Tuscan Kale & Lentil Stew with chicken sausage
Winter in Chicago just wouldn’t be winter without a polar vortex! Baby it’s cold outside and it’s time to dream of Tuscany and make a hearty Tuscan Kale & Lentil Stew!! I love how we now use marketing buzz words seasonal weather! I grew in Canada where we simply call this kind of weather WINTER!! Hahaha!! Nonetheless as Christmas nears not even this incoming blast of cold can change the spirits at our house. With this cold front coming in and a thousand things to do better the big day, I wanted something quick and easy to make that we could all enjoy.
Every morning the girls count the number of days on the calendar left until the big night that good old Santa will make his annual visit. They have had me check the chimney to make sure it’s clean (even though we have an electric fireplace) and clear for him to come down. The lead up to the big day is almost as exciting as the big day itself with the final week of school festivities, the class holiday party, the celebrations at their extra curricular classes, our annual gingerbread men/ladies baking night, the twins exchanging their gifts to each other on Christmas eve and the giggles trying to go to bed early that night! Oh I can’t wait!
Until then, we must deal with the cold, quietly count the days until spring and do what we can to keep us warm and healthy! A healthy soupy, stew is what I’m thinking for tonight. My gals love anything tomato based, so we do a lot of Italian inspired soups and stews. My stews and soups are usually packed with a variety of finely diced veggies so the kids don’t even know what they are eating. My cooking has recently been thrown another curve ball with the girls getting upper dental expanders. Many of our go to foods are harder to eat now or get stuck in these new contraptions. We have had many pureed soups and lots of soft foods. I should have taken a photo of all the bananas I bought last week! Despite the weather, our morning thick, “nice cream” smoothie routine has been in full force this month!
For tonight’s Tuscan Kale & Lentil Stew, I had to chop the vegetables, in particular the kale, extra fine so it goes down a little easier. This stew could also easily be turned into a thick pureed soup, before adding in the sausage. The vegetables and lentils make this a very hearty and filling soup so I’m hoping there will leftovers for my lunch tomorrow!
One lesson these mouth retainers are reminding us all to do, is chew our food much more than we have been. It’s funny what a basic principle this is but how often we, or at least I, forget to really chew my mouthfuls. Often I only chew my food a few times before swallowing it down and then digging in for another bit. With a running list of a million things I need to do after dinner, I am often rushing through meals to get to the clean up or other nightly tasks. A habit I am trying to be more conscious of and ideally break. I keep reminding myself to aim for 20 chews a bit, place my fork down if needed before eating my next bit. Like many of my habits, it is a work in progress!
Back to the stew, given Hubby and I are don’t eat meat, I generally try to make things that I can do as a plant-based meal then add on a little meat for the girlies. This stew is a perfect example. It is essentially a plant-based meal, with a little sautéed chicken sausage sliced up and served on top of the soup. You could also add the sausage to the pot at the end and let it cook in the soup for the last 5-10 minutes to get the flavor into the stew. The girls love the garlic chicken sausage from Trader Joe’s so this is my go to sausage but there are so many great brands on the market. Can be served on its on or with a nice toasted piece of bread or fresh bun.
Tuscan Kale & Lentil Stew
A healthy, hearty, rustic Tuscan style soup that is quick and easy to make. Sure to impress! A great dish to make ahead of time to pack for lunches or to have on those busy, stressful evenings when you have a million and one things to do and don’t want to cook.
1 tbsp coconut oil
1 onion, diced
2 carrots, minced
2 celery stalks, minced
1 (28oz) can tomatoes
4 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1 ½ cups red lentils, soaked & rinsed
5 cups baby kale or spinach, chopped
3-4 garlic chicken sausages (optional)
In a Dutch oven or large soup pot, heat oil over medium-high heat. Sauté the onions and garlic in the hot oil until they begin to soften and turn golden brown, carefully not to burn the garlic. Stir in the carrots and celery, continue to stir and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Pour in the tomatoes and their juices, the stock and lentils. Bring to a light boil, then reduce the heat to low, cover and let simmer for 20-25 minutes.
While the soup is simmering, cook sausages in a frying pan or skillet until cooked through. Slice cooked sausages into roundels and set aside.
When soup is ready, turn off heat and stir in the kale. Return cover to pot and let the kale wilt for 1-2 minutes in the hot stew before serving. Season the stew to taste with salt and pepper. Divide stew into bowls and place cooked sausage on the top of the stew and serve.
Makes about 4 servings.