Soup for the soul, soup for the body

At long last winter's chill has plunged the Chicago area into a deep freeze. When faced with weather such as this the foods we eat or crave need a certain body to them. One of these important dishes is soup. In American folklore, chicken soup is said to be a healing meal.

One thing we do know for sure is that soup can be exceptionally nutritious to the building and repairing of our bodies, while at the same time being extremely satisfying to a wide variety of the needs of our taste buds.

At my house I make large pots of soup, cool them down, and then portion them into individual servings for my freezer. Of course I label these, with the contents and date. The best way to thaw the soup is to place in the refrigerator overnight, but I don't always remember to do this. So sometimes I need to take the soup container out of the freezer and place the container it in a pan of warm water. This will begin to thaw the soup.

After the frozen block of soup has begun to thaw I can place it in a pot and turn on the heat, medium-low. The soup warms in short order and I'm having a delicious, nutritious meal.

I hope you try this soup recipe, even to the point of freezing for future use. Get the most out of your ingredients, and the most out of your cooking efforts.

Lentil Soup
Serves 8

1 Tbl canola oil
1 medium onion, small dice
2 cloves fresh garlic, crushed
2 celery ribs, cleaned small dice
2 carrots, cleaned small dice
2 quarts chicken stock
2 Bay Leaves
2 cups dried lentils, rinsed and cleaned
Pinch red pepper flakes
1 can diced tomatoes, with juice
1.5 cups diced, cooked meat. (Such as chicken breast, or ham)
1 6 to 7 oz bag of fresh baby spinach, chopped
Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
Parmigiano Reggiano, grated for garnish

In your stockpot heat the oil and add the onion, sweat for 5 to 6 minutes. Add the garlic, stir and cook for 1 to 2 minutes.

Add the stock, lentils, bay leaves and red pepper flakes, bring to a simmer. Cook the lentils on until tender, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Add the carrots, celery, spinach, tomato and the ham or chicken. Simmer for 10 more minutes. Remove bay leaves. Adjust your seasonings with the salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Ladle out your servings and top with a sprinkle of Parmigiano Reggiano.

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