Warm Days in February + Homemade Baked Beans

Looking out my window now at the cold, gray rain, it’s hard to believe that yesterday was uncharacteristically warm and sunny for February.  Andrew and I took advantage of the beautiful day by heading to a park for a walk.

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The lake, which had clearly been frozen solid, was beginning to thaw, and it was beautiful.  I loved watching the ducks waddle from the ice into the water. 🙂  We spent about 45 minutes walking around the trails and the lake, and it was a much-welcomed change of scenery from the gym workouts we’ve been doing lately due to the cold weather!

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Crazy Eyes: we got ’em

 As we were heading back to the car, we ran into one of the girls in the youth group that I work with.  Naturally, Andrew decided to throw a snowball at her and her friend.

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Sorry, Brooke;  it’s never a fair fight with that guy. 😉

Later in the evening, we went to our friends Evan and Kristina’s house to watch the Super Bowl with friends.  I had decided to make baked beans (from scratch) in the Crock Pot to bring as our contribution.  Despite the fact that I’d started cooking them at 8:30 AM, they were still not quite done nine hours later, so we brought the whole Crock Pot to the party to allow them more cooking time.  😀

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Navy beans (soaked over night and rinsed) + bacon + brown sugar + molasses + Dijon mustard + salt + pepper + onion powder + water

The flavor was really good, but they never got quite soft enough.  Any advice from more experienced Crock Pot users?  Is that just the texture of beans that don’t come from a can?  I’d love to give them another shot… once we finish the half-gallon of this batch still left in our fridge. 😉

Have a great Monday!

-What was your favorite Super Bowl snack/dish from last night?
-If you had a warm day yesterday like us, how did you spend it?
-What’s the best thing you did this weekend?

Andrew at the Gym and Other Gym Things

Happy Friday, everyone!

Last night Andrew and I hit the gym right after work.  I don’t typically work out in the evening–the gym is the most crowded, and my flexible schedule allows me to go other times–but Andrew does, and he asked me that morning if we could go.

As soon as we walked in, Andrew realized he’d left his lock at home (which is kind of amazing considering there have been at least three incidents in the last month in which Andrew has been on his way out the door to the gym and said, “I can’t find my lock… I think I left it on the locker the last time I was at the gym.”  He’s been right every time.  He just locks it back up like it’s high school :-D).  Without a lock, Andrew decided to give me his stuff to put in my locker.  He disrobed in the hallway and gave me his sweatpants, sweatshirt and big winter coat–I looked like I was carrying a full load of laundry into the locker room, friends.   😉

Anyway, I met him back out in the main exercise room and hopped on an Elliptical beside him (he was biking at this point.)  I wanted to do a little cardio warm up before lifting weights, and Andrew was just killing time until a treadmill opened.  After about 5 or 10 minutes, a treadmill in the row in front of us opened.  Andrew got off his bike, went to wipe it down while the treadmill user did the same for his equipment, and just as Andrew was walking toward it, a girl swooped in and took that treadmill!  The nerve! (I’m kidding, she had no idea;  she saw an open treadmill in a very crowded gym.)  After a few more minutes, he was on another treadmill, and I hit up the weight area.

At this point, I saw an opportunity.  I always feel a little bit funny taking pictures, especially selfies, in the gym, and Andrew would NEVER agree to me taking a photo of him at the gym.  While I was doing the leg press, however, I realized I could take a sneaky shot of both of us.  My feet + Andrew huffing away on the right.  Heh heh heh.  (Yes, it’s the little things. :-D)

