simple & easy lentil soup

No plant-based food blog would be complete without a delicious lentil soup.

And this one has been a long time coming. I'm a little embarrassed to say I've been perfecting it for years because it really is so simple, but it's the truth and it's just as delicious as it is easy to make.

This soup is made from staple pantry items, including a couple spices, and fresh veggies. The total active time involved is 10 minutes at the most to peel and chop three carrots and mince some garlic. Totally manageable. The other 30 minutes is just letting the soup simmer and do it's thing as the flavors develop. This ease makes it the perfect recipe to make on a Sunday and enjoy for lunch or dinner throughout the week, or as a last minute week night meal.

If you're a veteran to plant-based cooking, lentils are probably always on your grocery list. And if you're new to all this, here's why lentils are going to become your new favorite legume. Of all nuts and legumes, lentils contain the third-highest level of protein and provide steady, slow-burning energy due to their fiber and complex carbohydrates. They're also high in iron, with just one cup providing 36% of the daily recommended value. Futhermore, several studies have shown that eating lentils can lower your risk of heart disease. So basically, this is a seriously delicious soup you can feel amazing about eating.

Although we're moving through spring and soups are more of a fall thing, I didn't want to hold out on posting this one until then. And if the climate where you live is anything like San Francisco, you've still been experiencing plenty of 60 degree days with only occasional warmer weather, so this soup still has plenty of mileage.

If you make this recipe and want to share, remember to use #sprinklesandsaturdays on social media!

Ingredients (Serves 4-6):
- Drizzle of olive oil
- 4 large cloves garlic, minced
- 3 carrots, peeled and chopped into small pieces
- 4 cups vegetable broth
- 2.5 cups cooked lentils (you can buy these precooked at Trader Joe's or prepare you own)
- 1 can white beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 can diced tomatoes
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tablespoon onion powder
- 3 large handfuls of spinach

- Drizzle olive oil in a large pot over medium high heat. Add garlic and cook for about 1 minute before adding all ingredients except the spinach and seasoning with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 30 minutes uncovered, adding spinach in the last couple of minutes.

mexican cauliflower rice bowls

Before we get to this bowl of deliciousness, let's get one thing out of the way.

I don't hate rice. Rice is delicious, satisfying and (the brown rice variety) is very healthy. I love using rice in tons of ways and just about always have those frozen brown rice bags from Trader Joe's stocked in my freezer. But rice is not always the answer to every bowl situation, like when you're trying to fill a very large bowl, for example, and don't want to put yourself in a carb como. In those instances, knowing how to make cauliflower rice comes in handy.

Although it seems a bit different, it's actually very easy to transform a head of cauliflower into rice and anyone can do it. You can use a food processor, cheese grater or just buy those cauliflower rice bags from TJ's that are already made. The recipe below will tell you how to make cauliflower rice using a food processor and, once you know how to do that, you can use it in all kinds of ways like Asian stir-frys, with curry or Mexican, as shown here.

Just to clarify, cauliflower rice won't actually taste like rice, it more so resembles the consistency and picks up the flavors of whatever spices or sauces you pair with it. Cauliflower is amazing at this carb illusion, and you can find another one of my favorite recipes where it resembles mashed potatoes here.

So back to these bowls! I love just about any kind of rice bowl but these mexican cauliflower rice bowls get me especially excited. I've always been a volume eater, which makes portion control a challenge. Since this recipe is essentially just tons of veggies with black beans, spices and no oil you can throw calorie counting out the window and serve yourself as much as you want.

Again, I don't hate oil, just as I don't hate rice. It's just that, there is a time and a place for it where you really receive the benefits in flavor and utility and this recipe doesn't need it. Cooking the veggies in vegetable broth instead of oil results in the exact same flavors and textures (I've tried it both ways) so my thought is, why not just leave it out?

Oil or no oil, this recipe has become one my favorites I find myself making weekly. Make sure you add a generous squeeze of lime and tons of cilantro on top to really bring in that delicious freshness.

