Maria’s Lentil Barley Soup with Optional Cheese Topping

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Whole grains, legumes, vegetables and good-for-you herbs and spice! As a dietitian, I feel it is important to incorporate these foods daily into your diet. And this soup is the perfect way to do so! It is a favorite amongst my clients. I have a vegetarian friend who makes this weekly and raves about how delicious and filling it is.

Lentils are an easy-to-cook legume. They are nutritious, providing you with several nutrients including fiber, folate, iron, potassium, phosphorus, calcium and protein. However, the protein in lentils is incomplete, as it does not contain sufficient amounts of all of the essential amino acids. This means the protein is not adequate to make tissue in the body. To understand more about incomplete, complete and complementary protein go here.

And the same with barley, it lacks an essential amino acid. The barley, however, contains the amino acid the lentils lack, and the lentils have the amino acid the barley lacks. Thus, the combination of lentils + barley makes this soup full of complete, complementary protein. Lentils and barley make a complete protein for a vegetarian or vegan. Adding the cauliflower adds volume and nutrition without many calories, i.e., you get to eat more!

This delicious soup is the perfect vehicle for turmeric. Turmeric contains the chemical curcumin. Curcumin and other chemicals in turmeric might decrease inflammation. Because of this, turmeric might be beneficial for treating conditions that involve inflammation. Remember to eat black pepper at the same time as turmeric as it increases absorption of the curcumin from the turmeric.

If you don’t eat dairy, omit the cheese topping.

Lentil Barley Soup with Cheese Topping (Vegans of course would omit the cheese)

• 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
• 1 small onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
• 2 cloves garlic minced
• 2 stalk celery, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
• 2 medium carrot, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
• ¾ tsp dried thyme
• ¼ tsp dried basil
• 2 tsp turmeric
• Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
• ¾ cup barley (I use Trader Joe’s 10 Minute Barley)
• 1 cup brown lentils, rinsed and drained
• 10 cups chicken, vegetable or beef broth, reduced sodium
• Optional: 1/2 head cauliflower, cored, trimmed, and cut into small florets (about 3 cups)
• 3 ounces Gruyere, Swiss, or Parmesan cheese, shredded (1 cup)

Heat oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add onion, celery, carrot, and garlic. Cook stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened, about 8 minutes.

Add whichever, (the barley or the lentils) that takes the longest took cook. Add the basil, thyme, turmeric and broth; bring to a boil. Set the timer for the length of time the package directions say to cook the barley or the lentils minus the length of time your package of barley or lentils says to cook. For instance, the lentils I use take 20 minutes to cook and the 10 Minute TJ’s Barley takes 10. So I put the lentils in first, set the timer for 10 minutes and when the timer goes off I add the barley then set the timer again for another 10 minutes. Reduce heat, cover and simmer. If you aren’t using the 10 Minute Barley, most likely your barley will go in first as it typically takes 45 minutes.

Season with salt and pepper.

Optional: Stir in cauliflower, increase heat to medium-high, and simmer just until cauliflower is crisp-tender, about 5 minutes.

Serve and pass cheese to sprinkle on top.

Since turmeric is so good for you, feel free to add more turmeric according to your taste. Remember to add black pepper as it increases absorption of the curcumin from the turmeric.

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