For Christmas, Nate surprised me with a quick long-weekend trip to San Francisco over MLK weekend. He considers SF his “hometown” because he was born there- never mind that his parents moved to the east coast when he was 3 months old.

If you try to tell him that he’s from Delaware, he will vehemently deny it. I used to ask him why it was so important for him to be “from” San Francisco, but now that I’ve been there I can see why he’s so adamant about it being his birth place. It’s a beautiful city with equal parts beach, mountains, forests, suburbs, city. It has a little bit of everything.

view of SF from the Rock.

On Saturday we went to Alcatraz. The audio tour was beyond cool. If you haven’t been, you must go! We also visited the ferry building with its amazing food, the gorgeous Palace of Fine Arts, the Wharf where dozens of sea lions come to sunbathe, and the picturesque Land’s End walking path with views of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Sunday morning we ventured out to Muir Woods, hoping to get there before the crowds. I think it could be one of the prettiest, most serene places I’ve ever been. There’s something about a damp, shady forest that I find so relaxing…not to mention how amazingly fresh it smells!

I don’t know about you, but my sense of smell is my strongest sense and I find myself smelling everything. It’s a little weird, actually, the way I smell any new thing I encounter. For some reason I feel the need to assess a smell even if I know it’s going to be a bad one. Maybe I’m part dog.

Though nothing will even come close to the smell of that cool damp forest, odors emanating from the kitchen come a close second ;) While this soup isn’t the most fragrant thing I’ve ever cooked, it smells pretty darn delicious on a cold winter’s day, warming the room (and your belly!) right up.

It’s a very light soup, lighter than I’d imagined. I served it with some Cheddar Dill biscuits (recipe on Friday), but perhaps it would be best as a first course or a very light meal with some crusty bread.

Winter Vegetable Soup with Lentils

Slightly Adapted from Real Simple

Print this recipe!

serves 6

1 tablespoon olive oil
4 leeks (white and light green parts), cut into 1/4-inch-thick half-moons
1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes, drained
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 bunch kale, thick stems removed and leaves cut into 1/2-inch-wide strips
1/2 cup brown lentils
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
Kosher salt and black pepper
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp hot sauce (such as Tabasco) or more to taste
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup grated Parmesan (1 ounce; optional)

Heat the oil in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat.

Add the leeks and cook, stirring occasionally, until they begin to soften, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook, breaking them up with a spoon, for 5 minutes.

Add 6 cups water and bring to a boil. Stir in the sweet potatoes, kale, lentils, thyme, 1 ½ teaspoons salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper.

Simmer until the lentils are tender, 25 to 30 minutes.

Serve with crusty bread, biscuits, or as an appetizer.


  1. I would love this without lentils — maybe with chickpeas instead.

  2. Hah! I wasn’t even born in SF and I consider it my hometown… for now… Well, it’s technically my kids’ hometown, so there! Beautiful photos, and the soup looks delicious! Will try!

  3. I’m a NorCal guy and am a firm believer that the Bay Area/Cali is unlike anywhere in the world…and I’ve been around. So happy to hear that you had a short trip to experience the area.

  4. Love the side view photograph of the soup. Looks like a great weekend adventure.

  5. Hey look you’re on the wrong coast. Such a cool surprise and I love the photos. Great recipe too.

  6. My heart will always be in San Francisco.

  7. soup looks delicious! i love hearty veggie soups in winter :). and i’ve been aching to visit SF one day! i hear they have some amazing veggie eats there :). hope u r having a fabulous week!

  8. SF, MLK, how’s a Canadian to understand?! ;) Love San Francisco (and the nearby Berkeley area – so many cool things… like that resto with the extra huge DIY salads) – have toured Alcatraz 3 times but have not yet attempted the swim ;). Beautiful photos Amy and your soup looks pretty darn great too. So healthy! I like the addition of lentils and the spicing – Dijon, tobacco, Worcestershire – lots of kick to warm us up!

  9. You certainly did have a wonderful tour of San Francisco. Your soup sounds delicious with your seasonings. I love Dijon mustard but never thought to use it in a soup. Can’t wait to try it.

    • The soup actually had very little flavor when I followed the recipe I was using…that’s why I ended up throwing in anything I could to jazz it up, mustard included :)

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