Ingredients (Serves 4):
- 1 head cauliflower
- 1/4 vegetable broth
- 2 carrots, peeled and chopped into small pieces
- 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
- 1/2 cooked corn
- 1 tablespoons ancho chile powder (or more or less depending how spicy you want it)
- 1/3 cup tomato sauce (I use TJ's pizza sauce -- seems a little weird but seriously yum)
- 2 large handfuls spinach
- 1 avocado, cut into cubes
- Cilantro
- Limes

- Place cauliflower florets in a food processor and pulse until broken down to rice-sized pieces and set aside. Make sure not to over pulse here, or it can get a bit mushy when cooked. If you have a large head of cauliflower, you may need to do this in two batches.

- Add 2 tablespoons of the vegetable broth to a pan over medium-high heat, adding chopped carrots once heated and cook for a couple minutes. Add the remaining two tablespoons of vegetable broth and the cauliflower rice and cook for another 5 minutes.

-Stir in the black beans, corn, ancho chile powder, tomato sauce, salt and pepper and cook until everything is heated through. Finally, stir in the spinach until wilted. Place in bowls and top with avocado and a generous amount of cilantro and lime juice.

pan toasted balsamic mushroom gnocchi

Let's talk about all the delicious things on this plate.

Pillowy gnocchi. Caramelized cremini mushrooms. Rich balsamic. A touch of Earth Balance. Fresh arugula. Crunchy toasted walnuts. And a big squeeze of lemon.

Whenever I'm at an Italian restaurant or just generally surrounded by pasta choices, nine times out of ten I will choose gnocchi because, when it's done right, it's really incredible. After passing by the gnocchi in the pasta section of Trader Joe's over and over again, I finally decided to experiment with it and couldn't be happier with the result.

The first time I made this gnocchi was a Monday night when my boyfriend came over for dinner after work.The two of us ended up standing in the kitchen eating gnocchi after gnocchi out of the pan before serving what was actually left onto our plates, topping it with the arugula, walnuts and lemon and realizing it was even more incredible when complete. I've made this dish several times since then and it never fails.

One of my favorite things about it is the amazing flavor you get from using just one tablespoon of Earth Balance. I wanted to avoid adding a bunch of butter to prevent it from getting too greasy and taking away from the natural decadence of the gnocchi. I'm so happy I tried it this way because one tablespoon is more than enough to allow the gnocchi to get toasty in the pan and still feel deliciously indulgent.

Also, don't forgot to enter my giveaway to win some delicious plant-based treats!

Ingredients (serves 2):
- 1 lb gnocchi
- 16 oz cremini mushrooms, sliced
- 5 large cloves garlic, minced
- Olive oil
- 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon Earth Balance (vegan butter found at Trader Joe's or Whole Foods)
- Arugula
- Walnuts
- Lemon

- Put a large pot of water to boil. Drizzle a small amount of olive oil in a large skillet and cook the mushrooms on medium high for about 5 minutes until liquid is released and cooked off and they start to brown. Do not over crowd the mushrooms in the skillet, if you need to do this in two parts to get all the mushrooms on one even layer no problem! Add 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar to the mushrooms and cook another 5 minutes or so until golden brown. Remove from skillet and set aside.

- Salt the boiling water and add gnocchi. Meanwhile, add the Earth Balance to the skillet adding the minced garlic when it has melted. As the gnocchi floats to the top of the water, spoon it out and into the skillet. Once all the gnocchi are in the skillet, add the remaining tablespoon of balsamic vinegar and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring only occasionally so the gnocchi can brown on the sides. Stir in mushrooms.

- To toast the walnuts, heat them in a skillet for one to two minutes over medium heat until they are golden brown and smell toasty. They can burn easily so stir often. Allow them to cool and then roughly chop.

- Divide gnocchi on two plates and top each with a small handful of arugula, toasted walnuts and big squeeze of lemon.

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