Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Lentil, Barley and Mushroom Soup & New Year’s Resolutions or Not?

This picture of the Nati Boh guy from the "Miracle on 34th Street" is for the locals. Dan took this and we both thought is was cute. Only in Baltimore Hon.  ;-)

Monday things were back to usual with Dan returning to work and me returning to my usual getting caught up around the house day after a long weekend of doing nothing at home. We started our morning with smoothies. These smoothies contained: frozen banana, kale, Costco frozen mixed berries (raspberries, blueberries and Marion berries), a little dried oatmeal, a few walnuts, ground flaxseed, cinnamon, ginger and stevia.

I thought the smoothie was good but Dan wasn’t as thrilled since the texture was less creamy. In his I substituted the berries for one of the bananas which made the smoothie less thick and creamy. Maybe next time I will add berries (for nutrition) but keep both of the bananas. I guess I will need to think about how to change the smoothie next. *scratches head* It is important to me that Dan enjoys his food so I need to come up with something else. I will keep you posted on what that is.

My mid-morning snack was my usual fruit and nut and this time it was banana and Brazil nuts (for selenium).

I was busy at lunch time and didn’t want to take time to make myself something so I tossed a few things together and called it a meal. This time it was the extra garbanzo beans that I cooked on Sunday with a little marinara stirred in. When it came of the microwave I stirred in some nutritional yeast. It would have been more nutritious if I had also wilted in a little spinach but I wanted to get back to what I was doing.

For some odd reason I have been craving beans the last few days. While I have no idea where that came from since it is a healthy craving I decided to just go with and make bean soup for dinner. Dan loves lentil soup and since that is quick (no soaking or long cooking required) I thought I would make it for dinner. As you know I have been trying to add mushrooms to our daily diet (for the immune boosting impact) which is why I added those to the soup. The barley was added to give the soup a little “chew” in addition to that from the dried mushrooms. The smoked paprika and cumin were included to add a little smokiness to the background. Here is what I did:

Lentil, Barley and Mushroom Soup
Serves 6


1 pound green lentils (you can substitute red lentils for green but they are not as substantial and will fall apart more in the soup)
½ cup barley
water to cover the lentils and barley by an inch
1 large red onion, peeled and finely diced (approximately 4 cups)
10 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
2 bay leaves
1 pinch crushed red pepper flakes
½ tablespoon dried thyme leaves
½ teaspoon smoked paprika (to give a smoky background you can also use liquid smoke)
½ teaspoon cumin seed (also added for their smoky taste)
1 cup dried mushrooms rehydrated and chopped into pieces that will fit easily on a spoon (I used dried shitake caps)
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard, or to taste (enough to give the soup a spark of flavor in the background but not enough that you can tell it has mustard)
1 lemon, zested and juiced
freshly ground black pepper, to taste


After allowing the onions and garlic to stand 10 minutes after you mince them combine everything but the lemon juice and simmer until the beans and barley are tender. Be certain to stir at least every 15 minutes to keep the soup from sticking to the bottom. I cooked my soup in a cast iron enameled pan which helps to distribute the heat and slow the sticking. You may also need to add water depending on how much water evaporates and how thick or thin you want the soup in the end.

When you are ready to serve add the lemon zest and lemon juice and stir to combine. Taste the soup for seasoning and adjust to your taste.

Nutritional Information:

Amount Per Serving
Calories - 396.16
Calories From Fat (3%) - 13.53

Total Fat - 1.56g
Saturated Fat - 0.23g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 83.32mg
Potassium - 914.58mg
Total Carbohydrates - 74.58g
Fiber - 28.67g
Sugar - 2.16g
Protein - 23.53g


I liked the taste of this soup it had good flavor but wasn’t overpowering. The Dijon was something that I added at the last minute but I think it was necessary. You can’t taste the Dijon but it does provide a little something in the background.

I am continually amazed at how our taste buds have adapted to food without salt and oil. Those were the last two big changes I made to our diet and while they were the most difficult our taste buds have adapted beautifully. Each time I think of how our diet has changed for the better this year I smile. Making changes for the better is immensely rewarding, well at least it is for me. ;-)

New Year’s Resolutions or Not:

Immediately after Christmas I instinctively think about what I want to change about my life. I don’t believe in resolutions per se but I do believe in making permanent changes for the better which I think go beyond resolutions. Temporary changes never seem to get me anywhere.

