Meatless Mondays!

Love it, hate it, participate or not, Meatless Mondays are here to stay for a while. Founded in 2003, the Meatless Monday initiative came about to encourage Americans to make healthier choices at the start of the work week.   It’s not only wallet-friendly, but it’s believed to help reduce the risk of many diseases.

When I first got introduced to this sort of Monday repentance eating, I was confused a bit.  Do I not eat meat but still consume milk, cheese, and butter?   Are starches included?  Do I brown paper bag for that day? Am I overthinking it?  I’m definitely overthinking it.

The endless variations of meatless Monday recipes online sure started to look like a meatless feast.  The inclusion of red meat and poultry wasn’t necessary to feel full and satisfied, but these recipes weren’t that healthy either.

Nowadays, what works for me is turning off the laptop and turning on my memories of eating in Trinidad.  In my early childhood, my mother only cooked meat dishes on weekends for us.  During the week, we ate starches (because it wasn’t a meal without it) like rice, boiled potatoes, and ground provisions with peas, beans, and a lot of vegetables. I remember the effortless stews, sautés, curries and soups she created for us.  Her kitchen would be perfumed with the delightful smell of onions, garlic, tomatoes, and scotch bonnet peppers being prepared for a simple but flavorful lentil stew that my brothers and I enjoyed so much.

I’m a sucker for a good, hearty lentil soup; it’s one of my favorite pea soups to eat.  Something about lentil soup slowly cooked to perfection with vegetables, herbs, and stock with just the right amount of spiciness makes you forget there’s no meat in it.  I made this super easy lentil soup that you should try next meatless Monday.

Prep Time: 30mins
Cook time: 1 hr.

1 cup finely chopped Onion
1 cup finely chopped Carrot
½ cup Celery chopped (optional)
1 cup chopped Calabaza Pumpkin
3 stalks chopped Green Onions
4 cloves of Garlic, smashed
1 ½ cups Lentils, picked and rinsed
1 ½ quarts warm Vegetable Broth
1 Tbsp. of Dark Brown Sugar
2 Tbsp. of Tomato Paste
1 tsp. Coriander
1 Tbsp. Fenugreek
1 Tbsp. Pepper Flakes, add more if desired
2 Bay Leaves
2 sprigs of Fresh Thyme
Salt and Black Pepper
Olive Oil

Over medium heat, add enough olive oil to coat the bottom of a stock pot. Once hot, add the pepper flakes to the oil, stir for about 5 seconds or so before adding the first five ingredients to the pot with 1 Tbsp. each of salt and pepper. Cook for approximately 5 minutes.  Add the lentils, tomato paste, sugar, coriander, fenugreek, bay leaves, thyme, and warm stock, stirring to combine.  Increase the heat to high and bring the soup to a boil.  Reduce the heat to low, cover the pot and simmer until the lentils are tender, approximately 45 minutes.  If you find that the soup is not thick enough, let it simmer for another 15 minutes.  At this point, you can taste the soup for additional seasoning. Serve as is or, with a stick blender, puree to your preferred consistency.

Serve immediately.

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