Summer Squash and Lentil Soup

summer squash and lentil soup #vegan #glutenfree #soyfree

Coming up with new recipes during the summer can be a challenge. I don’t have much of an appetite during the summer, so it’s hard for me to figure out what, if anything, would be appetizing. Other than coconut milk ice cream, of course 🙂

So when I’m stumped for recipe ideas, I ask myself these questions:

1) What’s in season, fresh, and available? To answer this question, I stop at the first thing that comes to mind. For this recipe, that thing was summer squash.

2) Which foods can I pair this with to maximize nutritional value? For me, the simplest way to figure out if a meal will be nutritious and filling is to ensure that it has enough protein and fiber. So I added baby kale and lentils to the mix. Obviously there are many more components to complete nutrition than protein and fiber, but I focus on those two for simplicity’s sake. 

3) How do I make this weather and/or occasion appropriate? Obviously a stew would be too heavy for a summer dish, so I decided against adding heartier elements like potatoes or other root vegetables. I decided a soup would be ideal, because it’s not as heavy. Plus, this week will be very busy for me, so I wanted something that I could make a lot of and keep in the fridge for leftover lunches and dinners.

4) What ingredients do I add to make this delicious? This is the fun part! If I’m using ingredients I’ve never cooked with before (or if I’m in a creative rut), I consult one of my new favorite books, The Flavor Bible. It has a huge database of almost every food you can think of, with lists of recommended pairings. For this dish, I relied not on The Flavor Bible, but  rather on my previous experience with lentil soups, summer squash, and kale. I rounded out the recipe with diced tomatoes, vegan chicken broth (yes, such a thing exists…click here for more info), garlic, onion, fresh lemon juice, fresh thyme, nutmeg, and bay leaves.

If you follow that formula, it’s relatively easy to come up with new and original recipe ideas.

Anyway, I’m sure you didn’t visit my blog to hear me ramble on about how to come up with a recipe. So let’s get to the soup.

summer squash and lentil soup #vegan #glutenfree #soyfree

summer squash and lentil soup #vegan #glutenfree #soyfree

Summer Squash and Lentil Soup

Serves 4-6 (as a main)

Prep Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes

Ingredients:

2 C dry green or French lentils

2 small summer squash of your choice (I used yellow straight neck squash and zucchini squash), sliced thin

6 C vegan chicken broth

3 C packed baby kale (or regular kale, with stems removed and leaves chopped)

1 14-oz can diced tomatoes

1 medium Vidalia onion, chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 tbsp fresh thyme leaves

Juice from 1/2 large lemon

1 tsp nutmeg

2 bay leaves

Directions:

1) Add 1/2 C broth to a large stockpot or Dutch oven, heated to medium-high. Add onions and garlic, and cook for about 5 minutes.

2) Add summer squash, and cook for about 3 more minutes. Wilt in baby kale, then add thyme, tomatoes, bay leaves, and nutmeg. Cook for about 2 more minutes.

3) Add lentils and remaining broth. Bring to a boil, and simmer for 1 hour. Serve with freshly squeezed lemon and thyme garnish.

summer squash and lentil soup #vegan #glutenfree #soyfree

summer squash and lentil soup #vegan #glutenfree #soyfree

Mercury Retrograde, Baby Bunnies, and Watermelon Gazpacho

First, I want to talk a little bit about Mercury in retrograde. For those of you who don’t know what that is, here is an informative link. In a nutshell, when Mercury is in retrograde, according to astrologers, it messes up everything related to technology, communication, travel, and logistics. I usually know when Mercury is in retrograde when I have two or three disastrous days in a row. Have you ever had a week where nothing seemed to go right? Maybe you missed appointments, experienced flight delays, your computer crashed, your cell phone broke, and the brakes went out on your car? Next time you have one of those weeks, check to see if Mercury is in retrograde.  It probably is.

I figured out Mercury was in retrograde about two weeks ago, when I knocked over my camera and the lens broke. Then, I had problems ordering a new lens. Then, there were some technical issues preventing us from getting the Conveganence website finished in time for the launch so I wasn’t able to do any of the promotional activities I had planned. Then, I somehow deleted several weeks worth of recipes (about 40 hours worth of work) for the August meal plan. Later that day, I had managed to recover or rewrite some of the recipes, but I lost them again when my power mysteriously went out. The following day, some of my subscribers noticed that a couple pages were missing from the July meal plan. I corrected the issue and sent out a new file, but gmail wouldn’t let me attach it. Finally I was able to send it out, but I noticed I sent out the wrong file type. Then my office chair fell apart.

By Wednesday of last week, I was so frustrated I just gave up. I decided to take a few days off from Conveganence and work on some projects around the house. After all, during Mercury retrograde, you’re supposed to take the time to revise, repair, rethink, reflect…basically anything that starts with a “re” 🙂 My plan was to REfurbish some 100 year old windows I got from Craigslist and REpurpose them into coffee tables. I bought a new workbench for this project, but noticed the screws were missing when I tried to assemble it. Of course they were!

I resisted the urge to scream and/or break something, took a deep breath, and turned my attention to another project: assembling a compost bin I bought a few weeks back. That endeavor took me several days and turned out to be a complete nightmare. After uttering several thousand profanities, I almost managed to finish assembling it. The lid doesn’t close completely, but whatever. I’ll fix it later.

I guess the purpose of this rant was to explain my absence from the blog recently. But now I’m back, with 2 great things: a photo of some baby bunnies that are nesting in our backyard, and a recipe for Watermelon Gazpacho.

Here are the baby bunnies. I took the photo in the upper left corner just 1 week ago. I snapped the remaining 3 photos yesterday. It’s amazing how much they have grown in just one week! All 8 bunnies have opened their eyes and their ears stand up. They are also starting to explore outside of the nest.

babybunnies

 

Aren’t they adorable??

Okay, now for a recipe: Watermelon Gazpacho! A variation of this recipe is in the Conveganence July meal plan. It’s one of my favorite things to make during the summer. I must admit I was skeptical the first time I tried gazpacho. Chilled soup was not my thing. I was in Madrid at a Flamenco theater/restaurant called Casa Patas (House of Feet). I was traveling alone, with only my dogeared copy of Rick Steves’ Spain 2006 to keep me company. Rick insisted that I give the gazpacho a try, and because he hadn’t steered me wrong yet, I ordered it without hesitation. Washed down with some sangria and flamenco, it was just the thing for a hot July night in Madrid.

Since then, I’ve made gazpacho at least once every summer. The watermelon in this version makes it extra refreshing and perfect for steamy Chicago summers.

gazpacho

 

Watermelon Gazpacho

Serves: 4

Prep Time: 15 minutes (plus 30 minutes chill time)

Ingredients:

2 large hothouse tomatoes, peeled and seeded

1 large cucumber, peeled and seeded

1 1/2 C cubed watermelon, seeded

1 fresno pepper, seeded and chopped

1 large clove garlic, smashed

1/4 C cilantro leaves

2 limes, juiced

1/2 tsp sea salt

Directions

1) Place serving bowls or glasses in freezer and allow to chill while preparing gazpacho.

2) Combine the ingredients in a food processor. Process for about 1 minute.

3) Chill gazpacho in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. Serve in glasses. Garnish with lime.