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As we all know (and the American Heart Association reminds us) one of the best things you can do for your heart is to incorporate a healthy diet into your lifestyle. To write that sentence is easy, to actually do it, is more challenging. Like all of you, I am busy, and I find that if I don’t have easy dishes, in the fridge ready to go, I don’t eat as healthily as I should, I have to invoke the Twinkie defense. I end up eating spoonfuls of Nutella or grabbing a power bar (most of which have a lot of salt and sugar) or I might just going without and by the end of the day I am a starving maniac. I have a friend whose go-to breakfast is a Red Bull and a power bar! So, now I challenge myself to make sure I always have a chopped salad and a big pot of soup ready and waiting in the fridge. By the way, you can challenge yourself and your friends to eat healthier and get more physical activity with this easy to use tool from the American Heart Association.
Here is a great, easy recipe that I make almost every week. It keeps wonderfully in the fridge for a quick lunch, or after a workout or even to help out dinner in a pinch. I found this recipe in Jamie Oliver’s cookbook, Jamie’s Food Revolution. The soup is filled with lentils which help prevent heart disease, and are a great source of iron and protein. The next major ingredient is spinach which contains more nutrients per calorie than any other FOOD IN THE WORLD! Spinach is loaded with vitamins like A, K, D and E and anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory antioxidants. Here is the best part, it is a crowd pleaser, from my friend Kate’s 1 year old, to my 10 and 12 year olds, all the way up to my husband and me (the ancient ones at the table.) I have added a few alterations to make sure it is heart healthy, but still delicious, you can play around with this recipe too, it’s pretty bullet proof.
Lentil and Spinach Soup (Serves 6)
2 medium carrots
2 celery stalks
2 medium onions
2 cloves garlic
1 ¾ quarts low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth, preferably organic
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
A thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger root
½ – 1 fresh red chili
10 grape or cherry tomatoes
2 cups of red lentils
7 cups spinach
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup natural fat free or low fat plain yogurt
Juice of ½ lemon
1 tablespoon butter
Peel and roughly slice the carrots. Slice the celery. Peel and roughly chop the onions. Peel and slice the garlic. Put the broth in a sauce pan and heat until boiling. Put a large saucepan on medium heat and add olive oil. Add all chopped and sliced ingredients and mix together with a wooden spoon. Cook for around 10 minutes with the lid askew, until the carrots have softened but are still holding their shape and the onions are lightly golden. Meanwhile, peel and finely slice the ginger. Seed and slice the chili. Remove the stalks from the tomatoes and slice the tomatoes in half. Add the boiling broth to the pan with the lentils, ginger, chili, and tomatoes. Give the soup a good stir and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes with the lid on, or until the lentils are cooked. Right around here I add a glug or two of white wine. Add the spinach and continue to cook for 30 seconds.
Add lemon juice, pepper to taste. I also add some Mrs. Dash which is a wonderful seasoning with no salt. Another wonderful secret weapon is Bragg Liquid Aminos, it adds a lot of flavor and only has 160mg of sodium per ½ tsp. compared with salt which has 1000mg of sodium per ½ tsp. Do this all to taste. Then serve topped with a dollop of yogurt (optional).
*You can make it vegetarian by just using vegetable broth instead of chicken broth.
*I don’t use the red chili because no one at my house likes spicy food.
*If you have old garlic lying around just peal the clove and throw it in the broth. When serving you can scoop the clove out. It makes it delicious and even healthier.
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