Carmen Miller
 
 
    
 
(Carmen Miller)
 
 

It's mid-January and there's no escape from the hype of the New Year. We're done with the parties, and now it's on to the resolutions. Oh, the resolutions. Apparently we are all supposed to have them, and they're supposed to be pretty ambitious. We are supposed to stop eating bad things, start eating good things (Cleanse! Detox! No carbs!), exercise more, spend less, save more, watch less TV, learn new things and generally be better people. You know what I mean -- suddenly your fitness class is full of faces you've never seen before, and the Y is so packed you can't find a place to park. (Don't worry, it won't last long.) I find the pressure overwhelming. Actually, the annual time when I prefer to really reflect on and re-evaluate my life is not now, but on my birthday, which is, after all, technically and chronologically, MY new year.

And from a food perspective, the timing of this is ludicrous and totally unfair. What do you want to eat in January, when the mercury dips way too far below zero, and the winds are chilling you to the bone? Warm, comforting, sturdy food that fights the freeze. How can it be that the time when we're supposed to be living on nuts and twigs, carrot sticks and beet juice happens to coincide with precisely the same time when all we want is chili, short ribs, mashed potatoes and mac and cheese? And somehow my kitchen is supposed to be fresh and fabulous in January? I don't know about you, but where I live the ground is frozen solid and nothing is growing.

So, how do we reconcile this seasonal struggle? Here's an idea -- wholesome, homemade soups. Here's just one of the many great options out there -- many made with year-round ingredients and loaded with vitamins from a variety of veggies and fresh herbs. Warm, hearty and spot-hitting on a cold winter night, they can actually be downright therapeutic. Simple and satisfying, soups like this will also help keep the new you on track for the New Year.

TOMATO LENTIL SOUP

Serves 8

Ingredients:

1/4 cup olive oil

2 cups chopped onions

2 cups chopped celery

2 28-oz, plus 1 14.5-oz can whole peeled tomatoes, with juice

6 cups chicken or vegetable stock

1 1/2 to 2 cups dried lentils, depending on how thick you like your soup -- 2 cups will make a very thick and hearty soup, really more of a stew

11/2 cups chopped fresh parsley

3/4 cup dry red wine

5 cloves garlic, finely minced

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven or soup pot over medium heat. Add the onions and celery and saute, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes or until soft and translucent. Meanwhile, puree the canned tomatoes and juices in a blender or food processor. When the onions and celery are soft, add the pureed tomatoes, chicken or vegetable stock and lentils, increase the heat to medium high, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium low, and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes. Add 1 cup of parsley, the wine, garlic, salt and pepper and stir to combine. Simmer for an additional 15 minutes. Add the remaining parsley, and simmer for another 2 minutes before serving.