The Sandwich-Hater’s Lunch: Spicy Lentil Soup

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I am a sandwich-hater (hi, Catherine.)  

I have a new lunch recipe this week for anyone craving an alternative to the sandwich.  It’s very easy, but does require a bit of time, so I’d recommend preparing it on Sunday evening (or whenever you have a spare hour.)

Spicy Lentil Soup

1+ c dry lentils

2-3 carrots

2 celery stalks

8 oz cherry tomatoes

2 cloves garlic

Spinach leaves (large handful)

5 c low-sodium chicken broth

1 bay leaf

1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

1/2 tsp paprika

1/4 tsp thyme

salt & pepper (to taste)

Red wine vinegar (a splash)

1 tbsp olive oil

1.  Heat olive oil in large saucepan over medium heat.  Meanwhile, slice carrots, celery, tomatoes, and garlic.

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I really love these multi-colored tomatoes from Trader Joe’s… Go antioxidants!

2. Add carrots, celery, and tomatoes to saucepan.  Cook for 5 minutes, then add garlic.  Cook for another 5 minutes or until vegetables begin to soften, stirring often.

3.  Add lentils and chicken broth, and bring to a simmer.  Add bay leaf, spices, salt & pepper.  Reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes (or until carrots and lentils are mostly soft.)

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4. Add spinach and red wine vinegar, and let simmer for a few more minutes (the spinach will wilt quickly.)

5. Taste test; add any spices, salt, pepper, etc. that you desire.

6.. Ladle into your favorite mug or bowl, and enjoy!

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Nutrient-packed, delicious, and very filling.

If you are a vegetarian, you can use vegetable broth rather than chicken broth.  If you are one who believes that a meal must contain meat to be considered a meal (Andrew falls squarely in that category,) a great addition to this soup would be a ham steak, cubed, and added to the pot at the same time as the lentils.

This batch will definitely not last the entire week.  Next time I will double the recipe to safeguard against hungry husbands (Well, just one hungry husband, really.  I haven’t had much trouble with anyone else’s husband snacking on my lunch food ;-))

Lunch shouldn’t be boring;  stay strong, my fellow sandwich-haters!

Incredibly Easy Pork Tenderloin + Me Time

Recently Andrew and I had the following conversation:

        A: When are you getting together with your college roommates?

        C: February 4-5.  It’s a Monday-Tuesday.

        A: Hmm.

        C: Why do you ask? (Fishing for an “I’m going to miss you!”)

        A: I was hoping it was on a weekend.  I need a weekend to get some things done  

             around the house without having to worry about “quality time.”

Husbands, right? 😀

I tell you this story so that I don’t look like the bad guy when I say that I thoroughly enjoyed some me-time last night while Andrew was out (he had a work related dinner followed by a basketball game.)  No matter how much two people love each other, I think personal time is crucial.  While Andrew was off shooting hoops and talking about rocks (mine engineer,) here’s how I filled my evening: Dinner & Relaxation

Dinner

Herb-Seasoned Pork Tenderloin, Oven Roasted Potatoes, and Steamed Broccoli

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I would make this meal every week if I were cooking only for myself.  Pork is, without question, my favorite type of meat.  Here’s how I prepared it last night:

1 1/2 lb pork tenderloin

1-2 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp rosemary

1 tsp thyme

1/2 tsp paprika

Salt & Pepper

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cover baking sheet with aluminum foil.

2. In a small bowl, combine olive oil, rosemary, thyme, and paprika.

3. Place pork tenderloin on the baking sheet and spoon spice/oil mixture over top.  Use hands to make sure entire tenderloin is coated.  Sprinkle with salt & pepper.

4. Place in oven for 30-45 minutes (Mine took about 35.)

5. Remove from oven, cover with foil, and let rest for 5-10 minutes (this allows the meat to reabsorb its juices.)

DSCN7279Foil = clean pan and tender, juicy meat

6. Dig in, and enjoy!

Oh man.  This came out perfectly.  I’d like to take credit, but I think it’s just tough to mess up a pork tenderloin.

DSCN7282I slice in at least 5 places to make sure it’s done.  Paranoid?  Perhaps. 😉

With the roasted potatoes and slightly over-steamed (in other words, delicious) broccoli, it was a very satisfying meal.

DSCN7292Mmm.

