I was away, on the east coast, for about 2.5 weeks. Peyman and I spent time with our niece, Roya, in New York and had an amazing vegan food adventure. We tried new restaurants almost every day for lunch and dinner. When we left New York, he flew to Europe for business and I went to Florida to meet my mom and sister’s family, who recently moved there.
Before my trip to the east coast, my sister and I discussed how I would consult her on cooking healthy, nutritiously and deliciously for her family.
Good thing they have a Whole Foods Market not too far away from her home. We did some serious food shopping there for the week when I arrived.
One thing I love about cooking at home is that I’m in control of the amount of fat and salt in my food. Eating out every day in New York was a wonderful luxury and provided me with great research; however, it was so pricey and who knows if the cooks in the back were heavy-handed with oils and salt, if they used agave, had traces of gluten in their food, and what if the workers weren’t the most sanitary?! I’ve worked in professional kitchens– I know what can go on back there. EEeek! I much prefer eating at home than going out all the time. There are those days, though, when I need a break from cooking so we need to eat out to maintain my sanity. That happens at least once a week.
While in Florida, we discovered that there is only one great Indian restaurant near my sister’s house and only one “vegan” restaurant in her city. That “vegan” restaurant, however, was located one door down from a crematorium. Sounds like a paradox, right? I remember leaving the restaurant and smelling barbecue, but my mom, sister, and I noticed there weren’t any other restaurants around. We were creeped out and don’t think we’ll go there again. Too bad, though, because their food was good. Just wish they had a better location where ashes weren’t floating in the air. Ewww…sorry for the visual.
Anyway, we didn’t do much eating out while I was at my sister’s for a week and a half.
We started every day with a glowing green smoothie and I made quite a few dishes and desserts, including yellow curry, noodles with Asian peanut sauce, chocolate chai cookies, and my nutty creamy chocolate cake. To my delight, my vegan and gluten-free recipes were a hit with the family, even the kids, and especially the vegan sweet treats! It warms my heart to see them eat my food, smile, genuinely enjoy it and ask for seconds or thirds.
Speaking about warming the heart, it rains a lot in Florida, and usually the rain stops and the skies clear up. One day, though, there was so much rain, thunder and lighting that my nephew and niece couldn’t attend their daily tennis academy. I felt that a soothing, comforting and warming hearty soup was the best meal for a rainy day. Since my sister had been asking me to make something with lentils since she picked me up from the airport, I decided to make a lentil soup. While I was preparing it in the kitchen, my niece handed me a box of elbow pasta and said she really liked pasta. At that moment, I decided to make my lentil soup an Italian lentil soup. How would it be Italian? I decided to add some elbow pasta, and pasta is Italian!
It’s a super simple, hearty soup. It’s super easy to make and soothing on a gloomy, rainy day. I hope you enjoy it!
Here’s the recipe.
Italian Lentil Soup
1 medium onion, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
sea salt and cayenne pepper
4 roma tomatoes, diced
1.5 cup lentils
11 cups of low-sodium vegetable stock
4-6 fresh thyme sprigs or 1.5tsp dry thyme
1/4 tsp rosemary
1/2 tsp oregano, heaping
2 bay leaves
2/3 cup gluten-free elbow pasta or swirls (there are quinoa, corn, and rice pastas)
nutritional yeast, optional (for garnish)
1. In a large stock pot, add the onion, garlic, carrots, 1/8 tsp of sea salt and 3 shakes of cayenne pepper. Saute for 5-8 minutes, over medium heat until tender. (You do not need oil since there is so much moisture from the veggies. Stir occasionally, ensuring the garlic doesn’t burn and turn the soup bitter.)
2. Add tomatoes and their juices. Simmer until juices evaporate a little and tomatoes break down, stirring occasionally for about 8 minutes.
3. Add lentils, mix to coat, then add vegetable stock and thyme. Bring to a boil over high heat. Cover and simmer for about 30 minutes until lentils are almost tender.
4. Stir in the pasta and simmer until the pasta is tender but still firm, about 8 minutes.
5. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and top with nutritional yeast, if you wish.
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