Thursday, August 21, 2014

Family Favorite Recipes: Restaurant Worthy Lentil Soup

This Lentil Soup recipe is one of my family's favorite. It's gluten and dairy free but still manages to be creamy, filling, and satisfying. The bacon adds the heartiness, but since it only calls for 3 slices, it's budget friendly. (Simply freeze the leftover bacon in increments of 3 slices.) We grow thyme in the backyard, and I've decided I absolutely love the taste of it. The soup is slightly smoky, creamy, and has a beautiful balance of flavors.

This soup is better than most soups I've gotten at restaurants and have paid $8 a bowl for. This soup is only $1.25 per serving! Serve with a loaf of crusty french bread, and you have perfection!

Restaurant Worthy Lentil Soup--serves 6
(adapted from America's Test Kitchen)

-3 slices bacon, cut into 1/4 inch pieces
-1/2 large onion, chopped
-2 carrots, peeled and chopped
-3 cloves garlic, minced
-(1) 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes (undrained)
-1 bay leaf
-1 tsp fresh thyme leaves, minced
-1 C green lentils, rinsed and picked over (pick out any stones)
-1 tsp salt
-1/2 C dry white wine
-4 C chicken stock
-1 1/2 C water
-1 1/2 tsp balsamic vinegar
-4 oz. fresh baby spinach
-pepper to taste

1. Fry the bacon in a large stock pot (I use a cast iron dutch oven) over medium high heat, stirring, until fat is rendered and bacon is crisp. About 3-4 minutes.

2. Add the onions and carrots and cook, stirring, until vegetables begin to soften. About 3-5 minutes.

3. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds, then stir in the lentils, the 1 tsp of salt, and pepper to taste. Cover, and reduce heat to medium low, and cook until vegetables are soft. About 10 minutes.

4. Uncover, increase the heat to high, add the wine and bring to a simmer. Add the broth and water and bring to a boil. Once it reaches a boil, reduce the heat to low and cover the pot partially. Simmer until lentils are tender but not overcooked, about 30-35 minutes. Discard the bay leaf.

5. Puree 3 cups of the soup in a blender until smooth, then return to the pot. Add the balsamic vinegar (it gives the soup a really nice balance) and stir, heating until hot.

6. Add the fresh spinach, and cook a few minutes until wilted. Serve with crusty french bread or biscuits and enjoy!

Cost Breakdown (vinegar, salt, and pepper are freebies)
Bacon-$5 for a pack of 12 slices. Freezing in increments of 3 slices, each pack of 3 is $1.25
Onion-$0.69. Saving remainder of onion, each half is $0.35
-2 Carrots-$0.50
-3 cloves Garlic- each head of garlic is $0.50. Saving remainder, three cloves amounts to about $0.10
-Can Diced Tomatoes-$0.50
-1 Bay Leaf-$0.05
-Thyme-if grown outdoors, free. If purchased, $0.50
-1 C green lentils-$0.90 (purchase in bulk section of your local health food store)
-1/2 C white wine-I purchase "2 Buck Chuck" and use it for cooking. Each 1/2 C increment equates to about $0.40
-4 C Chicken Stock-$2.00
-4 oz Baby Spinach-$1.00

Total Cost-$7.55, or $1.25 per serving.

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