing Caraffina Di Vino Rosso.

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We didn’t mind waiting while we immersed ourselves in the savory aromas of the kitchen and were warmed by the friendliness of the staff. Once we were seated, appetizers such as Lingua (beef tongue), Prosciutto and marinated olives were ordered. We smiled and embraced the delicate textures and magnificent flavors of these fine hors d’oeuvres.

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For my main dish, I chose the Sabato special, the Heritage Pork Porterhouse.  This tender and juicy cut of meat was exactly what my palate desired. Topped with gorgeous, deep green kale and sweet butternut squash this meal was hands-down my favorite of the city. I would recommend anyone to seek out this warm and sustainable restaurant nestled in the heart of NYU.

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We spent the rest of the afternoon and early evening wandering the streets and holiday markets surrounding Union Square. It was soon time to enjoy our final meal in the big city. Friend of a Farmer in Gramercy Park was another spectacular find with a menu of local meat, seafood and veggies. This restaurant felt more like a home as its dark wood and wallpapered panels, candle lit tables and warm fireplaces surrounded us. Baskets with colorful vegetables greeted us at the top of the stairs while we settled in to enjoy yet another exceptional meal. The chef’s special of grilled grouper with steamed vegetables was my choice for the evening.

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To wrap up the night, we hailed a cab to take in the energy at Times Square. For most of us, it was our first experience to the notorious New Year’s Eve destination. We took a few minutes to embrace the sights and sounds of the enormous screens, bright lights, yellow taxis and tourists photographing this iconic attraction.

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On Sunday we packed up and made our way to Macy’s Herald’s Square just before claiming our seats on the train for our ride home.

Visiting New York City during the holidays was surely an experience to remember. I am thankful for good friends who I joined in sampling….ok, perhaps indulging, in the local cuisine. It is great to know that a city full of energy, phenomenal food and astounding sites is just a train ride away. Cheers to a spectacular weekend in the Big Apple!

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Holidays in NYC

Here we are, in the 3rd week of January and the New Year is well upon us. We have taken down our Christmas decorations and have stored them as the joy and excitement we experienced with our friends and family just 4 weeks ago, is in our distant past. The holidays bring with them lights, energy, travel and good food. Why not experience this all year round?

New York City is one of those cities where the energy fills the air no matter what time of year or what temperature. I was lucky enough to be able to experience this glamorous city during the holidays with great company.

Our three-day weekend started out with a six-hour train ride to the Big Apple. When we arrived at Penn Station, we were greeted with the hustle and bustle of the city, along with rain and cold temps. A little rain didn’t stop us as we made our way to the hotel, and then headed out to explore the city.

Our first destination was Rockefeller Plaza. As we rounded the corner with our umbrellas in hand, the brightly lit tree brought a smile to my face. We ventured into a wine bar, located right across from the tree in Rockefeller Plaza called Morrell Wine Bar and Cafe. As we browsed the enormous wine list, I settled on a glass of fruit forward French wine from Côtes du Rhône. A warm plate of olives and shaved Brussels sprouts with Applewood smoked bacon were a magnificent treat as we planned our Saturday itinerary.

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Our next stop was to Tiffany’s…. Need I say more? Although a few pieces were quite tempting, simply observing the gems was quite the experience.

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To end the evening, we headed over to Radio City Music Hall, where we had tickets for the 9:30pm showing of The Radio City Christmas Spectacular. Believe me, it absolutely was a spectacular show! The Rockettes, alongside the parade of wooden soldiers, the telling of the Christmas Story with live camels and donkeys and 3D glasses, what more could one ask for?  It truly was an unforgettable experience inside this iconic music hall.

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Stay tuned for day 2 adventures!

Carrot and Sweet Potato Soup

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As we head into the winter months, making a pot of hearty, spicy soup may just do the trick to warm your body and please your palate. Creating a soup with odds and ends in your fridge along with some unfamiliar ingredients from your spice rack may give you that confidence that yes, you ARE a fabulous cook! It’s a great way to experiment with tastes and textures of foods you are longing to eat together in one spoonful. For me, the taste of carrot and sweet potato crossed my mind. I share with you the results. It will be sure to warm your body through.

