This is one of the easiest soups I have ever made. Seriously you cant mess this up. Besides that its pretty healthy and it tastes good, what more can you ask for?

O.K. here are the ingredients... Oh yeah these, photos are a doubled recipe, so you can use half if you like.
In a big pot pour 4 quarts of water. Add two packages of Lentils (16 oz each) you could use more you would just need more water. Dice two onions, as many carrots as you like, I used 5. As Much Celery as you like, I used an entire stock, leaves and all (chop the leaves up fairly fine). somewhere between 3/4 and a full cup of finely chopped parsley. As much Garlic as you like, I used 4 cloves, You could just add some powdered garlic, at least a Tablespoon. Fresh basil finely chopped if you have it or about half a Tablespoon of dried Basil, Salt and pepper to taste. You can leave ingredients out too if you don't like something. Ok so bring all those ingredients to a boil, cover with a lid and simmer for 1 and 1/2 hours.

Ok your probably wondering about that italin sausage and the tomatoes and the red wine vinegar, in the picture above. Thats the important ingredients. I like this soup better with Ham than with Italian Sausage, but I used sausage when I took these photos. Normally I mkae this soup a week or so after Easter or Christmas, or anytime that you eat a big ham. I freze all my leftover ham that does not get consumed within a couple of days (also freeze the ham hock) Thsn I chop up the Frozen ahm pieces and chuck them, as well as the hock into the boiling soup. If you dont have Ham get some Sausage. I removed the casings and cut up into bite sized chunks and cooked up the sausage nice and browned and crispy on the outside in the pot before adding all those previous ingredients.

After the soup has simmered for 1 and 1/2 hours, add 3 to 4 tablespoons of Red wine Vinegar and two cans of tomatoes (15 oz each), and simmer for 30 more minutes. Then eat... Yum

This recipe made enough for about 6 bowls of soup and then we froze two gallon sized bags like this one. To thaw I just plunk the the entire bag into a big pot and fill with luke warm water. it takes 20 minutes or so and then you either scoop out just a bowl full to microwave, or dump the bag out into a pot and reheat. This soup freezes really well, it tastes just as good reheated.

See these ugly ties? Definitely not good for wearing around your neck...they are just not very good looking. But, I have a great use for them. I learned this trick a few years ago from Martha Stewart (who I adore), she learned it from one of her TV staff members. At any's a really great thing to do with all your really ugly ties. Here is the equipment you will need:
1) Ties (they MUST be 100% silk) 2)plain white cotton fabric squares (I cut up an old sheet) 3)a pot that is either ceramic or glass (metal will react with the vinegar, speaking of which) 4) white vinegar and 5)a twisty tie.

first step: cut a piece of the silk tie big enough to wrap around an egg...then wrap it around an egg (did I mention that these are uncooked eggs?)

Next you are going to wrap a square of plain white cotton fabric (in my case, an old sheet) around the silk that is around the egg. This fabric is going to help hold the silk in place, and hold it tight to the egg's shell.

Use the twisty tie to secure the white fabric tightly on. This is what they will look like when you are done wrapping: take your pot, fill it about 3/4 with water and put it on your stove top and bring the water to a boil. And don't go judging me on this pot. I picked it up specifically for this egg project at my local thrift store. Which, I should point out, is also where you can pick up some ties for 99 cents a piece. Not bad, hmmm? This pot is actually pretty nifty. In addition to being super heavy (cast iron, I believe underneath all that ceramic, it also has a very nifty "stay cool" wooden handle. And besides..what is not to love, I ask you, about that avocado color?

Ok....back to the task at hand. Is your water boiling yet? Go add at least 1/4 cup of vinegar. This is not an exact science. Some people will say you can get away with less, but I am always afraid I will unwrap those eggs and find a plain white egg, so I err on the side of excess.

Next set your eggs into the water

Now set your timer for 20 minutes. and let those eggs boil away. and leave the kitchen if at all possible, because the smell of boiling vinegar is just plain not a good smell. Very yucky, in fact.
As soon as your timer goes off, remove those eggs from the stove, and rinse with cool water. You want to be able to touch the eggs, so rinse as long as necessary (a few minutes will probably do.) Then begin unwrapping!

Don't they look amazing?

nothing like the ugly ties your started with.

And there you have it people. This is my kind of playing with food! ;) Now I better get busy...because I went a little overboard and now I have to figure out what to do with 3 dozen hard boiled eggs....