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After I’d lifted all the weights I cared to lift for the night, I hopped on the treadmill next to Andrew to do a cool down walk.  I glanced over at his dashboard to see how fast he was running, as I am in the bad habit of doing (earlier in January when I was recovering from being really sick, I went to the gym with the firm plan of running 3 miles at a 6.0 (10 min/mile pace) just to help myself ease back into exercise.  The girl next to me was someone I knew from high school, and I saw that she was running at an 8.0-9.0 and had been for a few miles already.  Competition kicked in, and “The Club Can’t Handle Me” came on my iphone, and I thought, “Yeah, the club can’t even handle me right now,” as I foolishly upped my pace to an 8.0.  I maintained this for about a mile, then had to walk because… I was still getting over the flu.  It wore me out for the rest of the day.  Lesson learned: listening to and honoring your body trumps competition and pride.)  Anyway, I looked at Andrew’s stats and saw that he, my I-hate-running-but-sometimes-do-it-because-it’s-good-for-me husband, was running a 7:30 mile pace and had been doing it for quite a few miles!  I know he has the advantage of long legs and male body composition, but I just didn’t know he could run that fast for that long!  There was no time to get competitive at that point, but I think I’m going to have to up my running game and challenge him to a duel race in a couple of months.  I don’t see any other option.

Thanks for reading my ramblings. 🙂  Have a great weekend!

-Do you look at how fast other people are running/pedaling/ellipticaling next to you at the gym?  Does it ever cause you to alter your own speed?
Do you take pictures at the gym?  How do you do it without feeling awkward?
-Are you and your significant other competitive when it comes to fitness things?

Snow Day Cookin’

Greetings on this beautiful, snowy morning!  Is anyone snowed-in, legitimately or otherwise?  Richmond is notorious for shutting down at the first suggestion of flurries.  I was thrilled this morning to see that my office is closed today; sure, we only have about two inches of snow, but I gladly rolled over and fell back asleep!

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Yesterday was my day off, and I don’t know if it was the cold temperatures, anticipation of the snow, or procrastination of the cleaning projects I’d planned to do, but all I wanted to do was cook delicious food!  And cook delicious food, I did. 🙂

First up was a batch of Raspberry Orange Muffins:

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I started with this basic muffin recipe from 100 Days of Real Food, but used gluten-free flour rather than whole wheat.  I used a cup of chopped, previously-frozen raspberries and mango-orange juice in place of the regular OJ.  Delicious.  They aren’t super sweet, but they are healthier than your average muffin.  Each one of these guys contains roughly:

-150 calories
-5g fat
-3g protein
-2g fiber
-5.5g sugar

Not bad!

Next up was dinner, and I was feeling ambitious.  For the first time in my life, I cooked a whole chicken.  You culinary pros are probably thinking, Yeah, so?, and my vegetarian friends probably just closed out this window (sorry, guys :)), but this was a big deal!  As someone who regularly reevaluates her stance on eating meat (you can expect a post about that in the near future), this was huge.  Aaand it was delicious.  I mean, seriously… how beautiful is this? :

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I basically used this recipe from The Pioneer Woman.  Inside the chicken I put a lemon (quartered) and about four cloves of garlic (crushed).  After looking at a few other recipes I decided to cook it at 450 degrees for 15 minutes, then turn the oven down to 400 degrees.  I took the chicken out of the oven after it had been on 400 for an hour just to check it, thinking it would need more time, and the internal temperature was slightly above where it was supposed to be, so I just let it rest!

With the chicken we had roasted beets, carrots, and red potatoes with rosemary

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When Andrew came home from work, the chicken was in the oven, and I was prepping the veggies.  He peeked in the oven, and was clearly surprised/impressed.  Because we still had about an hour to go until everything would be ready, Andrew decided to go to the gym for a quick workout.  When he walked back in the door, he was holding these:

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Me:  Flowers?? And wine??  What are these for?

Andrew: You made such a fancy dinner, and I wanted you to know that I appreciate it.

Me: I don’t know if it’s that fancy; I just felt like cooking!

Andrew:YOU COOKED A WHOLE CHICKEN!  That’s FANCY!

Love that guy. 🙂

So we ate our fancy chicken and roasted vegetables, and we drank our fancy wine, and we watched our fancy show, The Biggest Loser.  (Okay, I may be overreaching with my use of “fancy” ;-)).

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Andrew’s taste-test of the chicken went something like this:  “That’s good.  Whoa.  That’s like really good.”  I must say, I was not at all disappointed by how it turned out either!