Relaxation

Tea–Easy Now by Traditional Medicinals, in my “C” mug that my sister-in-law Jenny gave me for Christmas!  TM has a tea for almost any ailment you could imagine, and I generally turn to them before medicine, for better or worse 😉  Their Throat Coat tea is nothing short of miraculous.  Easy Now contains lavender and chamomile, among other herbs, and definitely helps me relax.

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Bubble Bath–Who doesn’t love a hot bath?  Don’t answer that;  I’m sure there are people who aren’t into that.  I’m not one of those people.

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Bubble bath, tea, magazine… perfect.

It’s good to be alone sometimes.  Especially while blogging, when your husband is a super rational, get-things-done kind of guy–

“Why did you take a picture of your tea? <Sigh.> We are raising up a generation of complete egotists.”

Who, me? 😉

No Excuse Workout

If you and I are friends on Facebook, you may have seen this in your news feed yesterday morning:

cold running

As much as I love running (and all my fantastic cold weather running gear), some days I simply cannot motivate myself to get out the door.  One winter in college, I was training for a half marathon with my good friend and housemate Kate.  Kate’s bedroom was downstairs, and mine was upstairs, and we made a rule that if one of us wanted to bail on the morning run, we had to tell the other person face-to-face–no texting and no instant messaging (side note: remember when AIM was a thing and everyone was on it all the time?)  Often the hardest part of the run was just getting out of bed when the alarm went off at 5:45 a.m., so by eliminating the option of sending a text message saying, “I really need another hour of sleep,” we had better accountability.  We knew that if we could just get ourselves up and out the door, the run itself would be no problem.

One cold morning, my alarm buzzed, and it took everything inside me to put my feet on the floor (Okay, that’s pretty dramatic.  I really didn’t want to get out of bed, all right?)  I got dressed, walked downstairs, and acknowledged Kate, the whole time thinking, “Once I get out the door, I’ll be ready to go.”  Kate and I stepped outside, walked down the sidewalk towards the street, prepared our watches to start timing the run, and as we stood in the middle of the road, one of us (I honestly can’t remember who) said,

“I really don’t want to do this.”

And the other said, “Neither do I.”

And we walked back inside, put our pajamas back on, and crawled back in bed.

My point is this: sometimes the run simply is not going to happen.

What then?  Do you climb back in bed, sleep lightly for 30 more minutes, then at 4 p.m. regret not working out because you know you feel better when you do?  Well, despite the implication of my Facebook post from yesterday, I did squeeze in a 30 minute cardiovascular workout…from the comfort of my living room.  I’d like to share with you that workout as part of what I hope to make an ongoing series of “No Excuse Workouts”–those you can do in your living room, with little or no equipment, or when you are short on time–because, hey, we all have those days. 🙂

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The Excuse: It’s 16 degrees outside, and I want to hear “Today’s Professionals” on the Today Show give their unprofessional opinions on whether it matters if Beyonce lip-synced at President Obama’s inauguration.

The Workout:  No Rope-Jump Rope Cardio Circuits

Perform the following exercises for 1 minute each:

Jumping Jacks

Jump Rope

Mountain Climbers

Jump Rope

Butt Kicks

Jump Rope

Plank Jacks

Jump Rope

High Knees

Jump Rope

Repeat twice (complete the cycle a total of 3 times.)

The key is to keep moving to keep your heart rate up.  Can’t do plank jacks for an entire minute?  Go for as long as you can (then 5 seconds more because you can probably last longer than you think!), then jog in place until the minute is up.  Just keep moving!

DSCN7278Thumbs up for a pre-makeup living room workout 😉

You’ve completed your 30 minutes of physical activity for the day, you didn’t have to suffer the cold outdoors, and you now know that Star Jones was “inspired” by Beyonce’s rendition of the National Anthem, lip-syncing or not.

beyonce-inauguration-2013(Photo source)

Win, win, win. 😉

Something Like Moussaka

How many ingredients can you change in a recipe before you are making a completely different dish?  After buying an eggplant at the grocery store with no plan in mind, we did a quick Google search for “eggplant recipes,” decided to make Moussaka, then proceeded to change nearly all the ingredients.

“Let’s add some more vegetables.”

“We just had a red meat and tomato sauce meal; I’m not feeling that.”

