super simple red pepper lentil & quinoa soup

simple-red-pepper-quinoa-lentil-soup-bring-joy You know who I really like?

Nigella Lawson.

Not because she refused to be airbrushed (which is awesome), but because of her standing up for the home cook.

In a recent interview on The Splendid Table (for all you NPR junkies, you may know of this show) she said a few things that impressed me.

First, she says:

“I think it’s necessary to champion the home cook because people are apologetic. They say, ‘I’m just a home cook.’ When, of course, it’s home cooking that keeps the universe alive — at least the human race alive.”

Amen, Nigella. Amen.

Then she makes an even more profound point:

“I think chefs can over-complicate because the thing is when it comes to the very basics, they are charging money. And people want to go out and they want to pay money for something they couldn’t cook at home. So, it can encourage, I think, a slightly manic pursuit of novelty, which doesn’t always aid pleasure. Sometimes it isn’t better; the knife skills begin to be more impressive and there are all sorts of ways you can cook something that a home cook wouldn’t have access to.”

Brilliant, right?

I think the reason this really resonates with me, is I’m somewhat sheepish about posting my main dish recipes on the blog.

For years I’ve created & developed recipes for our family meals–my kids often love what I make (I’m not saying they *always* love what I make–they’re kids after all), Joseph often loves what I make, & generally I’m pleased with the outcome as well. But what I make is typically very simple, frugal, & not quite worthy of a full-page spread in Gourmand.

Joseph loves my vegan food, but he more often than not hates/loathes/despises intentional vegan food at restaurants. Why? In his opinion, they try to get “too creative” with their combinations & flavors. I tend to agree. Why not have spaghetti without the meatballs (a simple vegan fix)? Or a baked potato topped with some non-dairy butter, salt & pepper? Or a vegetarian chili? Instead it’s cumin infused, rosemary laced tofu stuffed tamales. Or spinach stuffed tortellini smothered in a roasted yellow pepper & eggplant pesto. To him, & to many other omnivores, it’s too weird, the flavors too complicated & foreign.

I latched onto this idea quickly. I’m prone to over complicating things. When we were dating, I spent a whole day once, making a many-layered chocolate torte cake with about 30 ingredients (& cost at least $30 to make). I was pleased with myself, & thought he’d be over-the-moon impressed. He only ate one or two bites (claimed he was full), & then later, after we were married I found out he doesn’t like cake, no matter (or especially if) it’s fancy. He’s fine with apple pie & vanilla ice cream.

Over the years, between dealing with a very simple palated husband & then finicky kids, I’ve learned simple = better.

And, can I let you in on a secret?

If you want to save lots of time & money, learn how to make your own soup. It’s fairly easy (cut up some veggies, throw in pot, add protein &/or grain & seasoning, let simmer in broth) & foolproof (hard to “mess up” a soup). My mom was a classic soup maker, as was her mother, as was I’m sure her mother before her. Because they all realized this simple fact: you can easily feed a lot of people with this versatile & frugal, & delicious, satisfying comfort food.

Here’s a variation on soup that I made just last night. My kids ate this with toasted corn tortilla chips.

A note on the amount this recipe makes.

Emma made a comment on my last recipe about the size of the recipe yield (*60* cookies!)–my response–I’m feeding a small army, so feel free to reduce the recipe if you’re not in the same boat, or freeze the leftovers (this soup freezes really well).

Also, I figure it cost me about $6 to make this soup ($2.50 for the peppers, $.25 for the onion, $.75 for the lentils & quinoa, $2 for the diced tomatoes, & $.50 or thereabouts for the spices used) & is enough to cover 3 or 4 dinners for my family of 6 (not counting baby Tyndale here). It makes about 32 servings. At about $.18 a serving, not bad.

