09 February 2012

Chicken and Red Lentil Soup

Soup and crackers ... one of the simplest and most wonderful of comfort foods.

I am trying to be positive about my life right now, but boy, when changes come along that you really don't want to acknowledge, it's time for comfort food and a whack up side of the head. Well, I got my whack the other evening when I had the epiphany that I REALLY need to lose weight  ... for my health, for my comfort, for my self-image, for my husband and kids, for posterity, for every good reason in the world. Won't go into the gory details, but let's just say that I decided to finally do something about my situation.

So ... to keep myself honest, I'm divulging my big step. I joined Weight Watchers.

Now, this is something that I vowed I would never do. I have dieted once before in my life. I lost a ton of weight- okay, thirty-five pounds - and felt and looked great. I had one of my daughters at home at the time to help me stay focused and motivated to go to the gym. We cooked together and gave each other ideas for good food that didn't feel like starvation rations. Silent Bob wasn't around at the time to rattle the cookie jar or look for bread. It was summertime and I lived in a house that had a swimming pool (getting exercise was a cinch!). I was doing the diet thing on my own and succeeding. Oh, the hubris!

Then, I retired and slipped into a bit of a slump over not working and not having family real close and not being twenty-five anymore and not having grandchildren to dote over and not being well off enough to live like a globetrotter or join a gym, and, and, and ... you get the idea. Of course, I gained every pound back! Plus some!

Well that sucks and so I have decided that I have to confront the chubby beast in the closet and deal with it. However, food and this blog is a central and very special part of my creative life. So folks, I am over the barrel! I must change what I cook, what I eat, and when I eat it. One thing I've realized is that I need a certain amount of support and structure or I'm doomed. Hence, an on-line membership to the biggest dieting conglomerate the world has seen.

Cynicism aside, I need to concentrate on making this WW thing work for me, soooo ... I'm just warning you. No more baking posts except on weekends when I can share the baked goods with a crowd and have them gone by Monday. Fewer posts on carbohydrate-based dishes. More dishes that center on beans, vegetables, lean meats. And oh shit, I do have to get up and exercise three or four times a week ... real bust a sweat exercise. Can you hear me whining?  I'm whining. I admit it. You may hear about it now and then in a posted rant (kind of like this one!).  Feel free to tell me to shut up and just do it. It is exactly what I need to hear. I'll probably be posting more on what I'm reading and what I'm thinking about (and not eating!) too. I figure if I'm typing and taking pictures I can't be stuffing my face. Yup, so that's it in a nutshell.

Now, let's have soup. This soup is a lean and easy red lentil soup ... very little olive oil, virtually no fat, lots of spiciness, and with a small handful of crackers it makes a nice lunch. The recipe comes from The South Beach Diet Cookbook, but I halved the recipe so that there wouldn't be leftovers. I also decreased the amount of chicken a bit, increased the amount of lentils and water a bit. I sat and wrote out my Valentines while I knoshed... my bit toward keeping it positive ... moon, June, lovey-dovey positive. Now it's time to go for a walk. There's a hill. Did I tell you that there's a hill on this route? Shit. There's a hill.

Chicken and Red Lentil Soup for Two
adapted from The South Beach Diet Cookbook


1 ½ tsp. olive oil
1 large carrot, small dice
1 large celery stalk, small dice
1 small onion, small dice
1 large clove garlic, minced
½ tsp. curry powder
⅛ tsp. ground ginger
⅛ tsp. ground cumin
⅛ tsp. red pepper flakes
½ c. dried red lentils
¾ lb. lean chicken ( I used chicken tenders from the breast)
1½ c. chicken broth
1 tsp. tomato paste
1½ c. water
Salt and black pepper, to taste
2 tbsp. chives or chopped scallions, for garnish

Making the Soup:

1. Heat the olive oil in a heavy deep saucepan over medium-high heat.

2. Add the carrots, celery, onions, and garlic and stir them to get them to begin sweating. Cover the pan and leave them for a minute or two, stirring occasionally.

3. Add the spices and stir to incorporate and to let them roast a bit to release their essence.

4. Pick over the lentils and pour them over the veg and spices. Lay the chicken over the lentils.

5. Pour the chicken broth over all and cover. Reduce the heat immediately to low.

6. Combine the tomato paste with the water, stirring to break up the paste and bring it into solution. Add it to the soup. Return the cover and let the soup come to a slow bubble. Lower the heat to a true simmer temp. Cook for about 20 minutes, until the lentils have swollen and the chicken is cooked.

7. Remove the cooked chicken to a plate and shred it into bite-sized lumps. Set it aside for a minute while you 'whiz' the soup with a hand blender (or remove part of the soup to a blender and whiz it smooth). If you're whizzing the soup in the soup pot, leave some of the 'form' intact.  Return the chicken to the soup and heat thoroughly.

8. Chop the chives or scallions and either stir them into the soup just before serving or scatter them atop the bowl of soup as a pretty garnish.

9. Serve with a small handful of crackers or one piece of crusty bread. OR ... skip the bread if you're strong enough.


  1. Love recipes for 2 and this one is true comfort food; we are going through a cold snap.

  2. Well done you! It looks so good, keep making such yummy food and it won't be too hard to stick to!

  3. The soup looks fab. Heart and comforting. What is not to like?
    Good like with Weight Watchers. Dieting is hard. I did it myself few years ago through exercise and eating no carbs. But just remember, everything in moderation, including moderation itself :)

  4. the soup looks amazing... so entirely amazing... you have to ask yourself if you're happy...? I lost a huge amount of weight about 10 years ago and mostly I have kept it off, although i must admit since I started blogging a year ago it has been creeping back on... anyway, my point is that I was unhappy about how fat I was for years and it was only when I did something about it that it changed my life... I had become flabby in my mind as well as my body and the weight loss made my brain re-engage too... which cant be a bad thing... x

  5. Good luck Susan! You can do it and yes, I agree with Michael, don't deny yourself, everything in moderation. I've never cooked with lentils before but I bought a new cookbook the other day and was eyeing a recipe last night that called for lentils. Now I definitely want to try it.

    1. Must be that Indian cooking section of Jaime oliver ... yes? Love Indian so much!

  6. I certainly admire your new convictions Susan. I weed to be on the same bandwagon and just lack the motivation for all of the reasons you mention. This may just be the swift kick in the pants I need.

  7. I share your pain. Keep up the good work. I am seeing a nutritionist in a group setting with people from town. ( It is sponsored by the town.) For me its portion control, so hard. Lentil soup is filling and healthy. Good choice to start the ball rolling and the pounds dropping.

  8. Ugh...I was dieting before I left for Christmas in Texas and I just can't seem to get myself back on track now. I guess I have post-holiday blues, but this soup looks healthy and I'm totally going to make it with vegetarian "chicken" :) Thanks for the inspiration Susan!

  9. Just made it last night for dinner, and loved it :) The spices are just right!

    I didn´t whiz it and added a little less water, so it was not really a soup, but was great anyway.

    thanks :)


    (just my 3 cents on the dieting. happy and healthy should be the goal, not a number.)


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