A Weekend with Friends

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January 19, 2013 by caitlinvaclark

I’ve already checked many important things off my visit bucket list: had a Bachelor Monday girls night, awesome Mexican food for dinner Tuesday night, caught up on Top Chef Seattle, and managed to go insane at Trader Joe’s:

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Probably didn’t need to buy all the things, right? A case of wine, really, Caitlin? No, I’m not planning on taking all that wine back to London. They do have wine there too. But I got very excited for the boozy weekend we have in store. Chris arrived yesterday, making it out before another London “snow storm.” (What’s with this weather? Have I mentioned that I brought the rain and cloudy skies with me to Atlanta? Thankfully, today is gorgeous!) And we are spending the weekend cooking up amazing food, watching some real-time college basketball and NFL playoffs, and yes, drinking lots and lots of wine.

While the weekend will likely be indulgent, I have stuck to my plan of healthy meals this week. I’ve cooked up a few hearty soups for the new parents to enjoy.  The first one, my lentil soup recipe, is a take on one my mother made me as a little girl. Her trick to getting a young one to enjoy such a superfood healthy dinner was easy: BACON.

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I start by crisping bacon in the base of a soup pot. Reserve the bacon for a yummy crumbly topping (or if you plan to freeze the soup, just stir it back in at the end).

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In a small amount of the bacon drippings, sauté onion, carrot, and celery until it has softened.

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Add the lentils, thyme, and pepper. Hold off on seasoning with salt, as the bacon and broth may be enough for your taste. Then add some red wine, because what soup isn’t better with a boozy base?

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My second secret weapon is mushroom broth, which gives the soup an awesome, earthy taste.  I have found this a bit hard to find. Pacific makes a great one and it is definitely worth searching out for this recipe. But if you couldn’t get your hands on mushroom broth, use about steep ¼ ounce of dried mushrooms in 1 ½ cups of boiling water, drain, and add to 5 cups of chicken broth.

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Simmer the soup with the mushroom broth for 30 minutes. If I were serving this immediately, I would crumble the bacon on top of each individual bowl. This version is going into the freezer for a later date, so I added the bacon back in.

Hearty Lentil Soup

Serves 6

6 oz. center cut bacon

1/3 cup diced yellow onion

1/3 cup diced carrot

1/3cupdiced celery

16 oz. dried lentils

1 tsp dried thyme

¼ tsp pepper

½ cup red wine

6 ½ cups mushroom broth*

Salt to taste

Cut the bacon into bite sized pieces and fry in the base of a soup pot. Cook for 5-8 minutes, until the pieces are browned and crispy. Remove from the pot and reserve.

Drain off all but ½ Tbs of bacon grease. Return soup pot to the stove over medium heat. Add onions, carrot, and celery to the pot. Sauté for 5 minutes. Then mix in the lentils, thyme, and pepper.

Pour in the red wine and cook for 2 minutes to reduce.  Pour the broth into the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for 30 minutes.

Taste the soup for seasoning, and add salt or more pepper if necessary. Serve the soup with bacon crumbled on top, or if freezing, mix bacon directly into the soup, cool and then freeze.

*If you can’t find mushroom broth, use 5 cups chicken broth and 1 ½ cups water that has been steeped with ¼ ounce dried mushrooms (drained).

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