Red Lentils Pack a Protein Punch! Red Lentil, Lemon & Baby Kale Soup

If the thought of lentils conjures up dark, brown, tasteless veggie burgers or soups, you’re in for a pleasant surprise with Red Lentils…
These petite darlings have a slightly sweet flavor, cook up in just 10 minutes, and serve up almost a beef burger’s-worth of protein.

As staples, red lentils flex well in savory soups, curries, and dips. Cooked, they pump up the protein of pasta sauce, mashed sweet potatoes, carrots, or winter squashes; even berry smoothies! Beyond protein, red lentils are good sources of fiber, B-vitamin folate, iron, magnesium, zinc, and potassium.

Europe, Asia, and West Africa have long cultivated lentils, but over the past decade, many U.S. farmers in Montana, North Dakota, and particularly in the Palouse Valley of Washington and Idaho have grown them. Short of nurturing them in your own garden, these are the freshest, most local lentils you can get!

Red Lentil, Lemon & Baby Kale Soup
This is one of those recipes that seems too easy to offer much flavor. I made it before yoga one evening in about 20 minutes, turned off the heat, and came home to a delicious, healthy meal. At winter’s-end, we’re all a bit ‘soup weary’, but the lemon and baby kale make it refreshing as we anticipate the arrival of spring.

3 T extra virgin Olive Oil
1 large Onion, finely chopped
3 medium-large Carrots, finely chopped
2-3 stalks Celery, finely chopped
2 cloves Garlic, finely chopped
1 T Tomato Paste
1 tsp ground Cumin
¼ tsp EACH, Sea Salt, fresh ground Black Pepper, Chili Powder
1 Bay Leaf
4 cups Vegetable or Chicken Broth
2 cups Water
1 cup Red Lentils
3 cups finely chopped Baby Kale
Juice of ½ Lemon
Optional: 2 T chopped Fresh Cilantro or Parsley

1.   If you have a food processor, pulse to small-fine chop separately onions, carrots, and celery. If not, finely chop by hand to have at the ready.
2.   In a large stockpot, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onions, carrots, and celery and sauté for 5-7 minutes until they start to soften and turn golden.
3.   Blend in tomato paste, garlic, cumin, salt, pepper, and chili powder and sauté for another 2-3 minute.
4.   Pour in broth and water and stir to mix well. Add bay leaf and bring the mixture to a boil.
5.   Add in red lentils, stirring well, cover and let simmer on low for about 10 minutes.
6.   Add in kale and lemon juice and allow this to heat through for another 5 minutes. Remove bay leaf before serving.
If desired, garnish with cilantro or parsley.
Serve with whole grain bread broiled with good Parmesan.