Each year end I reflect on what went well or not so well that year and try to come up with reasonable goals for the coming year. I tend to make too many goals for myself but over the years I have learned to back off a little. *rolls eyes* My brother-in-law an ex-marine has told me many times that I am gung ho enough to be a marine. LOL, sadly that is a fairly decent description of my personality. Once I have something in my head that I want to do I am full steam ahead. My husband calls this “all guts no brains” and describes how I got my knee injury. I have no idea where this personality trait comes from but it is definitely both good and bad. ;-)

Back to the things I want to work on this year. Overall my goals are always health related. You are shocked by this I know, LOL. This year is no different. I want to make a few changes which I separated by category:

• Food: Last year my goal was to clean up my diet and eliminate the unhealthy things that had become a habit. I am happy to say that goal was met. I was hesitant to give up my beloved unfiltered extra virgin olive oil but it was much easier than I thought. This year my food goal is to continue to read about nutrition weekly and make changes as I learn new things. Of course I will share these things with you as I learn them.

• Exercise: Since I conquered my food goal this year I want to clean up my exercise routine so it is as healthy and well researched as my food intake. I expect this one to take longer to pull together but I know I will have things in place long before the end of 2011. :-)

• Emotions: This year my goal is to be more forgiving and understanding when things happen that hurt my feelings. I tend to be overly sensitive which means I take everything to heart and I want to change that about myself. I am going to work to understand that when someone hurts me it probably has nothing to do with me even though it doesn’t feel like that at the time. Wish me luck this one is going to be tough for me since I am very sensitive.

• Relationships: While I think I am a good wife I also know I could be a better wife and that is my goal this year. I know that sometimes my husband feels like he is a bit of a blog widower and that makes me feel terrible. I have been trying to work on the blog when he isn’t home so that when he is I can give him my undivided attention. I haven’t figured out how to work things out on the weekend other than to write posts before the weekend to post later or to post abbreviated entries maybe mostly pictures. If anyone has any other ideas on that I would love to hear them. ;-)

To remind myself of my goals I post them prominently where I will see them every day. I write them on mirrors with dry erase pens and also post them on the refrigerator. Seeing them everyday helps me to stay focused. In the past I have made them the screen saver on my computer or made them my wallpaper. I also try to read them every morning to remind myself what I want. It also helps to break the goals into smaller definable items like: read an exercise book each month, or change my workout routine every 6 weeks, that sort of thing.

Now that I have shared my annual goals with you I would love to hear what you would like to change? If your goals are food related and you think I can help in some way please feel free to ask. I would be happy to help if I can. In my perfect world everyone will want to make changes and live a more healthful life and if I can help with that I would be thrilled. ;-)

How do you resist cookies, cupcakes, and chocolate?:

This is a question that I get so often by email that I decided I should write about it on the blog. From the many emails I have received that ask this question I am going to assume that many of you are struggling to eliminate or at least reduce sweets from your diet and can’t imagine how we did. I think the main reason we were able to do it is that we understand the impact that these things have on health and that makes change much easier. Here are my thoughts on baked goods and sweets.

First, baked goods even vegan version can hardly be considered healthy. They are typically full of flour (usually refined white flour), oil (or worse vegan margarine), and sugar. This is a combination of foods we have eliminated for health reasons. The flour and sugar will have a negative impact on blood sugar and the fat a similar impact on our arteries. Knowing this makes these items much less appealing.

Second, consuming sugar depresses the immune system. Since we are focused on improving our health we don’t want to do anything that will result in more sickness not less.

Third, sugar and fat are addictive making it difficult to eat a small amount. I have found this to be true myself. If there is something around, like homemade cookies or cupcakes it is difficult to eat just one or part of one. If I were going to eat these things I would buy them when we were out so that there wasn’t a large supply in the house. ;-)

Fourth, baked goods are devoid of nutrition. I work hard to maximize our nutrition which means the idea of empty calories in the form of baked goods or sweets is completely unappealing to me. But this is coming from the woman who adds kale to her smoothies so consider the source.