Now that we have enough food to last us a few days, I’m afraid I actually have to use this snow day to do some house-cleaning…after I go to the gym, perhaps. 🙂

-Any snow outside your window today?
Have you ever cooked a whole chicken?

The Flu, as Told by Fitbit

This was the weekend of lying on the couch under multiple blankets.  For the last few days I’ve been fighting a fever, cough, nasal congestion and headache (I am regretting my decision not to get a flu shot…), and my Fitbit stats tell the story:

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The steps were acquired walking from the bed to the bathroom, to the bed, to the kitchen, to the bed., etc., and the calories were burned just by being alive.  What a sad little day!  What’s funny though, is what my sleep looks like after taking some Nyquil:

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Up once to use the bathroom, and hard asleep the rest of the night.  Hah!  Nyquil, for the win.

Saturday morning Andrew brought me some goodies:

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Tissues (with lotion), Traditional Medicinals tea, and the current Runner’s World magazine to keep me occupied during my bed/couch-rest.  Plus more drugs.

I don’t know if it’s actually the flu or just a really bad cold, but I’ve felt pretty awful.  I am starting to feel slightly more functional today but am still going to take it easy.  I’m a big believer in resting when sick to give your body its best chance to heal!

Have a great, healthy Monday!

Have you been hit with the flu this year?
Do you exercise when you’re sick?

2014 Goals + New Year’s Day Cuisine

Happy 2014 (a few days late)!

I know some people are vehemently against New Year’s resolutions, and I don’t totally understand that.  The first of January provides a great, if only symbolic chance to start fresh and dream about what life might look like in the coming year.  It’s as good a time as any to make a change, so why not?  Why wait for the sake of rebelling against the tradition?

At the beginning of January I like to set goals rather than make standard resolutions–they might be functionally the same, but goals seem more attainable and specific than resolutions, which I tend to think of as more vague concepts (“Put 20% of my paycheck into savings” rather than, “Save money.”)

Here are some of my goals for 2014:

1. Run 750 miles. I’ve never tallied my mileage over the course of an entire year, but at roughly two miles per day, this seems attainable.

2. Run a marathon.  This was on my list of 2013 goals, and it just didn’t happen (I did, however, run three races last year, which was another goal :)).  If I succeed at this, running 750 miles during the year should be no problem!

3. Perform one random act of kindness every week.  Preferably anonymously.

4. Write three highlights of every day.  I purchased a small planner that has room to write something for each day, and I plan to journal at least three high points daily.  I am already really looking forward to having the completed journal at the end of the year and being able to reflect on all the good times.

5. Cook dinner for other people once a month.  I love cooking.  I love sharing food with others.  Friends–come over for dinner, and let us love you by cooking you (hopefully) delicious food.  😀

So far I am off to a good start:  On New Year’s Day Andrew and I ran 3.5 miles (this was a big deal as Andrew does not enjoy running; half a mile in he said, “Are you ready for me to start complaining yet?” ;-)), I’ve written in my journal/planner each day, and Wednesday night our friends Amanda and Diron came over for a New Year’s Day dinner!  We made a rosemary-garlic pork tenderloin, baked apples, black-eyed peas, and collard greens & kale.  (I don’t think of myself as a typical Southern girl, but my family definitely has some Southern traditions when it comes to food.  We also eat oyster stew on Christmas morning.  Anyone else? :))  I forgot to take any pictures on NYD, but thankfully we had most of the leftovers for dinner last night, minus the pork which Andrew finished for lunch.  Here’s the modified leftovers meal:

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Collard greens & kale, baked apples with butter and brown sugar, black-eyed peas with tomatoes, and lemon-thyme chicken

Not a bad start to the year. 🙂

-What are your goals or resolutions for 2014?
-Does your family have any interesting food traditions around the holidays?

