Lentil and Vegetable Soup
By The Gourmet Farm Girl
4 slices smoked bacon (chopped)

1 tablespoon butter
2 stalks celery (chopped)
1 leek or onion (chopped)
1 small Chinese eggplant (chopped) optional
2 medium carrots (chopped)
2 quarts low-sodium chicken stock or low sodium vegetable broth
2 small potatoes (chopped)
3 bay leaves
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1 1/2 cups lentils
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
In a large stock pot over medium heat brown the bacon till almost crisp; remove the bacon pieces and drain on a paper towel. Reserve 1-2  tablespoons bacon fat in the pot.
Add the butter, celery, leek or onion, eggplant and carrots, cook for 4-5 minutes. Add the stock, potatoes, bay leaves, thyme, garlic, oregano and basil, reduce heat to simmer and cook for 8-10 minutes or until vegetables are tender.
Add lentils and continue to cook till lentils are soft; 20-30 minutes, stir often. Return the bacon pieces to the pot, add salt at this point (if desired) When ready to serve remove the bay leaves and top with sour cream and fresh parsley.

Serves 6-8