“We’ll have to substitute for dairy AND gluten…”

And now, I present to you:

Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free Not-Quite-Moussaka

Allow me to preface this with an apology for not paying attention to amounts of anything we use.  If you haven’t noticed by now, my recipes often include a lot of, “Some of this” and “A bit of that.”  That’s how we cook.  I’ll try to do better 🙂

We started by sauteeing a bunch of veggies– carrots, celery, kale, and colorful cherry tomatoes–in olive oil.

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Next, we browned the meat (we used ground turkey,) and added cinnamon, allspice, and parsley.

Then we sliced the eggplant into 1/2 inch slices, dipped them in egg, coated them with gluten-free breadcrumbs, and browned them in a skillet.

DSCN7223My goofy husband

For the Bechamel sauce we combined Smart Balance non-dairy spread, “This is not a tub of cream cheese” non-dairy spread, soy milk, and a bit of gluten-free flour in a small saucepan.  Melt and stir.

All that’s left to do is layer and bake it in the oven!  We used two glass baking dishes in order to fit everything.  We put the veggies in first, then eggplant (yes, I know that’s a veggie too,) meat, then Bechamel sauce.  Finally, we topped it all with soy cheese.  This was the real test.  Most of the other dairy-free substitutes have proven themselves to work well.  Soy cheese?  It usually burns before it melts.  We put it all in the oven at 375 for 30-45 minutes (keep an eye on it; you want to cheese to be melted and browning.)

The taste test: actually quite delicious!  (We were skeptical ;-))

DSCN7249Okay, so it’s really not a very pretty dish…

DSCN7255Still not pretty.  It tasted good, I promise.

So, for everyone out there who might be wondering, “Can I make a gluten-free, dairy-free, beef-free, tomato-paste-free Moussaka that still tastes delicious?”  Why, yes…yes you can 😀

Bob Harper’s “Hit the Deck” Workout

On Monday night, Andrew and I sat down to watch our my favorite show, The Biggest Loser.  In case you aren’t a faithful viewer (although I can’t imagine that such a person exists…), this is how the show typically progresses:

When the show opens, the contestants are either in the gym walking effortlessly on a treadmill or standing around in the kitchen making breakfast.  There is likely some heavy product placement happening at this time.  Then, host Alison Sweeney enters the room and presents a challenge that will introduce some type of twist into the game–a temptation challenge that allows the person who eats the most donuts to rearrange the teams, a trivia game that gives the winning team a 5lb advantage on the scale, etc.  It could be anything.

Once the challenge is complete, we see the contestants break the news to their trainers that they have no gym access for the week or that they ate 23 double cheeseburgers (but have a 2lb advantage!)  The trainers are astounded.  Every time.  They had no idea this twist would be thrown into the game this week.

They somehow make do, and the contestants workout, learn about healthy living, and have tearful breakthroughs with Jillian Michaels.

Next comes a second, physical challenge that no doubt required a team of civil engineers to construct: one member of each team is harnessed in and suspended 20 ft in the air and from their aerial view must guide their teammates through a goo-filled maze; each contestant holds a rope that’s connected to a pulley system that is holding their trainer on a platform, and if they all let go, their trainer will will fall into hot lava a swimming pool. This could go on for hours.

The Biggest Loser       biggest-loser-water-challenge

The show ends with the weigh-in and one person being sent home, but immediately before that, the contestants endure the Last Chance Workout.  Basically, the trainers kick their butts in the gym.  No fewer than two contestants will cry, fall off a treadmill, and/or vomit.  Jillian Michaels will likely be on someone as they do push ups or push a giant tire across the room, and Bob Harper will be laughing at the crazy workout he has dreamed up for his team.

I was quite intrigued by Bob’s Last Chance Workout this week.  It looked grueling.  I decided to give it a try.

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Bob Harper’s “Hit the Deck” Workout

Equipment needed: deck of cards

He started with a deck of cards and assigned a different exercise to each suit.  Then he drew the cards, one-by-one, and the contestants had to do the exercise and number of repetitions indicated by the card (with face cards being 10.)  For example, a jack of hearts meant 10 push ups, and a nine of clubs meant nine burpees.