Fifth and finally, baked goods are high in calories. If you are trying to keep your weight under control baked goods are not your friend. I picked up a name brand individually wrapped vegan cookie at the health food store the other day and it had 500 calories for one cookie. I have made entire meals that don’t have that many calories. That label was an eye opener for me. *shakes head*

I hope that helps some of you view baked goods in a different way. Sure you can make vegan baked goods and it isn’t difficult but don’t kid yourself that they are not good for you. Empty calories are empty calories whether they are vegan or not.

This is another example of what I mean when I say vegan is the starting point for me not the end point. Most vegan food that I see isn’t something that I would eat. It is so easy to make healthy vegan food that also tastes good that I find it difficult to understand why others don’t do it. I have come to the conclusion that it is because they don’t understand nutrition. I still when remember when I didn’t understand nutrition either, so I am hopeful that others will become interested and want to improve their health before something goes terribly wrong for them. I can’t help but think about the statistics that half of all Americans will die of heart disease and 40% will get cancer. With odds like those it doesn’t make any sense to me to tempt fate by eating unhealthy food.

Happy Thoughts:

Monday was a good day for me and it was fairly productive which is always a good thing. Here are my happy thoughts today.

• I had a day with no knee pain, not one single twinge. It felt so great to have my knee back to normal. I am happy for the lack of pain and that I didn’t do anything silly to reinjure my knee which is very unlike me.

• I had a chance to play around with my TRX yesterday, only upper body and ab work no lower body exercises. I can already tell you that I am going to love this thing. However I still need to put it through its paces before I review it but I can’t imagine changing my mind. So far I love my new exercise toy. ;-)

• My friend Louis was able to get home safely after his 24+ hours at work in the storm. I was grateful that he called to let me know he made it home. He lives so close (on the Delaware shore) that is amazes me that he got a foot of snow and we got possibly 2 inches.

• Speaking of storms I am grateful that the weekend storm missed us. I know I was excited about getting snow but not a foot of it. Can’t say I was actually looking forward to shoveling the snow off the mostly flat roof on our first floor addition like I did last year. That was not a fun job. I am thankful to have been able to skip that this past weekend.

• I am thankful to be ending 2010 more healthy that it started. I feel so much better now than I did this same time last year. How often do we actually improve physically as we age? I know it isn’t typical but it can happen to you too if you want it too.

Signing out:

Today has been another busy one for me. Sorry it took me so long to get this post up. I have been very busy at home since Dan left for work and just had a chance to get on the computer. However I am happy to report it has been a productive day at our house.

I have black bean chili simmering on the stove now and it smells so good. I made this to eat as chili, to make taco salad and to top baked potatoes for the next few days and maybe to stash a little in the freezer. At the moment I have no idea what dinner is going to be at our house but chili may play a role. ;-)

I hope everyone is staying warm and having a great week. I will talk to you again tomorrow.


  1. You have ESP, I was just thinking of Lentil soup!
    Good post! I have too many New Years resolutions to name. Downsizing some of my clothes is a must, working out more is at the top. Spending more quality time with Chris would be wonderful and some actual down time is needed desperately. Hope your New Years will be fun!

  2. Ali, try frozen fresh pear in that smoothie for creaminess, frozen dead-ripe peaches. When I have peaches or pears just starting to be unappealing for eating out of hand, I toss them in the freezer and then defrost in the microwave just enough that I can cut the fruit away from the core. An old Weight Watchers recipe calls for plain lowfat yogurt (I trust you have a substitute for this!), pears, and lemon to make an amazing freeze that is much more than the sum of its parts.

    Enjoy, and Happy New Year!

  3. Note to self: pick up some barley. This is the second yummy recipe I've seen that requires barley. Do you think kamut would suffice? Regardless, that soup looks divine. I've been craving beans, too, and heeding the call. They are so good (and good for us!)

    You have impressive goals. You know, for me, as a super-goal oriented person, I'm actually going to chill a bit on the goals. Instead, I plan to gift myself with things I know I will enjoy (a vegan cooking class in January, a food writing class in February and registration for a couple of races in the spring / summer).

    It looks like you're read for 2011, Ali!

  4. Brandi,

    I made lentil because it was quick and Dan loves it which means we were both happy, LOL.

