February 28, 2012

Soup On A Chilly Day

It was a little chilly here in Minnesota over the weekend so I figured it was the perfect opportunity to make some soup.  There is a Cream of Lentil soup that I've been a big fan of for a while but have wanted to change some things about it so I came up with this new variation on it.  First, I took one cup of pink lentils and soaked them for 1 hour in water. You can use brown or green lentils too, but I find the pink add a much better flavor.

Meanwhile, I chopped 1/2 pound of pancetta and until it got all nice and crispy.  You can use olive oil if you'd like but it's really not necessary since you will be rendering a decent amount of fat.

While this was doing it's thing, I chopped 1 yellow onion, 1 large carrot, 2 garlic cloves and 1 shallot. 

When the pancetta was done I moved it to a plate with a paper towel. 

From here, you can either leave the fat in the pan or drain it and add olive oil to cook the veggies in.  This recipe is pretty healthy to begin with and the fat really does add a nice flavor.  It's your call.  Cook until they are tender, about 5-7 minutes or so.

At this point, drain the lentils and rinse well.  Remember back in October when we made all that chicken stock?  Well, we're putting it to good use today.  Add 2 quarts to the pan along with the lentils, 1 bay leaf and a few sprigs of fresh thyme.

The stock was still a little frozen when I put it in.  Hence, the funny log looking thing.

Place the cover on top and let this simmer for 30-45 minutes.  If you're like me, now would be a good time to fold all that laundry that has been sitting around all week.  After the soup has simmered, remove the bay leaf and the thyme.  From here you can either wait until this has cooled and blend it in a blender, or you can do it the easy way and whip out your immersion blender and blend until it is all nice and creamy.  Add salt and pepper taste.  Although the salt really isn't necessary since the pancetta is full of it.

Put your soup in a bowl, top with the crispy pancetta and some chopped scallions if you'd like.

This soup is easy, delicious and for the most part, pretty healthy.   Lentils are a good source of protein, fiber and iron.  They have also been known to help lower your cholesterol.  With stats like that, why wouldn't you want to make this soup? 

Bon appetit!

Cream of Lentil and Pancetta Soup

1 cup pink lentils
½ lb pancetta - chopped
1 yellow onion - diced
1 large carrot - diced
2 garlic cloves - diced
1 shallot - diced
2 quarts low sodium chicken stock
1 bay leaf
5-6 thyme sprigs
salt and pepper to taste
scallions, to taste

Soak lentils for 30-45 minutes in water.   Cook the pancetta in a pot until crispy, remove from pan and place on paper towel to drain.  Leave the fat in the pot.  Add the onion, carrot, garlic and shallot.  Cook 5-7 minutes until slightly tender.  Drain and rinse lentils.  Add lentils, chicken stock, bay leaf and thyme to pot.  Place cover on top and let simmer for 30-45 minutes.  Blend with immersion blender until creamy.   Add salt and pepper to taste.  Serve with pancetta and scallions.

February 26, 2012

Learning New Things

It has been quite the educational week for me.  It started off on Wednesday night with my beautiful mama and I taking a glass fusion earring making class at Glass Endeavors in Minneapolis a few nights ago.  What a fun skill to have to be able to take a couple pieces of glass, melt it down and have it turn into something really beautiful.  Don't get me wrong, it is not as easy as it sounds.  It was quite the process picking out all the little pieces to fuse together.  First you have to pick out the base/back of your earring.  Then, you need to decide what you want to put on top of it.  We decided to go with a dichroic look where it will come out gorgeous and glistening.  The results were pretty amazing.  We picked out the same piece of dichroic but mom picked out a black base and I went with a light purple.  It made all the difference in the world.  The pair I made is on the left and mom's is in the middle.  If they look funny it's because there is a piece of scotch tape over them to hold the backs in place until the glue dries.

The pair on the left I made with a piece of patterned glass on the bottom, a piece of clear glass in the middle and some blue "spaghetti" glass glued on top.  They turned out a little heavier than I would have liked but cute none the less.

For the last few months I have been doing some serious research on purchasing a new camera and a couple of weeks ago we bought a Nikon D5100.  It's our first DSLR camera so needless to say we have no idea what we're doing.  The learning continued on Thursday night with the hubby and I taking an Intro to DSLR class offered at National Camera Exchange.  Since we bought the camera through them, we get the 3 part class for free.  We had no idea what to expect out of this class since it was free and all.  We weren't even 10 minutes in and I knew we were going to leave even more excited to come back for the next class.  They covered all the basics about how to go from taking a picture to taking a photograph by using things like point of focus, ISO, shutter speed and aperture.  I've been snapping pics like crazy since we bought the camera and already I can tell a huge difference since taking the class.  There's no way I could take pics like these with our little point and shoot.

And one last one for you.  This is Kigen saying "Heeeeeeeyyyyy!!"