Simple yet sumptuous

Last night I made lentil soup. In order to include some fat, I sprinkled goat's cheese on it after I took the picture.

I know everyone knows how to make lentil soup. I'm just reminding you that it's so easy and delicious. If you live where I do, the evenings are getting foggy and windy. Perfect soup weather.

Here's my basic recipe.

1 cup lentils, washed and examined for stones
1 medium white or yellow onion, chopped
About a thumb's worth of minced garlic (If your thumb is bigger than mine then clearly you need more garlic.)
A carrot, sliced into rounds
One rib celery (But who has one rib of celery? I usually leave out the celery)
Can of crushed tomatoes, including the tomato water
A few handfuls of chopped kale or mixed braising greens
A bunch of herbs (This soup had dried rosemary, thyme, sage, and tarragon, tied up in a cheesecloth, later to be removed and composted.)
Splash of olive oil
Salt & pepper
5 cups of water
If you eat dairy, garnish with some kind of fabulous cheese--asiago, real parmesan, or chevré.

Take your heavy bottom soup pot and heat your olive oil up a bit over medium-low flame.

Throw in the chopped onion for about five minutes and stir it around occasionally.

Add your minced garlic and your carrot rounds and celery for about five minutes, stirring about sometimes.

Now put in the tomato, your cheesecloth herb ball and some salt. Let it all cook for about ten more minutes.

Toss in your lentils and five cups of water and bring to a gentle boil for a moment, then put the lid on.

Simmer for about forty minutes, or until your lentil are cooked but not falling apart.

Remove from heat, free the herb ball, salt and pepper to your preference and stir in your chopped kale or greens.

Put in a bowl and garnish if you wish.

Store the rest in glass and eat over brown rice in the future.

One pot makes approximately five servings.



Dear Ms. W,

I am wondering about powders that you mix into drinks to make them fortified (and hopefully, their drinker fortified as well). I look at the packets and containers in the health food store and am kind of appalled—lots of them have evaporated cane juice and also many other ingredients I cannot pronounce or identify. There are quite a few that claim to be gluten-free and these seem to have the most healthful i.e. least manufactured i.e. most food-like attributes. Are there any you can recommend? Preferably that do not turn one's smoothie bright green?

Love, your faithful reader, etc.

Dear Faithful,

It is appalling! I too am frustrated by the near-universal sweetening and chemicalizing of the American food supply.

Of course the makers of powders have a good reason to add 'evaporated cane juice' and 'organic fructose' (that's corporate organic code for sugar) to their elixirs--their powders usually taste awful without sugaring .

That said, I have limited experience with fortifying powders. I have used the powders that one can add to smoothies.

Is this what you mean, Faithful? Or are you thinking more along the lines of (fructose-sweetened) Emergen-C?

I have used two different supplement powders in the past six years and drank Emergen-C very occasionally.

Both of them resulted in a vibrant green smoothies, unless I used a cup or more of blueberries.

The powder I have used the most is Ultimate Meal. It's got a comprehensive ingredient list that prompted a beloved to remark that it's globalization in a can. There are no unpronounceable mystery ingredients.

To me, Ultimate Meal tastes green and chalky even when prepared exactly as directed. (And the Ultimate Meal people are very directive.) I prefer it with a cup of blueberries. The website is quite emphatic about the product and their beliefs regarding human nutrition, and while I find this off-putting, they seem to be offering a high quality product.

Personally, I shy away from powders these days. They were a helpful nutritional short-cuts during darker days when I wasn't eating solid food, let alone complete meals.

Nowadays, if I want a smoothie, a high-speed blender allows me to purée many nutritious ingredients together.

For example, I might put in a base of fruits, including frozen berries, and then add hemp seeds, raw cacoa nibs and bee pollen. I've put walnuts and kale in with blueberries. Enough berries will obscure the taste of crumbled seaweeds as well.

If you're seeking high quality nutrient fortified convenience, I would go with the Ultimate Meal. Know that like most organically grown value-added unsweetened foodstuffs, it has a hefty ultimate price tag.

The price of inadequate nutrition, fatigue, irritability and potential loss of bone-density is higher in my book, though. So if you're not finding that you're eating fruits and vegetables several times a day and/or not consuming the amount of calories you need to maintain a healthy weight, high-quality nutrition powder blended with fruits and/or vegetables could be a good option--and if you add enough blueberries your smoothie will be bright blue! Perhaps you'll find blue more palatable.

Also, speaking of imbibable nutrient dense foods, I've become a fan of goat's milk kefir in the last month. While it's more expensive than cultured cow's milk, it's much richer so I find I drink less of it per week and enjoy it more.

Note to celiacs: Emergen-C now states that none of their products contain gluten.


Thanks to Gluten-Free Kathy for a nice cup of herbal tea

Tonight I am reveling in cabin-sitting on Mount Tam's southern big toe.

I made dinner (a bowl of sautéed shiitakes, braised greens, red quinoa with chevré) using a borrowed never-been-glutened cast-iron omelet skillet and pristine bamboo cutting board.

In a bag of safe foods left by the friend who'd provided the equipment, I found Yogi Tea packets. As I have mentioned in a previous post herbal teas can contain all sorts of things--including barley malt.

So I went to the internets to see if I could drink Sweet Thai Delight. Yogi Tea has a lush website but I could not find any allergy or ingredient sourcing information.

Quickly I found that Gluten-Free Kathy had already written to Yogi Tea and blogged the company's response.

Thus I had a lovely evening cup of herbal tea while enjoying Gluten-Free Kathy's wonderful blog.