Leek and Mushroom Lentil Soup

It's the same thing every year. After a few days of warm, sunny weather, I convince myself that spring is here to stay, optimistically stuff my winter coats away, switch out my boots for ballet flats and pull out my sunglasses. Without fail, within the same week winter comes back and slaps some sense into me with another cold spell. Or at least it did last week.

Cooking a warm, hearty soup was the only way to cheer myself up again. This one is chock full of meaty mushroms and protein-packed lentils and I promise it tastes 1,000x better than any canned soup from the store. Plus you can control the amount of sodium yourself. If you're new to soup making, don't worry. It's actually easy as can be. There are basically two steps: You sautee stuff then add liquid and lentils and let everything simmer. The end. 

Besides being simple to prepare, this meal is great for you and lentils* are kind of the star:
  • Low in sodium compared to most canned soups. 
  • Filled with protein from the lentils that helps build strong muscles (18 grams per cup cooked lentils)
  • Lentils are also a great source of soluble fiber (16 grams per cup cooked lentils), which helps lower cholesterol and stabilize blood sugar (prevent spikes that cause insulin production and activation of fat storage) and makes sure you won't be hungry again in 15 minutes. High-fiber diets are also associated with lower risk of cancer and heart disease
  • Lentils also provide a great source of iron (1 cup = 37% RDV), which helps transport oxygen to the body and brain and is critical in red blood cell production. Getting enough iron is especially important for women as we are required to produce new red blood cells once a month.
  • Lentils also give you a boost of manganese, which is essential for wound healing, peak brain function and proper metabolism of sugars, insulin and cholesterol! 1 cup of cooked lentils will give you almost 50% of your RVD. 
  • Leeks and carrots are packed with carotenoids, which have a range of benefits, but are most celebrated for boosting eye health.
*click for nutrition data
Leek and Mushroom Lentil Soup

Serves 5.
Prep time: 10-15 min. Total Time: 35-40 min.

Olive oil
600 grams/20 oz. portobello mushrooms, diced
1 large leek, white part only, cut in half and finely chopped (approx. 1 cup)

3 large carrots, diced
3 celery stalks, diced
1 1/2 cups green lentils, washed and drained (remove any small dirt or shriveled lentils)
1, 15 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 T. tomato paste
6 cups broth or water (additional if too much cooks off)
1 tsp. basil
1 tsp. thyme
1/2 tsp. salt and pepper

Garnish/Serve with: Freshly grated parmesan, fresh chopped parsley, basil pesto, tabasco

1. Bring a large pot to medium-high heat, add 2 tablespoons of oil and the mushrooms, leek, carrots and celery. Saute until mushrooms let off their moisture and begin to brown, approx. 8 minutes. 
2. Add lentils, crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, broth, basil and thyme (wait to salt until lentils are cooked). Bring to a boil then simmer uncovered until lentils are soft, approx. 25 minutes. Add additional broth as needed.
3. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve with freshly grated parmesan, chopped parsley, basil pesto or tabasco. 

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