hearty kale and lentil soup

Back in my college days I was a vegetarian. I mean, who wasn’t a vegetarian for at least a little while in college though, right?

kale and lentil soup | Brooklyn Homemaker

I grew up in a strictly meat and potatoes (and dessert every night) kind of family, so straying from that formula was definitely a learning experience. I was on my own for the first time and I wanted to express myself as the “independent” young adult that I was… or something like that.

I don’t know.
I was 18.
Who are you to judge me?

kale and lentil soup | Brooklyn Homemaker

I think that out of my whole family my grandmother had the hardest time wrapping her head around my new dietary choices. I mean, most of the family was sort of just like, “why?”, and rolled their eyes, but the first time I went home for Thanksgiving my poor grandmother was completely beside herself.

This was well before the bacon-ization of America and most of the sides at the table were totally vegetarian friendly, so I bellied up to the table and piled my plate high with squash and beans and potatoes and biscuits and corn and all sorts of amazing things. Grandma just couldn’t (or wouldn’t) accept that I was satisfied or full without having turkey and stuffing and gravy. She kept asking if I was okay and offering to go get me something else to eat.
Personally though, I was thrilled with all the different sides and it was one of the best meals I’d had in a long time. Grandma wasn’t buying it though.

kale and lentil soup | Brooklyn Homemaker

Back at college I was doing my best to try new things, and was eating all sorts of things that I was unfamiliar with up until that point.

Crispy fried bean curd (basically general tso’s tofu) was one of my new favorite things at the Chinese restaurant on Main St., and a vegetarian chili made with TVP or “texturized vegetable protein” at the neighborhood health food store was a lunchtime staple in my diet. I also ate a lot of BK Whoppers without the meat. No veggie burger, just a Whopper with no meat. Don’t knock it till you try it.

kale and lentil soup | Brooklyn Homemaker

One thing that I never quite got into though, was lentils.

Something about lentils just conjured images of dusty old hippies gnawing on sprouted mung beans in some commune somewhere. While I was actually really into Phish and the Grateful Dead, the lentils (and the mung beans) didn’t appeal to me.

kale and lentil soup | Brooklyn Homemaker

It wasn’t until much later, after meat found it’s way back into my life, that I tried lentils. My years as a vegetarian taught me a lot about how to make a tasty & filling meatless meal, and that I should always be open to trying new things.

There was a time shortly after I moved to Brooklyn when I was out of work for a little bit and a good friend found herself out of work at the same time. We decided to save money by cooking big cheap meals together that we could share and eat for a few days. We came across a recipe for a pureed french lentil soup, and given that lentils are like a buck a bag, we decided to go for it.

It was love at first bite and for years that was my go to lentil soup recipe.

kale and lentil soup | Brooklyn Homemaker

Lately though, I’ve been wanting to try something different. Something new. I figured that I might add some diced tomatoes to the soup for a bit of brightness and acid, and throw in some lacinato kale for texture and color and to make the soup feel even healthier and more substantial.

kale and lentil soup | Brooklyn Homemaker

This is just the kind of thing I crave this time of year. A hearty, healthy, filling soup to warm my old bones on a cold winter night. Tender veggies, earthy al dente lentils, chewy dark green kale, bright acidic tomatoes, a bit of heat from the chili flakes, and fresh green parsley. Just perfect.

While this soup would probably fall under the “healthy” category, I promise that it doesn’t taste like health food. No dusty hippie communes here, just bright, delicious, hearty soup. And even though this soup is technically vegan, you won’t miss the meat at all. This soup is so thick and hearty it’s practically a stew!

kale and lentil soup | Brooklyn Homemaker

Hearty Kale and Lentil Soup

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups diced onions (1 large onion)
1 cup sliced carrots (about 3 carrots)
1 cup sliced celery (about 3 to 4 stalks)
Salt and pepper to taste
4 to 6 cloves garlic, finely chopped or crushed
one 28oz can diced tomatoes
1 cup dried green or brown lentils
6 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1 bunch Lacinato kale, ribs removed and roughly chopped (about 4 cups)
1/2 cup roughly chopped fresh parsley
4 teaspoons apple cider vinegar

Heat olive oil over medium high heat in a large heavy stockpot or dutch oven. Add onions, carrots, and celery, & season with salt and pepper. Sauté until onions are soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and sauté one minute more. Add tomatoes and simmer for about 5 minutes to concentrate their flavor. Add lentils and stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add kale and parsley and simmer 5 minutes more. Check that lentils are tender. Add vinegar, taste, and adjust seasoning if necessary.

