The high in East Tennessee was 48 degrees (I’m writing this on November 26th). Tonight my weather app says it’s 26 outside. It sure felt like 26 when I sprinted to the mailbox with no jacket and bare feet! There’s no way I can get away with a sweatshirt and jeans this winter. This California girl has some things to learn! I need to buy some serious winter apparel or I’ll have hypothermia come February. But I do have to say how fun it is to wear boots and scarves for their intended purpose! It’s not a fashion statement out here, I legitimately need them!
This being said, the weather and holiday season call for cozy, body-warming food. What is better than a hot bowl of soup snuggled on the couch while it rains (or snows!) outside? The smell, taste, and warmth create instant memories that stick to your bones just like the hearty broth. This lentil soup is something I tried out to use up some of my Thanksgiving day leftovers. It can be made with Italian sausage, chicken, turkey, lamb, beef, or even meatless. If your tummy is still as full as mine is from last Thursday, try leaving out the meat for a healthier version. The lentils will still provide richness since they easily soak up the flavor they are cooked in. 1 cup of lentils also provides 90% of recommended daily folate and 63% of needed fiber.
Start by chopping up onion, carrots, and celery. 1 cup of each should be plenty but I always add extra.
Pour these into a stock pot with 2 tablespoons of oil over medium heat. Let them cook a few minutes until they are softened.
Once the veggies are tenderized, add your meat. My hubby loves Italian sausage and I don’t make it very often, so I decided to surprise him! I don’t eat pork because it doesn’t agree with me. Horrible stomach cramps plague me. Basically, that’s a nice way of saying that when I do eat it, I spend the rest of the day sitting on the toilet or hunched over it. My gut just has a hard time breaking it down. Unfortunately this means no bacon, pork chops, ribs, or sausage.
I know what you’re thinking, “You can’t eat bacon?!” Yes, it is a sad thing. It smells so good. It’s so crunchy. Would it hurt if I just had a little nibble? I had that very same thought and decided to give it a shot at a restaurant during Christmas break with my in-laws. It tasted so delicious but 20 minutes later I was hurling in the ladies’ room. The only thing that is worse than throwing up is throwing up in PUBLIC! I was SOOOOOOOO embarrassed! Needless to say, I made myself the vegetarian version tonight.
(Good one, Heidi! This will REALLY make people want to read your food blog! Sorry, I digress. I hope I didn’t gross you out! I assure you the Italian sausage is delightful. My husband went back for seconds and my son licked the bowl!)
If you are going for meat, add it in here and crumble it so it can cook evenly. If you have turkey leftovers, add in the neck and innards. They can add flavor to the soup as it cooks but can be removed before serving. Let the meat brown with the veggies until all the pink is gone.
Once browned, add 1 and 1/2 cups of lentils. Any kind is fine. I used brown lentils. Toss in a few bay leaves as well.
Now pour in 6 cups of chicken stock. Here is a good place to use leftover turkey drippings and broth from Thanksgiving. If you don’t have 6 cups worth of stock, that’s fine. Make up the difference with chicken broth or water. Don’t use more than 2 cups of water or you will lose the flavor. Toss in 1 teaspoon of each: kosher salt, black pepper, parsley, and oregano. Bring all of these ingredients to a boil.
Once boiling, reduce the heat to medium/low and cover the pot. Let it simmer for 20 minutes or until the lentils are tender.
While the soup is simmering, pull out a 9 oz bag of spinach and pull off any lengthy stems. Of course you can leave the stems, but I hate getting those things stuck in my teeth and I find that they create a hint of bitterness.
Once the lentils are tender, put the spinach in and stir it around. It will wilt in about a minute or two. When that happens, turn the heat off and fish out the bay leaves.
Now ladle it into your favorite bowl and slurp it up! Stay warm and Happy Thanksgiving!
- 2 Tbsp oil
- 1 cup diced onion
- 1 cup chopped carrot
- 1 cup chopped celery
- 8 oz Italian sausage (or other meat)
- 6 cups chicken broth
- 1 and ½ cup dried lentils
- 4 bay leaves
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1 tsp oregano
- 1 tsp parsley
- 9 oz baby spinach
- Heat oil in a stock pot and add onion, carrots, and celery. Cook 5 minutes.
- Add meat, cook until crumbled and brown.
- Add broth, lentils, bay leaves, and seasonings. Bring to a boil.
- Reduce heat and cover. Let simmer 20 minutes or until lentils are tender.
- Add spinach. Stir to wilt.
- Remove bay leaves and serve.