Weekly Food: Lemon Lentil Spinach Soup and Wild Rice Salad

I don’t come from a touchy-feely sort of family, but last week I felt compelled (in the midst of peeling butternut squash and juicing lemons) to call my mother to thank her for cooking healthy meals for us while I was growing up. The impetus: An MPR story on childhood obesity. I realize now what a privilege it was to grow up expecting a home-cooked meal every day — even when my mom was working, grandma would cook for us, or my sister and I would cook with our aunt and serve up meals as part of our favorite game, Starlight Cafe.

My mother’s nonchalant response to this: We lived in the middle of nowhere — where would we have gone out to eat?

True enough. But still, I’m grateful.

And what was I peeling that squash for? Two winner meals this week: a soup and salad that were perfect for the spring weather.

Recipe 1: Lemon Lentil Spinach Soup

This recipe is one of mine:

Lemon Lentil Spinach Soup
Makes 5-6 servings

2 Tbs olive oil
2 onions diced
3 celery ribs diced
2 medium carrots diced
coarse kosher salt
4 garlic cloves, minced
zest of 2 lemons
1/2 tsp ground cumin
2 1/2 C red lentils
1/4 C red cooking wine
5 C vegetable broth
3/4 lb baby spinach leaves
juice of 2 lemons

1.  Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add onions, celery and carrots, and saute until carrots are tender (about 7 minutes). Use some of the wine for deglazing if necessary.
2. Add garlic, cumin, lemon zest, and a good sprinkling of salt, and saute for about 2 minutes.
3. Add lentils and some more salt and saute for 1 minute more.
4. Add cooking wine and vegetable broth. Bring to a boil, then turn down head and simmer, covered, until lentils are cooked (about 20 minutes).
5. Stir in spinach and cook until wilted (3-5 minutes).
6. Turn off heat and stir in lemon juice.
7. Adjust seasonings to taste and serve.

I served it with crusty bread and a dollop of cumin yogurt (1 C yogurt + 1/2 tsp salt + 1/2 tsp ground cumin).

Recipe 2: Warm Wild Rice Salad from Hola Jalapeno

We got our fill of asparagus last week, so I made this with chickpeas instead (also a good way to add protein since we were eating it as a main course). I doubled the recipe and we had so much we were able to eat it every day and still have some leftover to freeze. It was super tasty, but I think I need a break now.

Time: 2 hours

Soundtrack: aforementioned MPR story

2 comments to Weekly Food: Lemon Lentil Spinach Soup and Wild Rice Salad

  • Alexis

    These look great!

    I was also fortunate to grow up with healthy, home-cooked meals. My mom was a restaurant cook and my dad worked for a produce company, so it was a win-win for us. There was an occasional trip to McDonald’s thrown in for good measure, but we ate really well. We mostly avoided school lunches, too, even though we qualified for the reduced (and sometimes for the free) lunch program.

    My only problem with this increased focus on childhood obesity in the media lately is that it puts the emphasis so squarely on a visual cue of ill health. I regret the disadvantages that obese children face, but I also worry about those thinner kids that are just as malnourished. By focusing on obesity, rather than, say, diabetes or blood pressure, for example, I worry that we are missing part of the issue. It also creates a culture where we look at overweight kids with scorn and at “normal” weight kids as, by default, healthy. This is not a reaction to what you are saying, but more a general ill-feeling I get from seeing this kind of story all the time (accompanying by the obligatory headless images of bigger folks). I just hope we don’t dehumanize fat folks (myself included) along the way.

  • Megan

    Alexis, yes! Thanks for articulating that so well. I found this MPR story interesting but also frustrating a lot of the time, for just the reasons that you’ve mentioned as well as all of the shame/blame it attributed to parents when there are larger structures at work (e.g. unhealthy school lunches and fast food that’s cheaper than homemade). One of their “question of the day” things that week was “What are you doing to fight obesity?” and I actually yelled at the radio because that’s such a ridiculous question and it misses the point entirely. Argh!

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