    I used to have too many goals that I couldn't possibly get to them all which was frustrating. Plus this way I can add more mid-year if I am ahead of schedule. ;-) I like the goals you mentioned.

    Our New Years Even should be good. We are spending it with good friends.

    talk to you later,

  5. I didn't know that mushrooms were immune boosting. That's good to know...I'm adding mushrooms to my grocery list! Everyone around me is sick, including my husband. :-(

    I love your goals for the New year! You have a lot of the same goals that I do. :o)

    I like your simple chickpea lunch...and that soup looks yummy as well.

  6. Cindy,

    Thanks for the suggestions I wish Dan liked peaches but they aren't his favorite. I want to add in the berries since they are the most healthy fruit and back down on the less healthy is that makes sense. I may have tried to change too many things at one time for Dan by halving the banana and the walnuts all at once. I will try your frozen pear idea that sounds good. Frozen mango is also nice if you are mango fan.

    When I think of all the non-fat Greek yogurt I used to eat in the name of health I get so angry. If I only knew then I was concentrating the casein I never would have eaten it. Oh well, live and learn I suppose. The only subsitute I can think of for the creaminess of yogurt is tofu or cashew creme. If I come up with something else I will post it.

    I hope you have a Happy and Healthy New Year too!

  7. I love that you include nutritional information and how many servings a recipe makes, but would it be possible to include the actual serving sizes?

  8. JL,

    I think kamut, farro or spelt would all work fine since they remain more firm when cooked. You could even use wheat berries if you have those.

    I think as it gets colder we are programmed to crave higher calorie foods. Thankfully it is beans and not something unhealthy. ;-)

    Good for you taking a break this year. I need the goals to function is seems, LOL. Enjoy your cooking and food writing classes those sounds wonderful. I am considering the Baltimore half marathon this year. We will see if my knee agrees with me. ;-)

    Have a wonderful new year,

  9. Michelle,

    Sorry to hear everyone is sick around you that can't be good. Garlic is immune boosting too. ;-) I hope you hubby feels better soon. Neither Dan or I have had a cold in the last two years. I am convinced it is because of our diet though I can't prove it.

    I bet a lot of us have the similar goals. I wanted to tackle the food first since it has the biggest impact but I knew tackling exercise the same way did health was next up. As you may have noticed I started focusing on that a little while ago.

    The chickpeas were something I tossed together. However it was much better than I expected it to be and was very filling.

    have a great new year,

  10. Kuntrageous Vegan,

    Soup would be difficult to give an exact serving for because the total volume in the pot could be very different depending on whether you simmered it with the lid on, cracked or off. There is no way to estimate the evaporation.

    When I calculate the nutritional numbers I do it by a percentage of the total. In essence it takes the total for the recipe and divides it by the number of servings. If you want to be exact you could measure the soup in ounces once cooked and then divide that into the number of servings. I would guess this serving was about 20 ounces. Sorry I couldn't be more precise but without knowing how much liquid evaporated it is impossible to guess.


  11. Ali--I have lots of thank-you's for you today! TY for the recipe...I've been wanting a barley mushroom soup recipe for a long time so I'm excited to try this one. TY for sharing your new year's "goals" with us and i was about to say mine (not eating sugar) when you went on to explain how you and Dan got off of sugar (so TY for that, too). I got off of sugar before, I can do it again. But it's hard, it's addicting, and there are so many reasons not to eat it. --Stephanie

  12. Stephanie,

    This soup is more lentil with barley and mushroom but we liked it. There is a mushroom barley soup on the blog too.

    Getting off sugar is tough. I believe it is addictive and I have trouble with it when I start eating it too. Sugar is one thing I need to keep out of the house in order to stay out of it. I really don't want it depressing our immune systems so it went. You did it once you can do it again. ;-)

    I hope you have a happy and health new year!

  13. I never thought about putting kale in a smoothie! GREAT idea!

  14. TiffKey,

    I love kale in smoothies and it seriously increases the nutrition. ;-)


  15. I just made this soup and we both thoroughly enjoyed it. We drove home from TN today and I was going to make a quick pasta dish, but when I saw this recipe and knew I had the ingredients, it was a no-brainer.