So your going to need some extra hardware for this one... I bought this landscaping brick at Home Depot for $1 and it lives in my cupboard with several layers of tinfoil wrapped around it. Anybody out there fans of AB? So anyways I picked out this brick based on the size of my dutch oven. I wanted something that was bigger than your typical brick but not so big as to not fit in my pot. So start this recipe by setting your oven to 500 and putting your brick in it to get hot. Oh make sure you have wrapped your brick up in several layers of foil.

Here are all the ingredients....
One whole Chicken, two potatoes, one onion, 3-5 cloves of garlic, several carrots, and a few strips of bacon. With these ingredients and My brick there will not be room for hardly anything in my Dutch oven. I use a a 3 quart dutch oven purchased at Ikea You can buy these same pots at some upscale cooking stores but they cost a fortune there.

Chop everything up. I hate the chicken part but its so cheap to buy a whole chicken, this one cost me $4. You have to remove the rib cage and all those bones except legs and wings. It takes me about 15 minutes to do this and I cant keep the chicken together, it ends up quartered, but hey I don't care its gonna get ripped apart before I eat it anyways.

Then chop up the bacon into little pieces and fry it crisp in your pot, and then remove it. At this point you can pour out most of the bacon grease as well, you only need about 1 tablespoon of fat on the bottom of the pan. You can leave it in too if you like, its up to you how healthy your grub is.

Season your chicken with Salt and Pepper on both sides.
Put your chicken in the bottom of hot pot and listen to it sizzle.

Add your hot brick on top of your chicken, your brick should have been in the oven for at least 20 minutes. The goal here is to Brown your chicken on both sides, the pan side and the brick side. Load all your veggies and bacon bits back into the pot around the brick and put the lid on. the whole thing should cook on top of the stove for about 5-7 minutes. Then pop it into that hot oven (500 degrees), and let it cook for 15-20 minutes. Remove from oven, remove brick from pot and your have some good grub for dinner. This is pretty simple and you can substitute all kinds of items. Whatever veggies you want, Cornish game hens instead of chicken. Whatever.

So after your family has devoured this meal its time to take stock of the left overs. My family is quite small so there is always a ton left over. This is always good reheated the next day but even better than that is to make the left overs into a pot pie. So I de-bone whatever Chicken is leftover and load into a casserole dish.

There is always some awesome looking juices in the bottom of the Dutch oven and they are singing out to me to be made into some country gravy.

If you have never made gravy before, its really simple. add a couple of spoonfuls of flour to the pan and whisk it in, Turn on the heat and cook the four mixture until hot and bubbly. I add a little chicken stock to thin it out just a tad, but mainly I add milk at this point and a little fresh ground pepper. You can use heavy cream too for a richer gravy.

Pour the gravy over the top of the chicken and veggies and load that thing into the refrigerator until tomorrow, or you could cook it up now if your still hungry.

Man that was an easy meal. To keep it easy whip out one of those pre made frozen pie crusts and slap it on top. Oh if this has been in you refrigerator overnight, you will want to reheat it before putting the crust on. I nuke it until it is hot all the way through, then put on the crust and bake for about 15 minuts at 400 degrees or until the crust is golden brown. Yum Yum.

Use whatever veggies you like. This is just what I had available. Anaheim pepper, Broccoli, Carrots, tomato, Green Bell Pepper, Jalapeño, and Onion. I would prefer yellow or orange bell peppers, and the jalapeño gives it a little kick. Dice and slice and add them all to your pan with a tablespoon or two of butter. You could use olive Oil too, but I think the butter gives it better flavor. I have made this a few times and Sometimes I saute the onions and carrot first, and then all everything else, but you really only need to cook it all for a few minutes. You want the veggies to be tender, but not soggy. Oh and don't put the tomato in yet that comes later.

I like to heat my tortillas up on the griddle for a minute or two then flip them over and add the cheese so it can start melting right away on a hot tortilla

Next add your veggies. THe veggies above made enough for two, so only add half. I slice the tomato up thin and add it to the top like a pizza. then start heating the top half of my quesadilla and add the cheese to melt to it.

Once the cheese is melted on th e second tortilla, flip it over on top of the veggies and allow a minute or two for the cheese to stick to the veggies. Mashing it down a little helps. Then carefully flip it over to brown and crisp up the tortilla a little.Slice and serve. I use a regular knife for slicing, the pizza cutter tends to make a mess of it. Now If only had some homemade salsa, or pico de gallo. some guacamole, and some sour cream...

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