Tag Archives: main course

Lentil and Sweet Potato Soup


One day I was in a terrible mood. I was tired, cranky, and I just felt like lying on the couch with a glass–make that two–of wine. My husband saw the need to step up to the plate, and offered to cook. The hitch: instead of the lentil soup I had planned on heading up, he would make French toast.

Now don’t get me wrong–I love it when a man serves me French toast. I slather it with peanut butter, drown it in syrup, and call it Bliss. But the thing is, I’d been thinking about this lentil soup all day, and dangit if I was going to disappoint my own taste buds.

By the time I had gotten my butt off the couch, my husband had chopped the onion and was peeling the sweet potatoes, bless his heart. I schlumped around a little with a knife and a big wooden spoon and . . . then there was soup.

A taste of the soup was all I needed to immediately feel elevated. It was worth every ounce of emotional energy it took for my buttocks to remove themselves from the cushiony surface of our couch and wiggle themselves into the kitchen.

Spicy, healthy (vegetarian!) and awesome, I spent the rest of the evening quite happy–happy I had been disciplined and done what I planned. And even happier after my husband said: “I can’t believe we can actually make something this good. Wait . . . how did we make it?”



I love that guy. And I’m so grateful for his fortitude on evenings when I’m just an emotional pile of whatsit. For his sake, I’ll try to never be cranky again. Ever.

I think I have a fighting chance.


Here’s my baby giving me the “please stop taking pictures so that I can eat my soup while it’s hot” face.


Oh, and here’s my other baby.


I love that little stinker.

Anyway, this is a great weeknight meal. It’s simple and hearty and flavorful and filling. It does have some kick to it, so if you’re not a lover of a little spice maybe you should migrate towards this Ham and Bean Soup instead–but for the rest of you: YUM. From Kelsey Banfield’s “The Naptime Chef,” I hope you dig it as much as I do.



(Serves 4-5)

2 TBS olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 TBS grated fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp curry powder
1 tsp kosher salt
32 oz chicken stock
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 14 oz can diced tomatoes
1 cup brown lentils, rinsed
Pepper and a pinch of sugar, to taste

  1. In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and sauté for 5 minutes, until softened.
  2. Add the ginger, garlic, curry powder and salt; stir for about 2 minutes, until fragrant (and stir constantly so it doesn’t burn).
  3. Add the chicken stock, can of tomatoes, cubed sweet potatoes, and lentils. Bring it all to a boil and let it bubble away for1 minute.
  4. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer (uncovered) for about 40 minutes, until the potatoes are tender enough to pierce with a fork.
  5. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt, pepper and sugar as needed.
  6. Serve hot!

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Ham and Bean Soup


My pantry is finally getting the attention it needs. There have been various dry goods kicking around in it that we brought from Delaware to our first apartment in Chicago (almost 5 years ago), and then a year and a half ago to our current apartment. My husband has been crying out (for years) for a purge–a cooking purge. I used a package of old soba noodles to make this amazing dish a while back, and I finally heeded his pleas regarding our stash of beans and lentils (hence this recipe as well as the next one).

The way I did it was this: I googled “great Northern beans.” And the internet told me what to make.

The internet was spot on. This is a recipe I modified from the original on Allrecipes, and after making it about a month ago for the first time, I have made it two more times–a big deal for one who is constantly drawn to new creations rather than old favorites.

It may seem intimidating to those of you who (like me) have never personally dealt with a ham hock. I mean . . . they look kinda funky. Knobbly and layered with a thick piece of . . . well, I think it’s pig skin. But you don’t have to get too close and clingy with the hock–you just toss it in some water and pretend you never nervously prodded at the solidly springy flesh part. Ugh.


Let me break it down for you: Sunday afternoon, when you get home from church (or your newspaper run, or your relaxing time sleeping in–whatever your cuppa tea is), you bang around in the cabinet and get our your big old pot. You toss in the ham hock and enough water to cover it. You turn the heat on low and . . . you walk away. You take a snooze. You watch another episode of Parenthood while your baby naps. You graze on some popcorn while gazing out the window with a blank stare. You wonder for twenty minutes if that pair of leggings really makes your butt look smaller . . . or maybe lager. Smaller. Larger. Smaller? Larger?? You know, Sunday stuff.


Around dinner time you add some beans to the boiling water and turn off the flame. Pop a cover on it and let the beans soak in their ham hock jacuzzi. At bedtime, you toss the whole pot in the fridge. And then, you have an almost-ready-to-go soup for a weeknight, like Monday or Tuesday, when you come home cranky and in need of a comforting hot bowl in your frost-bitten hands (it’s been a long, hard winter here in Chicago, folks).

On one hand, it may seem like this recipe is tons of trouble. But the long simmer of the ham hock is so worth it. I’ve made it all in 1 day, and I’ve made it over the course of 2 or 3 days–and lemme tell you, the 2-3 days really make a difference. The simplicity but depth of the soup, when given time to mature and blossom, will not disappoint even the finest gourmet.

So find yourself a lazy Sunday and let the strange-looking ham hock do its magic.



(Serves 6-8)

1 ham hock
8 + cups water
½ tsp salt
1 lb (2 cups) dry great Northern beans
3 bay leaves
4 carrots
1-2 stalks celery
1 onion
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp mustard powder
1-2 vegetable bouillon cubes
2 thick ham steaks
½ tsp ground white pepper

  1. Put the ham hock in a large pot and add about 8 cups of water (enough to cover the hock). Bring to a boil, then simmer as long as possible—all afternoon! (this is a great Sunday project) Add water as needed so that the ham hock is always covered.
  2. Rinse the beans and discard any broken ones.
  3. Bring the pot of water to a boil and add the beans and salt. Turn off the heat, cover and let the beans soak for 1 hour.
  4. At this point, you can refrigerate the pot overnight, or continue cooking.
  5. Finely dice the carrots, celery and onion; add them to the soup along with the bay leaves, minced garlic, mustard powder and bouillon cubes.
  6. Bring it all to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 1 hour. Add more water as needed.
  7. Remove the ham hock; save the meat on it and add it to the soup.
  8. Cube the ham steaks and add to the soup. Add the white pepper. Simmer for 30 more minutes.
  9. Taste and adjust seasoning.
  10.  Serve hot, with or without biscuits! The leftovers, if the liquid is running low, are also great over rice.

This (the innards):


over rice = amazing. (Especially if you add a nice pat of butter)

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