    Surprisingly enough, I didn't gain weight while out of town, unless it shows up tomorrow morning. I ate well, but then added some not-so-well stuff (though nothing like my husband's family!). Until recently I thought that the worst parts of baked goods and candy were the fat-clogging and high-caloric aspects. For 2011, I resolve to read at least one nutrition book a month and keep reminding myself of the other negative aspects -- depressed immunity, glucose impacts, empty calories, etc.

    Speaking of sweets, are you trying to cut back on bananas? Fruits don't depress immunity, do they? If you have time, could you please discuss how fruit sugar is different from other types and whether dates are a good option? (we love dates)

  16. Well you already know I'm all over this soup. Sounds so good and I could really have gone for a bowl this evening. I hope you're having a nice evening relaxing!

  17. hi Ali, very interesting to see your posts on NY Resolutions. I have always seen this time of year as a time of change as it's been not only a new year, but a time between semesters and my birthday is in January, so it's easy to see this as a time of new beginnings.

    I know sometimes my husband feels like a blog widow but he really encourages my hobby and lately I have not had time to work on it. Here's to continuing to get better each year!

  18. Great minds etc. etc. - I'm making lentil soup next week. It's a favorite at our house!

    Re: balancing time with Dan and blogging. Think of your time on your blog as your job or your volunteer activity. The results may not be as obvious, but it's clear to me that you make a tremendous difference in the lives of your readers. You have a talent for synthesizing lots of information in a way that makes it more understandable and accessible. While your blog may have started out as being a little something you did for yourself, it's become a lot more than that!

    Probably not communicating well here, just trying to say that your blog is a valuable resource and I appreciate the effort you put into it. I'd hope you get back as well from the interaction and that has to result in you being a better rounded person. I know for me, doing stuff (like working out) that may seem for myself helps me, which in turn helps me be a better wife and mom.

  19. Laura,

    Wow you made the soup already, that was fast! I guess it really was a pantry friendly soup, LOL. ;-) I am glad you liked it.

    Congratulations on getting out of the holidays without weight gain that isn't easy to do.

    I love your resolution to read a nutrition book every month. That sounds like a great idea to me. :-)

    Good idea about comparing fruit to sugar. I will definitely add that topic to my list. With a little luck I will get to in the next few days.


  20. Heather,

    I love soup this time of year. When it is cold I feel like I need hot food. I knew you would like the protein on this one, LOL.

    I hope you had an uneventful trip to the resort for the wedding and that your cold is improving.


  21. Jessica,

    This time of year does seem to be a natural for making changes and trying to improve. I love that you also link change to your birthday. I will keep that in mind for my birthday too. ;-) Thanks for the suggestion.

    Dan used to encourage my hobby (the blog) too but I think lately he has felt a little left out. Working on the blog while he is at work is a little thing. Now if I can only figure out what to do about the weekend.


  22. Neca,

    I agree with you on the lentil soup, it seems to be a universal favorite even with omnis (at least the ones I know). ;-)

    Awww, thank you so much for your kind words about the blog. I really appreciate them! Additionally you gave me an idea to write about. Thanks for that too. :-)

    I agree with you that lots of things that I do for myself somehow seem to help more than just me. Exercise is a great example of that. That is a great reminder for us all.


  23. I have been craving beans a lot lately, too. Your lentil soup sounds awesome, barley and mushrooms are such a nice addition. I am intrigued by the dijon mustard, I love the stuff so I imagine I'd be wild about this as a background flavor. That black bean chili would hit the (bean) spot right now too!

    Congrats on achieving your nutritional goals this year! I definitely noticed the change in your recipes since last year.

    Wanted to mention that I looked over every recipe in Appetite for Reduction last night (was at the edge of my seat!), and I think you would really like it. You should flip through next time you are at the bookstore.

  24. Sarah,

    There seems to be a lot of bean craving going on now. JL said the same thing. Maybe it is the weather for it.

    Thanks for saying you noticed the changes in my recipes. I have been working on it this year. ;-)

    Also thank you for thinking of me and mentioning the book. I need to run to the bookstore tomorrow so I will give it a thorough look.

    enjoy the rest of your Wednesday,

  25. I'm absolutely making this tomorrow! Thanks!!



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