Serve with a sprinkle of fresh parsley and some nice crusty bread. A bit of parmesan cheese could be a nice touch too.


a healthier cream of mushroom soup

I’ve been craving some good old fashioned cream of mushroom soup for weeks.

 a healthier cream of mushroom soup | Brooklyn Homemaker

When I was growing up I had two working parents, so a lot of my afternoons were spent at my grandmother’s house out in the country in upstate New York. We always ate really well (too well, probably) at Grandma’s house, and lunch was always a big deal. Soup and sandwiches was a pretty popular lunch time menu, but I hated tomatoes when I was young so mushroom soup (from a can of course) was how I rolled.

I don’t know what kid likes mushrooms but not tomatoes, but what can I say. I was a weird kid I guess.

a healthier cream of mushroom soup | Brooklyn Homemaker

When I think of all the gorgeous tomatoes that I missed out on, grown in the bright sunshine of my grandfather’s garden, it makes my heart ache. What was wrong with me? What a sad boring life I led.

One of my great grandmother’s favorite lunches in the summer was a thick-sliced fresh tomato sandwich on white bread with a little mayonnaise and a generous sprinkle of salt. I, however, usually opted for velveeta grilled cheese (baked, not fried) with a bowl of cream of mushroom soup.

Mushroom soup has always felt like a perfect comfort food ever since.

a healthier cream of mushroom soup | Brooklyn Homemaker

I recently dug around for recipes to satisfy my mushroom soup cravings, but I was stopped dead in my tracks by how heavy most of them sounded. I’m sure you know by now that I’m not shy about using real butter and cream, but Jeez Louise! One recipe, from my best-friend-in-my-head Ina Garten, called for a whole stick of butter, a cup of half and half, and a cup of heavy cream!

I knew there had to be a way to make a silky, creamy, rich & hearty cream of mushroom soup without using that much dairy and fat, but was having a hard time figuring it out. Then a friend at work reminded me that I already know the perfect secret ingredient!

a healthier cream of mushroom soup | Brooklyn Homemaker

Aaaaaaaaawwwwwhhhhh! Look at how that beauty glows! Can you hear the angels singing?

a healthier cream of mushroom soup | Brooklyn Homemaker

I’ve already used this trick before, when making corn chowder this summer, and I guess I somehow just forgot about it. When I was whining about how heavy and fattening homemade cream of mushroom soup was, my friend was like, why don’t you just do that roasted cauliflower trick?


Roasting cauliflower in the oven, rather than boiling it with the rest of the soup, keeps it from tasting cabbage-y, and once pureed super smooth, it adds an unbelievably silky texture that you’d truly never guess didn’t come from cream thickened with a roux. I don’t even understand how or why this works so well, but it really does.

a healthier cream of mushroom soup | Brooklyn Homemaker

I wasn’t intending to make a vegetarian or vegan cream of mushroom soup, just a lighter version, so I went ahead and kept the chicken stock and (some of) the butter. I also intended to add in just a bit of milk or cream at the end, but once the roasted cauliflower was pureed in, I realized I didn’t even need to. With that in mind, I now realize that it would be really easy to make this soup vegan if you want to. Just substitute olive oil or coconut oil for the butter, and vegetable (preferably mushroom) stock for the chicken stock. Since cauliflower is the only thickening agent, this soup also happens to be totally gluten free!

a healthier cream of mushroom soup | Brooklyn Homemaker

This soup is just what the doctor ordered. It’s so earthy and rich and… mushroomy. Using three varieties of flavorful mushrooms makes sure that every bit packs a serious punch. White wine adds a luxe floral note, fresh thyme compliments the woodsy earthiness of the mushrooms, and fresh parsley finishes the soup with bright green herbal flavor. While this recipe is healthier than most, I would never call it a “diet” or “light” recipe because it tastes way too good to be “health food”, and because it does still call for a good bit of butter and olive oil.

