Lentil Soup – delicious and nutritious

and a lesson on Methylation

Note: I am obviously not a doctor, and I am not giving medical advice here. However, over the years I have come to learn more about optimal health through nutrition. This post is just one small peak at optimizing your health with delicious food.

We recently sought the advice of a functional medicine practitioner to help resolve my 18-year old’s inability to fall asleep. Now, the boy may just be a night owl, and I (an early riser) may have to accept that; but as we prepare to launch him into adulthood, I thought it important to see if there were any underlying causes preventing him from sleeping.

To get to the bottom of things the practitioner did a blood draw to check vitamin levels and my son brought home a urine test to check his neurotransmitters. We will have results in a few weeks. I am fascinated to learn more about this.

Functional medicine is a biology-based approach that seeks to find the root cause of disease rather than only treat the symptoms. Supplementation largely replaces pharmaceuticals. Nutrition is used to optimize the bodies processes.

As the nurse practitioner asked questions and explained how your gut health effects all aspects of your health, she kept talking about an important process our bodies perform to help with food absorption.

Methylation.

I had heard of methylation before, but didn’t quite understand it’s importance until now.

Methylation is a biochemical process that helps your cardiovascular, neurological, reproductive, and detoxification systems do their jobs. If methylation is not taking place, it can cause a whole host of health problems.

Basically, methylation helps All. The. Things.

For a deeper, scientific explanation check out this article: What is Methylation and Why Should You Care About it | Thorne

The article states that 60% of people have a genetic mutation that makes it difficult for them to perform this process (methylation) efficiently. Couple that with the poor nutrition rampant in the standard American diet (notice how the acronym is S.A.D.) and it is no wonder so many of us have underlying health issues.

Any serious health concerns should be brought to the attention of your primary care physician, but I believe we can do a lot for ourselves by just eating nutritious and delicious food.

Here is an article that lists foods that support Methylation. Methylation Foods for Optimal Balance – WholisticMatters I find it interesting that many of these foods (spinach, kale, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and cabbage) are in season at the same time we often find ourselves fighting off colds and viruses. These veggies grow naturally when we need them most. God had a plan.

Many of these methylating foods can be found in my go to Lentil soup recipe.

This Lentil Soup recipe at Allrecipes is packed full of the vegetable that assist your body with methylation. This basic soup is easy to throw together and budget friendly. It is a cinch to double for large families or leftovers. I encourage you to give it a try.

Look at the variety of vegetables I was able to add to this pot of soup.

I try to look for ways to add extra vegetables to my recipes. For this meal I replaced the spinach with kale and added cabbage and mushrooms – items I pulled from my fridge. All of these additional veggies, along with the lentils aid in methylation.

I make this soup frequently in the cooler months, so I make sure I always have extra lentils and cans of crushed tomatoes in my pantry. It is also one of the recipes I use when providing a meal to families welcoming new babies or our parish priests.

Here are some other ways to adapt the original recipe:

-Use broth instead of water. I used my homemade chicken broth to add even more nutritional punch.

-Add some heat. If you like spicy, a pinch of crushed red pepper would give this soup a little zip.

-Make it heartier. I find this soup filling on its own but adding sausage or bacon would make it heartier.

-Make it stretch. You can easily add a potato or two to make this stretch a little further.

-Sneak in more veggies. Add shredded zucchini, no one will know, and I won’t tell.

Here is a trick that will blow your mind. Stick your mushrooms outside in the sun or in a sunny window before cooking with them. Studies show mushrooms will absorb Vitamin D from the sun and become even more nutritious.

Who knew?

I encourage you to look at your meals in a new way. Make them delicious and nutritious.

Zuppa! It’s What’s for Dinner.

The soup that will make you love kale.

When the days turn cold and grey, and the nights come all too soon, my soul yearns for a bowl of hot soup. Easy to throw together and delicious heated for lunch the next day, soup makes an appearance several times each week in our home during the fall and winter months. Today I will share one of my favorites: Zuppa Toscana.

There was a time many years ago, B3K (before three kids), when I would make an almost weekly trip to Olive Garden for their unlimited soup, salad, and breadsticks lunch special. For a mere $7, I could get my fill of salad, soup, and breadsticks. Ohhh, those breadsticks. I ate entirely too many, especially dunked in my soup of choice – Zuppa Toscana.

I had no idea at the time just how easy it was to make this soup at home. It wasn’t until years later, when faced with an abundance of kale, that I did.

In 2013, the Navy moved us to Northern Virginia for my husband’s last tour. My passion for gardening was growing and I was just beginning to understand food as nutrition and a key component in our health. So, I joined a local CSA and received two boxes of seasonal vegetables every week. CSA stands for community supported agriculture. It is a way of directly supporting farmers and buying local food. The first thing a newbie learns about seasonal eating – tomatoes don’t grow in December. Do you know what you get in your CSA box in the winter? Kale. Lots of kale.

Each week I would receive two bunches of kale and had to figure out how to use it. Pro tip: kale added to most soups is delicious.

Searching the internet for recipes to use up all my kale, I stumbled across Zuppa Toscana, my favorite from so long ago. I gave it a try. Wowed at how easy it was to throw together and how it just hit the spot, Zuppa Toscana has been a part of my soup rotation ever since.

Kale is a delicious part of this meal, but the best reason to add kale to your menu is your health. Kale is one of the most nutrient-dense foods out there, filled with vitamins and minerals. It is also known to be high in Quercetin which is an antioxidant and boosts the immune system. Quercetin came on my radar this past year as a supplement that helps defend against viruses. How cool that one of my favorite soups is filled with this virus fighting ingredient.

Zuppa Toscana is versatile and can be adjusted to fit various diet requirements. Cheryl at 40 Aprons has a delicious version on Zuppa Toscana that we can use to start.

Here are my ingredients:

Everything but the salt and pepper

Following this recipe for Zuppa Toscana here are some ways to switch it up and make it your own.

No bacon? For this pot I eliminated the bacon and used a little more than a pound of sausage.

Love bacon? Add more than the recipe calls for. This would be yummy with bacon crumbled on top.

Don’t like pork? Use chicken sausage or perhaps a meatless option.

Don’t like spicy? Use sweet or mild Italian sausage and cut the red pepper flakes to 1/4 tsp or eliminate them completely,

Need low carb? Replace the potatoes with cauliflower. No one will know.

Not a coconut fan? Use 1/2 – 1 cup heavy cream and add a little more chicken broth. But trust me you won’t taste the coconut.

No broth on hand? I used homemade turkey broth, but chicken broth or stock from the store works, as well as bouillon cubes or “Better than Bouillon.”

Want more nutrients? I used this entire bunch of kale though the recipe calls for 1/2 a bunch. Quercetin for the win!

No kale? Spinach or Swiss chard can be substituted.

No fresh garlic? I love keeping a jar of minced garlic in my fridge or 1 tsp of garlic powder could work in a pinch.

Ready for dinner!

I encourage you to give Zuppa Toscana and kale a try. You may find the soup and the veggie to be new favorites.