Not bad at all.

super simple red pepper lentil & quinoa soup

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 35 minutes

Total Time: 50 minutes

Yield: 32 cups

Serving Size: 1 cup

Calories per serving: 110

Fat grams per serving: 2.5

super simple red pepper lentil & quinoa soup

A simple, protein rich soup; vegan, gluten-free, & grain-free


  • 1/4 c. oil oil*
  • 1 medium/large onion, diced
  • 1 red pepper
  • 2 green peppers
  • 2 c. dry lentils
  • 2 c. quinoa | red or plain
  • 4 quarts water or vegetable broth
  • 1/4 c. nutritional yeast | omit if using vegetable broth
  • 3-4 TBS. organic no-salt seasoning (I like Costco's brand)
  • 2 tsp. cumin powder
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 TBS. garlic powder
  • 1/2 TBS. paprika
  • several dashes of Tabasco, or red pepper sauce (omit if sensitive to spicy heat)ample freshly cracked pepper to taste
  • 1, 15 oz. can diced tomatoes
  • 1, 15 oz. can tomato sauce
  • 1, 14 oz. can diced tomatoes w/ chilis | or additional can of diced tomatoes
  • *olive oil is optional (use water to saute the onions & peppers instead) but since this is a rather brothy & lowfat soup as it is, adding olive oil adds some flavor & fat making it a bit more filling.


  1. Dice onions & peppers. (Smaller often is better for picky kids.)
  2. In a large pot, on medium heat, heat oil. Add diced onions & saute for 3-4 minutes until onions start becoming translucent. (If using water, just add onions to heated pot & add water 1 TBS. at a time, as needed).
  3. Add peppers & continue to saute for a 2-3 more minutes.
  4. Wash lentils in a fine sieve. Do the same for the quinoa.
  5. Add both the lentils & quinoa to the pot.
  6. Add water/broth & all spices.
  7. Bring water to a boil, cover, & reduce heat to medium low. Simmer for 30-40 minutes, or until lentils are soft (but not mushy).
  8. Add tomatoes, tomato sauce, & diced tomatoes with chili. Stir & let simmer for a few more minutes. Add salt & additional pepper to taste.
  9. Leftovers will keep for 5-7 days in fridge, or a few months in the freezer in a Ziploc freezer bag.

Additional nutrition info: 17 g carbs, 5 g protein, 2.4 g sugar, 127 mg sodium; 3 WWP points

This recipe submitted to Ricki Heller’s Wellness Weekend–check it out for more healthy (all vegan) recipes!

Do you agree with Nigella? Do chefs tend to over complicate things? 

P.S. Thank YOU so much for sharing on yesterday’s post! I’m LOVING reading all about you. You are fabulous. If you haven’t had a chance to add your two cents, do so here (& you’ll be entered to win one of the 5 bring joy totes I’m giving away). Also please note that  I will & want to respond to each & every comment, but I must ask you to be patient with me. It may take me a few days to get to your comment, but I’m excited to respond to what you’ve had to share.


  1. Liz
    on February 18, 2014 at 6:14 pm said:

    I think it’s a little too black and white to say, yes chefs complicate things. Do I think it’s entirely possible to create delicious food without nearly the amount of time, fuss, energy or intricacy professional chefs put into creating meals? Absolutely. I do not subscribe to the school of thought that good food needs to be complicated or slaved over, but chefs really know how to elevate things. I appreciate the ideas and inspiration I get from professional cooks. The titles and descriptions of the dishes created on Top Chef make my head spin, but I’ve gleaned so much about how to make REALLY tasty food — how to build flavor, create layers and combine different components (acids, textures) that take a really good meal to an “I can’t get enough of this” meal.

