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Cooking With Myra: Find the Olympian in everyone

By By Myra Starkey
Aug. 14, 2012 at 3:14 a.m.

Although lentils are  great winter comfort food, they  are available all year and Don's Lentil Soup with Roasted Garlic is delicious served with a salad and bread.

Don's Lentil Soup with Roasted Garlic

8 oz. bacon, cut into 1/2-inch dice6 ribs celery with leaves, finely diced2 carrots, finely diced1 large onion, finely diced2 Tbsp. curry2 cups dried lentils, green or brown3 tomatoes, seeded and chopped2 serrano peppers, finely diced

3 Tbsp. red wine vinegar2 sprigs fresh thyme1 sprig fresh rosemary3 bay leaves6-7 cups chicken stock3 Tbsp. garlic paste (homemade)1 cup chopped flat leaf spinachSalt and pepper2 tsp. of Tabasco*2 links pork sausage, sliced (optional)Cook bacon in a stock pot over medium high heat until crispy. Using a slotted spoon removed bacon to paper towels to drain. Add celery, carrots, onions, curry powder to the bacon fat and saute over medium heat for 10 minutes. Return bacon to pot and add lentils, tomatoes, seranno peppers, thyme, vinegar, rosemary and 6 cups chicken stock. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 45 minutes until lentils are tender. Check soup after 30 minutes. Add sausage after cooking for 30 minutes if desired. Add last cup of stock if liquid has absorbed. Remove sprigs of rosemary, thyme and bay leaves.

Stir in garlic paste and spinach. Season with salt, pepper and Tabasco.

1 cup garlic cloves, peeled1/2 cup olive oilCombine garlic and oil in saucepan over low heat until garlic is lightly brown and soft. This process will take about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Process in a food processor until smooth. This mixture will last for 2 weeks in the refrigerator.

Much of my free time in the evenings lately has been spent in front of the television. Before anyone makes an assessment of how I usually spend my time, it is wise to remember that the summer Olympics were on.

So, I did what most other Americans probably did. Since my dad had been here visiting from Louisiana, our television watching was either broadcasting Fox News or the Olympics.

I am continually amazed at the dedication of all the athletes participating. I guess I have never been much interested in any form of outdoor activity enough to dedicate my every waking moment in the pursuit of being the best in that sport.

Of course most events are so difficult that it would not matter how much a person practiced if they did not have the natural abilities to begin with. I could train 16 hours a day and never be competitive in the 100 meter freestyle swim, 5,000 meter run, any random gymnastics event or the bicycle motor cross.

When I was watching the winter Olympics, I did think that given the proper dedication, coaching and practice I could compete in curling. That sport involves pushing this large shuffleboard-type puck across the ice while one's teammates vigorously and rapidly use brooms to sweep a path in front of it to make it stop at a predetermined spot. I'm not kidding. That is an actual Olympic sport. And I hope I am not offending any of my readers who are serious enthusiasts of curling.

When I was in high school, I played volleyball and did a little swimming, but I was never very serious about either. My mind was probably more on boys, proper cosmetic application and purchasing the style of peculiar and unusual fashions that only the teenage mind would think are acceptable.

Like most teenagers, I was learning new disco dance moves to be used at Friday night school dances. Unlike the Olympic athletes, my mind would never have comprehended sacrificing those early years in exchange for sports boarding schools staffed with coaches and practicing 10-15 hours per day.

It seems that life now consists of relaxing since we have raised our three kids and don't yet have grandkids to spoil. Actually, most of my day involves working at the clinic, but I am referring here to the free time I have. We have several friends whose idea of mental diversion is to participate in triathlons, marathons or 180-mile bike races.

I am amazed they find the energy. I think that part of getting older may be that most of us lose that desire to compete. But this fact does not keep me from enjoying the myriad of athletes who are willing to give up everything in the spirit of competition. And when I am sitting on the couch in the air-conditioning watching them, it almost makes me want to consider thinking about maybe exercising.

We were watching the Olympics this weekend with our friends, Doug and Laura, who had come for a visit. They brought Doug's dad, Don, and I prepared supper for everyone. The main course was spicy barbecue shrimp. The sauce is made of butter and Worcestershire sauce.

After dinner we sat in front of the television, watched these incredible athletes and ate Blue Bell ice cream. As I gobbled down "Moo-llennium Crunch," I thought of the irony of the situation. I bet not many of those athletes have the pleasure of sitting around and eating ice cream while watching television. Perhaps there is a lesson there for me.

I am dusting off my exercise shoes and getting down to business. A lot can be accomplished in four years. Who knows? The Olympic committee could possibly add an eating competition and the United States would win the gold in that for sure.

Don mentioned that he had just discovered lentils, and I promised I would make him some lentil soup. Although this is a great winter comfort food, lentils are available all year and the soup is delicious served with a salad and bread. Enjoy.

Myra Starkey lives in Victoria. Write her in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901, or email



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