Camp Style Winter Pantry Basics: Part 2

Having a well-stocked pantry means being prepared for the unexpected, being organized, and giving yourself the best possible tools to make the best possible decisions. This is what healthy eating is all about. Most of the time we know what the healthiest choices are, but don’t make them because it’s not convenient or easy for us. When potato chips are the only thing available, potato chips are what we have for a snack. If we are ready with frozen veggies, a jar of tomato sauce, lean ground beef and whole wheat pasta we enable ourselves to easily make a healthy dinner rather than taking out from a local Italian restaurant because the cupboard is bare. If we provide ourselves with the right tools just at our fingertips, we will be more likely to make healthy eating choices.

Judaism is big on preparation, and kids learn that first hand at Jewish summer camps. Most notably, there is an important Jewish concept of Hachana l’shabat, or preparing for the Sabbath. At camp, kids do all sorts of things to prepare for Shabbat. They clean up their bunks, pick out (and usually trade) clothes and learn new songs and prayers. At home, other Shabbat preparation occurs, usually in the form of cooking and cleaning. In both settings, Judaism teaches that another type of preparation should occur- a spiritual preparation that entails readying one’s mind for resting from the craziness of the week and allowing oneself to stop for long enough to appreciate the joy in quiet, community, restfulness and some extra-delicious food.

With our busy lives it can sometimes be hard to find the time to prepare ourselves, whether that preparation be the kind of nuts and bolts actions of organizing a pantry, or the more spiritual actions needed to prepare for Shabbat. But, the reason preparation is so difficult to do is exactly the reason its so important to do- once you perform a few simple “preparatory actions” you are literally set-to-go with the ability to make healthier decisions and find spiritual rest and quiet. If you take the time to organize and prepare ahead of time, the actual work will be short and you can spend more time reaping the rewards of delicious food and the joys that Shabbat can provide. In that spirit, try this delicious from-the-pantry lentil soup recipe for your next Shabbat meal!

Straight from the Pantry Lentil Soup
Serves 4-6

1 large yellow onion
4 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons ground cumin
4 cups vegetable stock
1 14 ounce can small diced tomatoes
1 cup brown or green lentils
10 ounce box frozen whole leaf spinach
Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Dice the onion and mince the garlic.
  2. Heat the olive oil over high heat in a large sauce pot.  Add the onions and cook until browned and softened, 5-7 minutes.
  3. Add the garlic and cumin and cook 1 minute longer.
  4. Add the stock and tomatoes and lentils and bring to a boil.  Taste the broth and add salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cover.  Cook 20-30 minutes, or until the lentils have fully softened.
  6. Add the spinach and cook just until heated through.

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