Thanks to the pureed roasted cauliflower, this soup feels every bit as rich and satisfying as you could hope. Some of the mushrooms are pureed too, but I like to reserve a few so you get some meaty bites of them every so often. You can use an immersion blender or a standing blender to puree the soup, but I will say that a standing blender seems to get the soup just a bit more smooth and silky. I used an immersion blender though, because it works almost as well and just seems safer, easier, and less messy.

a healthier cream of mushroom soup | Brooklyn Homemaker

A Healthier Cream of Mushroom Soup

2 Tbsp olive oil (divided)
1 small head of cauliflower
salt and pepper to taste
3 Tbsp butter (or coconut or olive oil if desired)
2 1/2 pounds mixed mushrooms (I used cremini, portabello, & shiitake)
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1 cup dry white wine
4 cups chicken stock  (or vegetable or mushroom stock)
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley

Preheat oven to 400 F. Roughly chop cauliflower into large florets. Toss in 1 tablespoon of olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and arrange in an even layer on a parchment lined baking sheet. Roast for 30 minutes and set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, roughly chop your mushrooms, removing and discarding any thick woody stems (especially the stems of portabello and shiitake). Heat butter and remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium high heat in a large thick-bottomed pot. Once the butter is sizzling, add the mushrooms and thyme, lightly season with salt and pepper, and stir to coat. Cook the mushrooms until they have released most of their liquid. Remove two cups of the cooked mushrooms, letting liquid drain back into pot, and set aside.
Add the onions and the garlic, and cook for about a minute. Add the white wine, chicken stock, and half of the chopped parsley. Bring to a simmer and cook, uncovered, for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and add the roasted cauliflower.
Using an immersion blender or working in batches with a standing blender, purée the soup until completely smooth and silky. Return the pot to the stove, add the reserved cooked mushrooms and remaining chopped fresh parsley. If the soup is too thick, add a bit more stock to thin to the desired thickness. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary and bring back up to a simmer before serving.

dark chocolate dipped hazelnut & olive oil shortbread cookies

Back in my 20s, when I was single, I tended to hang out almost exclusively with other single people.

dark chocolate dipped hazelnut and olive oil shortbread cookies | Brooklyn Homemaker

If one of my friends would start dating someone seriously we would try to maintain our friendship, but we’d usually start to drift apart as they hung out with their partner, or with other couples, more often than their single friends. I always quietly resented those friends, and their partners, for falling out of touch and drifting from me and my desire to blow three days worth of tips in one night of debauchery. Why would anyone chose to stay in with popcorn and netflix when they could hang out with me, bar hopping and getting embarrassingly sloppy until the bars closed, when we could try to find some cheap mexican food to gorge on before falling asleep with our clothes on? What could be more fun?

dark chocolate dipped hazelnut and olive oil shortbread cookies | Brooklyn Homemaker

Now that I’m on the other side of that situation, married and in a relationship for several years, I’m starting to understand. It might have something to do with being a few years older, or the fact that I work mornings now, or that I have two dogs to get home to, but the very idea of staying out past midnight and paying for drinks at a bar rather than drinking at home has me yawning wide and worrying about my bank balance.

dark chocolate dipped hazelnut and olive oil shortbread cookies | Brooklyn Homemaker

I mean, it’s not as if I don’t have any unattached friends, it’s just that more and more couples have made their way into my social circle. Call it maturity, or call it geriatric old age, but I’ve reached the phase of my life where nights out on the town are fewer and farther between, while socializing and entertaining at home happens more and more often. Part of the appeal of hanging out with other couples is that they tend to be just as willing (and eager) to have drinks, dinner, and visits in each others homes.

dark chocolate dipped hazelnut and olive oil shortbread cookies | Brooklyn Homemaker

One of our closest friend-couples are in the process of organizing a DIY wedding. Last year when they were early in the planning stages, we had them over for brunch to discuss their ideas and pass down some of the supplies we had leftover from our own wedding. It was actually during that brunch that I served the Aunt Sassy Cake that was the inception of Brooklyn Homemaker, largely thanks to their insistence and enthusiasm.  Little by little, we’ve been helping them with certain aspects of their wedding along the way, and I might even be planning to bake a few little things for their big day.

dark chocolate dipped hazelnut and olive oil shortbread cookies | Brooklyn Homemaker

When they asked if I’d be interested in coming over to help out with some DIY craft projects for the wedding, I was all over it. I love doing that sort of stuff anyway, but I was especially into the idea of hanging out for the day. There would also be wine.