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I couldn’t remember exactly which exercises were assigned to each suit, so I modified:

Diamonds= Sit ups

Spades= Squats

Hearts= Push ups

Clubs= Burpees

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It took me roughly 30 minutes to make it through the deck/workout, stopping briefly a few times for water.  For the sit ups I used our ugly ottoman to hold my feet– it’s just heavy enough to provide some resistance, but light enough that I had to use my abs rather than my legs ;-).  If you have something you can tuck your feet under, I’d recommend using it; if not, crunches will get the job done.  When I’d finished, I didn’t feel as rough as TBL contestants looked, but it was definitely a good workout!  The cards are shuffled (obviously), but for each exercise you’re doing 5 sets of 10 repetitions (that’s a lot in and of itself) plus 1 set of 9, 8, 7…2.  By the end, my burpees were nothing to be proud of, and I may have done a few sets of “girl” push ups.

Will I do it again?  Absolutely.  Not this week–my chest is going to be sore for a few days, I think– but it’s an excellent workout to shake up my routine a bit.

Bob Harper, you ‘da’ man.

Shenanigans in the Shnow

Last night something wonderful happened that reduced us to 12-year-old versions of ourselves: snow.  What is it about snow that makes us so happy?  I am no less excited at the prospect of the fluffy white stuff at age 26 than I was in elementary school, waking up in the middle of the night when snow was in the forecast, and peeking through the blinds to see if maybe, just maybe, school would be canceled.

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This particular snow was even more thrilling because it brought with it thunder snow. Thunder snow has been on Andrew’s bucket list of “cool types of weather to experience,” (really, how long is that list? I think it ends with thunder snow, as I feel confident he doesn’t want to witness a tornado…) and when we heard it last night, he was GIDDY.  Jumping up and down. Spinning me in circles.  Fist pumping.  “YES!! THUNDER SNOW!! YESS!!”  I couldn’t help feeling so happy for the guy.

DSCN7169This just about captures it.

Giving a nod to our 12-year-old selves, we played outside… way past our bedtime.  We had a snow fight.  We threw snowballs on the roof and tried to make them roll back down.  We even made a snowman.  In our awesome neighbors’ driveway…

DSCN7170Hi!  Sorry you live next to two kids with no parental supervision… 😉

When we woke up this morning, the melting process had already begun, but everything still looked beautiful.

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DSCN7180Our humble abode.  In desperate need of a wreath and a pair of hedge clippers.

(Please note the roof over the garage- you can see the impact of last night’s snowball game :))

Until next time, snow!

Stewsday- Drunk Bison Stew

Ah, Stewsday.

Over a year ago, on a cool, possibly rainy, autumn evening, I made stew for dinner.  When it occurred to me that it was a Tuesday, I suggested to Andrew that we should make stew regularly on Tuesdays and call it “Stewsday.”

Andrew just stared at me for a few too many seconds, then finally said, “Our kids are going to HATE us.”

And just like that, Stewsday was born.

There’s something so good about a hearty bowl of stew, and on a week like this, when we haven’t seen the sun in a few days and my raincoat is working overtime, nothing sounds better.

Stewsday this week was a total experiment and turned out fairly well.  We had some ground bison that we wanted to use, so we worked around that.  Why bison?  It’s incredibly lean, but has as much iron as beef (source), so you can get your red meat fix with more health benefits 🙂

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In the pot:

1 lb ground bison (browned)

12 oz Baby Bella mushrooms (browned)

6 carrots (peeled & sliced)

4 celery stalks (sliced)

2 potatoes (cubed)

4 garlic cloves

1 Habanero pepper (roasted, then finely chopped)

14.5 oz diced tomatoes

6 oz tomato paste

5 c low-sodium chicken broth

1 bottle of red wine*

salt & pepper

Rosemary, thyme, all spice, parsley (to taste)

A splash of Worcestershire sauce**

*In retrospect, an entire of bottle of wine may have been excessive.  This is why I named it, “Drunk Bison Stew,” even though the alcohol totally cooks off 😉

**When we started cooking I told Andrew that I did NOT want to put in any Worcestershire sauce–he often uses it as a magic ingredient in stews (“It just gives the flavor such depth,”) and on principle I want to be able to make a stew that tastes great without it.  In the end, it needed an extra something, and the W-sauce did the trick.  Smug little condiment.

Once it’s all in the pot, it should simmer for about an hour.  Andrew added onion powder to his bowl (an onion would have been a delicious addition to this stew, but my digestive system doesn’t handle onion well.  I’ll leave it at that.)  I added cayenne pepper to give mine a little extra kick.

We are still enjoying the leftovers–it tastes even better the next day!

I hereby declare it a successful Stewsday!