Seems like everyone and their mother has the sniffles and sneezes these January days. Truth be told, I woke up this morning knowing that my body is fighting off some little germ. I eat really minimally when I’m not feeling 100%. I like to give my body the opportunity to focus energy on healing and strengthening my immune system rather than on digesting. Ever wonder why we lose our hunger when we’re sick? It’s a signal to hunker down and rest so we can regain balance. Dr. Joel Fuhrman goes into this topic in his book Fasting and Eating for Health. Fasting is really misunderstood in the Western world. As with all of Dr. Fuhrman’s books, I think that this should be required reading for anyone interested in healthy living and anyone interested in researching ways to approach balanced health without having to rely on drugs and remedies that attempt to hide the symptoms of disease rather than promoting resolution at the source of the disease.
Right, enough of that for the minute. I really want to share this soup recipe with you because it is an example of something that we can do to support our health in a simple nutrient dense way. Whats even better is that this is a hearty, earthy soup that we can serve anytime.
Why these ingredients? Well, what I’ve learned over the years is that there are some super immune boosting foods that are truly helpful when we’re battling the old cold. Most of the players in this pot should be familiar to you. The newbie is likely astragalus or milk vetch. The root is the part of this plant that we’re interested in using. It is popular in Chinese herbal medicine and is known for its ability to stimulate immune function and fighting infection… respiratory infection in particular (the main reason I’m using it in this pot of soup.) I also use it to make tea and sprinkle on things that can take a little earthy dust. On it’s own, you’ll find it to be a pale greenish powder that is a little bit sweet and a little bit earthy. I encourage you to research herbs before you use them. If in doubt about herb safety for you and your health situation, please connect with an herbalist or practitioner who can advise you specifically.
Garlic and onion are also known for stimulating white blood cells and boosting immune function. The reason I went a bit wild with the garlic in this soup is because of the immune focus. If you’re not fighting off a sickness and want to cut back on the garlic you can adjust to suit your tastes. I’ll say that my 2 little boys each had 2nd helpings of this garlicky version… so you should know that the garlic isn’t at all offensive or sharp.
Millet is rich in vitamin E. The carrots, squash and kale bring beta carotene goodness. Lentils add zinc. All in all, we’re talking about a pot of good for us goodness here.
Garlic Lentil Soup
1 onion, diced
6 cloves of garlic, rough chopped
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
3 carrots, rough chunked
1 lb butternut squash, diced (if you can’t get fresh squash try frozen!)
1 Tbsp astragalus (mountain rose herbs is where I get my bulk herbs)
4 leaves kale
1/2 cup brown lentils
½ cup millet
3 cups cooked white beans (homemade or 1 large can, rinsed and drained)
8 cups water or homemade stock
1 tablespoon miso (I like Golden Millet Miso)
salt and pepper to taste
What you need: stock pot; Vitamix, food processor, stick blender or elbow grease!
Let’s start by get our foundational flavors in the pot. Saute your onion, garlic and celery in a bit of the broth until tender and fragrant.
While that’s working for you, add the carrots, squash, astragalus powder and kale to your vitamix or food processor with a few cups of broth. Whiz these guys until smooth. If you don’t have a machine that can do this using raw veg my recommendation is to cook the carrots, squash and kale in the broth in a separate pot until they are soft, then puree with a stick blender of mash well with a fork or potato masher and then add to the onions, garlic and celery.
Once the veggies are pureed we’re going to add them to the onions, garlic and celery. The puree is an earthy color that is a greeny orangey brown. It’s not going to win a beauty pagent, but it is going to taste good!
Let’s stir in the lentils, millet, beans and remaining stock. Once everyone is in the pot, cover and simmer for about 35 minutes until the lentils are cooked but not mushy.
To finish things up, you’re going to take about ½ cup of the hot soup out of the pot and put it in a small bowl with the miso paste. Mix the paste into the soup until it is well incorporated, then add the miso and soup mixture into the soup pot and stir to combine. Before serving, taste the soup and adjust seasoning as needed with a bit of salt and pepper.