Carrot and Sweet Potato Soup

Serves 4-5

Ingredients:

4 ¼ cups Free Range Chicken Broth Low Sodium, divided

1 yellow onion, chopped

2-3 garlic cloves, minced

2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped

1 pound carrots, peeled and chopped

1 bay leaf

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (if you aren’t a fan of ‘heat’ in your soup, I would reduce to a pinch)

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

½ teaspoon fine sea salt

½ teaspoon ground black pepper

1 tablespoon dried parsley flakes

Optional garnish:

¼ cup raw pecans

1 tablespoon olive oil

Directions:

  1. Heat ¼ cup broth in a six quart pot over medium heat. Once heated, add in the onions and garlic. Stir the mixture occasionally until the onions are softened.
  2. Add the sweet potatoes, carrots, bay leaf and 3 cups broth. Cover and turn to medium high heat to start simmering. Once simmering, turn heat down to medium and simmer about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Add remaining spices. Simmer another 5-7 minutes until potatoes and carrots are soft enough to pierce with a fork.
  4. Add last cup of broth, simmer 5 minutes.
  5. Take out bay leaf.
  6. Use a ladle to scoop soup into blender, filling one third of the way full.
  7. Use oven mitt to hold lid down and blend until smooth.
  8. Enjoy!

Optional garnish: Heat iron skillet, add olive oil and brown pecans 3-5 minutes.Top soup with pecans.

Winter Vegetable Soup

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Colder weather is upon us, which means soup season is here. There is nothing like the smell of garlic and onion sizzling in olive oil, starting the base of a hearty soup. Soup is one of those one-pot meals that once cooked, can last for days with the same sense of delight and satisfaction when eating it, as the first day. Not to mention your kitchen will have the lingering aroma of carrots, celery and herbs for a day or two.

Being brought up on canned soups, the thought of making soup from scratch was always a little daunting. Recipes were always a must to start cooking anything, making my own modifications as seemed fit. After recognizing typical ingredients and serving sizes of herbs and spices in soup recipes, I decided to embark on my own soup making adventure. The following recipe is the result of my first home-made soup recipe that I am able to call my own. I am thrilled to be able to share it with you!

Winter Vegetable Soup

Serves 8-10

Ingredients:

Turkey:

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 pound ground turkey

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon dried basil

½ teaspoon fine sea salt

¼ cup low sodium free range chicken broth

Soup:

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 large yellow onion, chopped

2-3 garlic cloves, minced

1 pound carrots, peeled and chopped

1 pound celery, chopped

3 small sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped

3 ¾ cup low sodium free range chicken broth, divided

1 bay leaf

1 teaspoon dried parsley

½ teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon black pepper

½ teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon dried basil

Dash cayenne pepper

Salt and pepper to taste

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Directions:

  1. Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium heat. Once heated, brown the ground turkey, about 8-10 minutes.  When browned, add oregano, basil, salt and broth. Simmer over low-medium heat for 5-10 minutes.
  2. As the turkey is browning, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a six quart pot. Once heated, add in the onions and garlic. Stir the mixture occasionally until the onions are softened.
  3. Stir in the carrots, celery, sweet potatoes, 1 bay leaf and 1 ¾ cup broth to onion mixture. Stir occasionally and simmer about 5 minutes.IMG_0062
  4. Add in the remaining herbs and spices, keep at a simmer until potatoes are soft enough to pierce with a fork, stirring occasionally.
  5. Once potatoes are soft, add in and stir turkey into vegetable mixture.
  6. Add the remaining 2 cups broth to the pot and simmer on low-medium heat 10-15 minutes to meld the flavors.
  7. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  8. Enjoy!

** Add chopped mushrooms to soup when re- heating to give extra earthiness to the dish.

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