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After Thanksgiving, and just before the Christmas cookie baking and bingeing, it might be time for a big, thick, healthy slow-cooker soup.  If you practice the great tradition of Advent, maybe you’re cleaning your physical as well as your spiritual house in preparation for greeting God. Whatever the case, this meal is great for dinner and then to take for filling lunches and will keep you from hitting the candy machine or the chip bag about 3pm. Probably.

below:  daughter Emily baking apple pie for our Thanksgiving

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Having just spent a week at the beach, it was hard for me to come back to reality. (Too much pie, of course. Is that possible?) But it was time to find something to cook for dinner and I took the easy way out:  slow-cooker.

below:  on the beach with sister Helen and Emily 

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A slow-cooker person, I’m not. But occasionally I’m like everyone else; I want something luscious and simple that goes a long way. If you really like slow-cooker recipes, try my friend Kalyn’s great blog slowcookerfromscratch.com. Also available:  lots of wonderful soups soupchick.com by food blogger Lydia Walshin. While Lydia no longer updates this blog, it has tons of the best soups on the web.

Try this high fiber, high protein, vegetable-laden soup, and make it your own one of these cold days.  Leave the bay leaf in. Whoever gets it doesn’t have to do the dishes. Really.

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SLOW COOKER SWEET POTATO-LENTIL SOUP WITH ITALIAN SAUSAGE 

10 servings

  • Olive oil
  • 2 pounds bulk Italian Sausage or Turkey Italian Sausage
  • 2 each chopped:  onions, celery stalks, carrots
  • 1 fennel bulb, trimmed, cored, and chopped (2 if small)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • Handful chopped parsley
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne or to taste
  • 2 quarts chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 cup each:  water and white wine
  • 1 pound brown or green lentils
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 sweet potatoes, peeled and small-diced
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (garnish, optional)

In a deep skillet, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium high flame; add sausage and  onions, celery, carrots, and  fennel.  Sauté, stirring often, until sausage is well-crumbled, cooked through, and vegetables are softening.  Stir in garlic and parsley; cook one minute. Spoon or drain off some of the fat leaving a tablespoon or two for flavor, if desired.  Season with salt, pepper, and cayenne.  Pour into 6-quart slow cooker.  Add the remainder of the ingredients except grated Parmesan.

Cook on HIGH setting for 4 or more hours or until everything is tender.* Stir, taste, adjust seasonings.  Serve hot with a sprinkle of grated Parmesan cheese, if using.

Store soup well covered in the refrigerator for up to 4 days or freeze in quart containers or small containers for lunches for up to 6 months.

*You can also cook this on low for 8-10 hours.

VARIATIONS

  • *Skip potatoes and add 1 cup cooked brown rice for last hour of cooking.
  • *Cook in an 8-quart pot on the stove. Brown meat and vegetables in the pot and add the rest of the ingredients except the lentils. Bring to a boil; add lentils. Reduce to simmer and cook, stirring regularly until tender–1 to 1 1/2 hours.
  • *Use pork breakfast sausage, one-pound chopped ham, ham bone, one-pound chopped kielbasa, or 1/2 pound chopped bacon in place of the Italian sausage. You can also use pieces of sausage links–breakfast or Italian. Plain ground chicken or turkey? Go for it.
  • *Add 4 ounces sliced mushrooms or a cup of fresh spinach or chopped kale during last hour of cooking.
  • *Want a thicker soup? When the soup is done, remove two cups and puree them in the food processor or blender; return to pot and reheat.  Or, if you’re really good with an immersion blender, just blend a small section of the soup very briefly in the pot.

IF YOU LIKE THIS, YOU MIGHT LIKE MY

Lamb Chops in Curried Red Lentil Soup

Sing a new song of Advent,

Alyce