While the setting may have changed as I’ve gotten older, my inability to practice self control has not. I may, just may, have consumed a few too many glasses of wine and done a lot more drunken gum flapping than actual crafting.

dark chocolate dipped hazelnut and olive oil shortbread cookies | Brooklyn Homemaker

There’s something in my DNA that dictates I must always arrive to a party, no matter how big or small, with something homemade and delicious. So, I asked if I could bring some cookies along, as if the answer might actually be anything other than yes.

My original thought was something like a simple chocolate chip cookie, but when I learned that one of their crafting friends is vegan, I started brainstorming. It’s no secret that I love a challenge.

dark chocolate dipped hazelnut and olive oil shortbread cookies | Brooklyn Homemaker

As much as I adore butter and bacon, I really love to make the occasional vegan recipe. The one thing I don’t like though, is using vegan substitutes for things that are innately un-vegan. Egg substitutes and margarine are not things that you’re likely to ever find in my refrigerator. The way I see it, if you want eggs and butter, eat eggs and butter; and if you want to avoid them, avoid them without substituting impostors that look, taste, and smell vaguely similar.

So when I started thinking of a vegan cookie recipe, I immediately thought I wanted to try using olive oil in place of butter. I knew a simple shortbread would be perfect to highlight the choice of olive oil, and from there my mind went straight to sea salt, crunchy nuts, and dark chocolate.

dark chocolate dipped hazelnut and olive oil shortbread cookies | Brooklyn Homemaker

My instincts paid off, and these purdy little cookies were a hit. There’s something so wonderful about a shortbread cookie made with olive oil. While the amount of sugar in these cookies is restrained and subtle, it’s presence completely transforms the olive oil to give the cookie a bright, light, and fruity quality.  The shortbread has a perfectly crisp texture, with a nice hint of crunch from the toasted hazelnuts. The cherry on the sundae is the coating of bitter dark chocolate and tiny sprinkling of fleur de sel. You gotta love a sweet treat with a healthy hint of salt.

Even though there were only a few of us crafting, and this recipe makes 3 dozen little cookies, there was little more than a few crumbs left at the end of the night.

dark chocolate dipped hazelnut and olive oil shortbread cookies | Brooklyn Homemaker

Dark Chocolate Dipped Hazelnut & Olive Oil Shortbread Cookies

  • Servings: 36 cookies
  • Print
3 cups all purpose flour
1 cup confectioners (powdered) sugar (for a sweeter cookie use 1 1/4 cups)
1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1 cup hazelnuts, roughly chopped
1 cup + 1 tbsp good quality extra virgin olive oil, divided
8-10 oz good quality dark chocolate, roughly chopped
1/2 teaspoon fleur de sel (or coarse kosher salt)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Toast chopped hazelnuts on a parchment lined baking sheet for about 5 minutes, or until they smell nice and nutty and look slightly oily. Turn oven down to 325 degrees.

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, and hazelnuts. Pour in 1 cup olive oil and stir until all of the dry mixture is incorporated. Brush a 9×13 baking pan with remaining olive oil, and use your fingers to press the dough down in an even layer. Prick the surface of the dough all over with a fork (try to create an even pattern). Bake until it is just beginning to turn slightly golden around the edges (keep a close eye on it), about 40 to 50 minutes.
Remove from oven and let the pan cool for 20 minutes. Do not let them cool completely before slicing! Using a very sharp knife, slice the shortbread into 6 rows of 6 rectangles. Then let the cookies cool completely before using a small spatula to remove them from the pan. Resist the urge to remove them before they’re totally cooled, or they’ll crumble to bits.

Transfer cookies to a parchment lined sheet pan, cooling rack, or countertop. Using a double boiler, or 15 second bursts in the microwave, melt dark chocolate until smooth and shiny. Dip cooled cookies, one at a time, in chocolate. I thought it looked nicer to just dip half the cookie, but you can do what you like best. Before chocolate sets sprinkle each cookie with a few grains of fleur de sel or coarse kosher salt. Transfer back to parchment and let chocolate set completely before removing and serving. (I used the refrigerator to speed this up.)