    I’m all about quick, simple and easy (I love one pot meals), but I’ve gotten in the great habit of always having at least one sauce/dressing and one dip/spread in the fridge (often, it’s two of each) along with some crunchy, crispy topping to always build on and enhance whatever I’m serving. It’s sort of like a “build your own meal” EVERY meal. By doing that, I’ve learned a lot about what goes well together, flavor wise, and have had the best food of my life, creating amazing combinations, all from the frugal comfort of my own kitchen. 🙂 So, do we all need to cook like chefs to eat really good food? No way, but, we can enhance our own cooking by learning even just a bit of what they know. 🙂

    PS I’ve never actually eaten in a fancy restaurant so I don’t know what kind of “complicated” food is really out there. 🙂

  2. Emma (This Kind Choice)
    on February 17, 2014 at 2:13 am said:

    Pursuing difference for the sake of being different is something I definitely try to avoid. And these simple, delicious meals are the ones we always come back to! This looks great, thanks for sharing Janae

  3. lfwfv
    on February 16, 2014 at 6:36 pm said:

    Looks delicious Janae and like something I would make for our family! I am a big batch, one pot kinda cook 😀

    • Janae Wise
      on February 19, 2014 at 2:37 pm said:

      “I am a big batch, one pot kinda cook :D”
      Me too! And anything that freezes well is also nice.

  4. Jeanette
    on February 15, 2014 at 4:16 pm said:

    I love posts like these. I tend to eat a lot of beans rice and salad and am always looking for simple healthy recipes to break up the monotony. Thank you for posting 🙂

  5. Gena
    on February 15, 2014 at 7:29 am said:

    I like Nigella’s food a lot, too. But this recipe looks more enticing than any of hers I’ve seen! So simple, frugal, hearty, and delicious. Can’t wait to try it.

  6. Laurie
    on February 13, 2014 at 10:08 pm said:

    Yes, I do think chefs over complicate, but that is their job. Or rather, I think it is their job to push food/flavors/techniques beyond what we would make in our home kitchens. That’s what I pay for if I go to a “fancy” restaurant.

    I don’t see chefs and home cooks as natural adversaries. Ideally I think they can inspire each other. I know I don’t watch “Chopped” with any thoughts of actually making anything made with the mystery basket ingredients. Instead I watch for the little glimpses into how the chefs think about making a dish, and the idea that food should be presented beautifully and be an experience….but hey, sometimes you just want to eat almond butter from the jar with a spoon.

    And from home cooks, chefs could learn it’s okay to dial it back; sometimes all the fancy spices, pairings and techniques are just pretentious and pointless.

  7. Gabby @ the veggie nook
    on February 13, 2014 at 8:09 pm said:

    It’s funny you talked about this, because I was just talking about how people tend to prefer simple recipes I post on my blog over the complicated ones. Because they are accessible and just as delicious! Cooking should be a pleasant, comfortable experience, so let’s keep it that way 🙂

  8. Spécialiste de l'éphémère
    on February 13, 2014 at 6:39 pm said:

    This fabulous soup looks like my “casual” winter soup. It’s an addiction! Not only for me, but for my kids too! “Mom… is there stil lentil soup in the fridge”? (on course there is!) Winter here is… winter!

  9. Spécialiste de l'éphémère
    on February 13, 2014 at 6:37 pm said:

    This fabulous soup looks like my “casual” winter soup. It’s an addiction!
    Not only for me, but for my kids too! “Mom; is there still lentil soup in the fridge”? (of course, there is! winter here is… winter!)

  10. April
    on February 13, 2014 at 3:03 pm said:

    I make soup ALL. THE. TIME. weekly. And I double it and freeze it and we have it for dinner another night!

  11. Jeff
    on February 13, 2014 at 2:52 pm said:

    So very true about the overcomplication vs. simplicity.
    Truth is, I share some of the recipes I make on my FB page with my friends, but only some– the ones that are at least quasi-complex. The simple ones, I don’t tend to. They may be fine dishes, easy to make, and please the whole tribe… but they’re *simple*. It just seems silly to share them.

    …but then, those are the ones that people who taste these things seem to want. “Home cook” need not be a pejorative, and simplicity is not a curse word. Simple is a boon.

    So thank you. You rock. 🙂