In my opinion—and I should add, not so much a popular opinion—healthy cooking does not equate to low-calorie cooking.
I mean, it definitely can, and this week’s recipe is surely on the low side of the calorie spectrum for a meal. But that’s not what makes it healthy for me.
My aim in cooking and eating is not how I can substitute certain things out to make it “healthier”, but rather to include more things in to make it truly healthier and well-balanced.
See, I want the natural fat from the butter. I want the sodium from the salt. I want the antioxidants from the turmeric, from the pomegranate, and from the kale. I want the iron and unmatched variety of amino acids from the beef. I appreciate the instant energy from the sugar. These things are all absolutely healthy to me because they are all invaluable to my body’s health in their own ways.
A quick disclaimer: I don’t overdo any of this and I pay attention to what my body needs from me. Stuffing my face with butter and sugar isn’t going to send me on my way on the fast track to health. This we all know. But keeping these ingredients from my face won’t do me any good either. Friends, I’m talking about simple common sense.
The only thing I actually want to cut out is the processing of foods. I don’t want the preservatives. I don’t want the additives. I don’t want the “fortification” because my natural foods fortify me plenty. (By the way, next time you make a grocery run, check out the ingredients list of everything you buy. You might be shocked at how many preservatives—hidden or otherwise—we’re dumping into our bodies on a daily basis. And if you’re not sure if something is a preservative, then that’s your answer right there, because you shouldn’t be wondering.)
If I stay true to this healthy mode of cooking and eating—which by the way is not so radical a notion, just ask our generations past who were much healthier by so many standards—then I never have to worry about whether I’m eating too many calories, and much more importantly, whether I’m getting enough of this or that in my diet because I’m giving my body everything it could need. The big money vitamin pills can sit there and collect dust in our bathroom medicine cabinets and we will be better off for it. Better yet, leave them on the first shelf you found them, right at the big money “health” store.
It’s no surprise that these big “health” corporations aren’t in it for our well-being.
But we should be.
I want to choose each ingredient I consume on my own. Because everything we eat is medicine, good or bad. As I stick to this healthy and simple method—which includes listening to my body when it says ‘I’m full’ or ‘I need more of this or more of that’—I want to add that I don’t follow this perfectly. The truth is that I eat preservatives probably everyday (we all do) and sometimes I need to eat the fudge that I’m recipe testing for breakfast with a tamarind soda. Maybe that happened this morning but I can’t say for sure because it was all very sudden. Listen, all we can do is try our best without losing our heads. It’s tough out there for a health seeker.
I suppose I felt the need to preface this recipe with all that health talk because everyone knows that lentil soup is healthy, but I don’t think that the general public’s reason for this is a fair and legitimate reason. Maybe if we focus more on eating naturally (which doesn’t mean just salad and quinoa and rarely dessert), then we can forget about counting our calories, relax, and just focus on enjoying our food. With that, I’ll happily move on to the delicious flavors of this Persian lentil soup so we can enjoy a little of that.
This soup has such an abundance of nutrients and is simply a perfect fall and winter meal. It’s bursting with gorgeous flavors and yes, in my humble opinion, is the only lentil soup you need in your recipe arsenal. There are some hearty and tender potatoes in it, lots of fresh tomatoes, and olive-oil crisped onions—which are to die for. And I’ve topped it with some crispy olive-oil fried lentils and a bit more of the crisped onions because they’re that damn good. There are so many amazing textures and flavors to play with in this recipe!
So please enjoy it and stay healthy and happy!
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- 2 cups (16 ounces) Dried Lentils
- 6 cups (48 ounces) Water
- 3 Onions, diced
- Approximately ½ cup Olive Oil (will be used to crisp up onions and lentils for the topping)
- 4 cups (32 ounces) Chicken Broth (or Vegetable Broth)
- 2 tablespoons Sea Salt + extra for lentil garnish
- 1 tablespoon Black Pepper + extra for lentil garnish
- 1 tablespoon Turmeric
- 12 ounces (2 small cans) Tomato Paste
- 2 Russet Potatoes, rinsed, peeled, and diced
- 5 medium-sized Tomatoes, rinsed and diced
- Add the lentils to a large pot and run a quick quality check using your fingers to make sure there are no small pebbles in them, as this may sometimes occur with dried lentils.
- Add 4 cups of water and cook them over medium heat, with the lid on, until they are fully cooked and tender.
- In a pan over medium/medium-high heat, fry the onions in a large pan with plenty of olive oil (enough to coat them), mixing occasionally so that they don’t burn. You’re looking for the onions to get a little crispy and golden brown. This should take about 15 minutes. Once they’re fried, tilt the pan to drain the oil to one side, while you scrape the onions to the other side. Remove onions from the oil and set aside. Keep this pan with olive oil for later when we fry some lentils to top the soup.
- Once the lentils are tender, reserve ⅓ cup of them to a clean plate.
- Then add the chicken broth, salt, pepper, turmeric, and tomato paste to the pot of lentils.
- Give it a mix to fully incorporate the tomato paste, and then add the potatoes..
- Add 2 cups more water (or however much you like to get the consistency you prefer). Stir.
- Allow to simmer for about 15 minutes, with the lid on, or until potatoes are fork tender.
- Take the reserved lentils you set aside earlier, and over medium/medium-high heat add them to the oil in the same large pan we used for the onions.
- Fry them, mixing occasionally, for about 2 minutes or until slightly browned and crisp. Remove lentils from the oil the same way you removed the onions, add a pinch of salt and pepper, and set aside.
- Mix in most of the fried onions (keep some to top each bowl) and add in the chopped tomatoes, and let it go for another 10-15 minutes, with the lid on, over medium-low/low heat. Mix every five minutes, making sure the lentils aren’t sticking to the bottom of the pot.
- Once ready, top each bowl of soup with the fried lentils, some of that fried onion, and a drizzle of olive oil. Serve and enjoy!