Hearty, Healthy Fall Soups and Stews
Like many Southern women, fall is my favorite of all the seasons. Football kicks off by way of tailgates, game day shirts, and trays of sausage balls. The sun sharpens, spotlighting the changing leaves. The air cools, offering a much needed respite from the sweltering summer oven that we call our backyard. Finally, the grill sits covered more and more often as I return to my stove, welcoming its warmth as it fills my kitchen.
The wonderful fact about soups is they are almost always healthy (except maybe you, chowders and bisques). Beans offer fiber, folate (a mood booster), iron, and a protein boost. Add in some kale, spinach or other dark, leafy greens and you give your family a dose of immunity-boosting phytochemicals, antioxidants, and beta-carotene. Tomatoes are packed with lycopene, a cancer-fighting antioxidant. Finally, you can give your soups and stews a punch of flavor with herbs and spices: all flavor, no calories or fat. While it may be tempting to whip out your trusty can opener and zap a pre-made version in the microwave, these recipes you can make at home will give you more of the good stuff to savor and none of the preservatives, added salt, and other unpronounceable ingredients we would rather do without.
So, with all of these warm, fuzzy fall feelings and a renewed affection for the kitchen after what may have been a summer-long hiatus, coming up are my favorite delicious, healthy soups to try out before the trees go bare.
One of my biggest kitchen inspirations is my grandmother. She was born and raised in rural Mississippi, but she married a second-generation Lebanese jeweler, so her cooking style is a unique combination of Mediterranean flavors and southern soul. Stuffed squash, tabbouleh, fried chicken, kibbe: these are her varied specialties. My sister and I could eat her lentils every single day and never get tired of it. Serve with crusty bread and a simple salad with lemon-mint vinaigrette.
Mamaw’s Lentil Soup
2 cups dried lentils
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp butter (optional, but this small amount really makes a difference!)
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 32 oz carton reduced-sodium chicken broth + water to cover beans by about an inch
Salt and Pepper to taste
½ cup rice (you can use white or brown, but Mamaw uses white, but brown is suggested for higher nutrient density)
1 cup chopped carrots (you can use regular carrots and chop, but mamaw sometimes just halves baby carrots and throws them in.)
½ cup green bell pepper, optional
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
Place beans and water to cover in a large pot and bring to a boil. Once bubbling, cover and turn off heat. Allow beans to soak for 10 minutes, then drain off water. Heat olive oil and butter in pot over medium heat and sauté onion and garlic until translucent, but not browned.
Add lentils to the pot and give them a stir. Cover with chicken broth and enough water to cover by about an inch. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer and cook for 20 minutes.
Add rice and carrots and reduce heat to low. After you have stirred to mix in carrots and rice, don’t stir it again! Cook another 30-35 minutes or until rice is done. Serve with crusty bread for sopping and enjoy!
Wishing you warmth from within,