Here's another cold-weather favorite of mine. It's a great basic, hearty soup that just begs for creative variations! As with many of my recipes, I started out with something I found on allrecipes.com.
Lemon Lentil Soup
(Some might even call it "Lebanese-Style")
6 cups chicken stock (I use reduced sodium, fat free or 99% ff)
1 pound red lentils (any color will do, but red is preferred)
1 – 2 teaspoons olive oil (just the barest amount necessary to start your garlic)
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 large onion, chopped
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
3/4 cup fresh lemon juice
Bring chicken stock and lentils to a boil in a large saucepan over high heat, then reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Stir in garlic. When the aroma of the garlic has been released, add the onion and about ¼ cup or so of the chicken stock (you can dip it out of your soup pot). Cook until the onion has softened and turned translucent, about 3 minutes.
Stir the garlic and onions into the lentils and season with cumin and cayenne. Continue simmering until the lentils are tender, about 10 minutes.
Carefully puree about half the soup in a blender or with a stick blender until smooth. I used the Magic Bullet and it was very easy. Return the pureed mixture to the pot and heat back to serving temperature. Stir in the fresh cilantro and lemon juice before serving.
The basic soup above is very low in fat (less than 5 grams per cup). It has about 250 calories per cup, but does pack a carb wallop of about 40 grams per cup. They are healthy carbs, though.
I served my hearty soup over brown rice, although it tastes great just the way it comes out of the pot! Couscous makes a great base, as well, and is probably the fastest starch to prepare (next to sliced bread, of course).
Here's a variation that I like with lentil soup: Just before serving, consider stirring in a quick-cooking, wilting vegetable like spinach. Chard or other greens will work well with the lentil flavor, too, but will have to be cooked separately and then added in when tender.