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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Trader Joe's Lentil Soup with Ancient Grains

So, if you've paying close attention to my (Russ) posts over the past two weeks or so, you may have noticed that I've been featuring a lot of vegetarian/meat-free meals and options. This is because, in homage to Sandy's Catholic upbringing (and as a sort of experiment), the two of us decided to give up meat for Lent this year. Not just on Fridays, but for the entirety of the season (except for me, on Sundays, as taking a break from a Lenten fast is allowed then - hey, the Pope and Wikipedia are cool with it, so am I). It's been kinda tough - it's not like I've been getting the meat DTs - but as being accustomed to a certain level of carnivoredom worthy of my high position in the food chain, there's been times I've noticed a little meat could help make a decent meal even better.

Fortunately, Trader Joe's seems to have a fair amount of decent vegetarian lunch options, so I've been taking it as an opportunity to explore some mealtime choices I wouldn't otherwise. There's been some really pleasant surprises so far, and each new found good treat makes it a little easier.

Take this lentil soup for an example. I don't think I've ever had lentil soup before and the whole "ancient grains" part makes it sound like some sort of primordial stew that only hippies in Volkswagen toaster vans would enjoy. If not in search of cuddly animal-less lunches, I probably would never have found this, or may have even roundly rejected the notion when Sandy spotted it and put it in the cart. "We should try it," she said, and since she's always right, we did.

Fantastic. This is some heavy, serious stuff. Sandy siphoned some off one morning into some Tupperware for her lunch, and gave me the rest for mine. I am continually of a large appetite, and the roughly half a container I had more than filled me up with the assistance of an apple and handful of pretzels. It was kind of tough for me to discern what all was in there, it was so loaded. Definitely a lot of lentils, but texturally nothing stood out - not even all the veggies like carrots, onions and celery. I presume the "ancient grains" refer mostly to the quinoa (of which I'm slowly building an appreciation for) and millet, and maybe the flax seeds. The broth (if you can call it that, it's so thick) tastes mostly like cumin to me, though it's got some garlic here, some pepper and paprika there. It's spicy, but not in a spicy hot way ... it's more like a spicy full-flavored tastiness. And thick is the operative word - this stuff is dense and heavy, not all watered down like other soup options. I really, truly enjoyed this, and while spooning my way through this, I could actually ignore/not be envious of the guys sitting a few tables over plowing through their daily ration of buffalo wings. If you know me, that says a lot. This definitely the kind of stuff that'd be great on a colder day to stick inside you to warm and fill you up, but I think it'd pass muster even as the temps finally get a little warmer out here. And as a bonus, unlike some otherwise pretty decent TJ lunch options, it gives me a container (with a lid!) to keep and reuse and not draw too much spousal ire, though at this writing, I don't know if Sandy knows I still have it or not. Sometimes it's easier to ask for forgiveness than it is for permission.

I'm huge enough of a fan of it to go ahead and give it a perfect five. It's just that ridiculously good. Sandy surprised me when she said she'd offer it only a three, as she looked genuinely disappointed on Monday when we shopped and they were out of it. "It's good, but I just like my soup to be more soup-like, not all thick like it was," she said. Eh, to each their own, I guess. Even after Lent's up, I'll be checking the shelf still for it.

Bottom line: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons


  1. Wow... better than buffalo wings? Really? I'll have to try it.

  2. Ariel ... hmm, I wouldn't say "better" because that is nearing on sacrilege. I'd just say pretty outstanding in its own, non-buffalo wing way, and it was so good it was hard to be jealous of what anyone else was having.

  3. It would have to contain farro, an ancient wheat that looks like pearled barley but is firmer and tastier. I make a farro and lentil soup and it is sturdy and filling.

  4. Having some for dinner tonight. Love it, what a find!!

  5. I'm eating some of this now. It really is delicious.

  6. This is my second evening having this delicious lentil soup.

  7. My TJs says the lentil soup has been discontinued! (my store: El Cerrito) I know they don't have it in the summer but it is so wonderful I eat it 5 times weekly. I must have it! How can I ask them to restock it?


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