Fit Gifts

Amidst the eating-more-than-we-should and the working-out-less-than-we-should of Christmas week, Andrew and I received (and gave) a few gifts that will help us be a little more fit as we get back to our routines.  The best fit gifts under our tree this year:

1. Running Clothes

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Please, don’t be intimidated by how tough I look. 😉  My mom, a fellow runner, gave me some awesome new gear this year!  The top is Under Armor and looks white in the photo, but is actually that cool pattern above on the right.  The leggings are Nike, and they are perfect. 🙂  I don’t know about you, but I find new running gear to be so motivating!  I couldn’t wait to put them on and run yesterday!

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Additionally, my aunt Ann gave me this great running top.  I am looking forward to taking it on its debut run!

2. Extra Long Yoga Mat (for the giant)

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Andrew and I have been taking a yoga class pretty faithfully for almost a year, but we had yet to purchase our own mats.  The standard-sized mats we borrow at the gym are fine for me, but at 6’4 Andrew hangs off the top and the bottom.  For Christmas this year I bought him an extra long yoga mat.  With 7 feet of mat, both his head and feet are cushioned. 🙂  I waited until after Christmas to buy a mat for myself (the gray one pictured above) because I thought Andrew might give me one.  He didn’t;  instead, he gave me a…

3. Fitbit Flex

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I have been absolutely geeking out about this thing since the moment I opened it.  For those who aren’t familiar, a Fitbit is a wrist band that tracks your steps, distance, calories burned, active minutes, hours slept, sleep quality, and more.  In other words, a health nut’s dream come true.

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I’ve been having so much fun with it.  It’s a great visual reminder to get up and move;  over Christmas, when we were doing a lot of sitting around, it was convicting to see how far I was from the recommended 10,000 steps a day.  It motivated me to go out and take a walk. 🙂

The sleep features are really cool too.  You tap the band a few times when you lie down to sleep, and then again when you wake up in the morning, and it tracks your sleep patterns.

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In related news, I sleep like a champ. 🙂  See how there’s no pink (awake) at the beginning of the night?  Yes, I actually fall asleep that fast.

Fitbit also gives you the option to set weight loss goals and record the food you eat.  It tracks how many calories you’ve eaten and tells you how many you have left based on your goals.  All around, it’s an awesome gadget

With these tools, we are on our way to a healthy 2014!

-What fit gifts did you receive or give this year?
-Do you have a Fitbit?  Are you as obsessed with it as I am?

Christmas 2013 Recap

Well, hello there!  My name’s Catherine.  I used to blog regularly, but then I took a few weeks off for Christmas.  You may or may not remember me.  😉  Now that the busyness of the season is (mostly) behind us, I have returned.

Here’s a Christmas photo of my beautiful family, plus a recap of our Christmas week (yes, when you’re married with two sets of divorced parents, Christmas lasts a whole week) :

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This was the first year that we coordinated rather than matched our outfits for the Christmas card photo.  It was a huge step for our family, but I think the result looked great!

 

The decorations and presents:

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I love decorating the mantle and making wreaths!  I am especially proud of this Christmas wreath. 🙂  Andrew had the ornament made with our wedding date for me last Christmas, and I love it.

The weekend before Christmas, my mom’s side of the family came in town for a big Christmas lunch.  It was great to see everyone, catch-up on life, and eat until we were too full. 🙂

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That weekend we also looked at a few houses on the Tacky Light Tour.  I don’t know how common this is, but it’s a big deal in Richmond.  People love their tacky lights!

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Also, my nieces are the funniest people in the world.  As soon as we buckled our seat belts (yes, I am in the back middle seat between two car seats–perk of being petite?) Lauren (4) put her hand on mine and said, “Okay.  So, let’s talk about Disney World.  Do you want to hear what my favorite rides were?”  They went to Disney World earlier in December, and she wanted to talk about it every time there was a pause in conversation.  Money well-spent, sis.  😀

We spent Christmas Eve with Andrew’s mom and sister.  Unnaturally, I didn’t take any pictures. :-/  We opened presents, ate dinner, and attended an awesome Christmas Eve service at our church.

On actual Christmas day we were with Andrew’s dad.  His apartment complex is adjacent to a nice park, so after opening presents and eating, Andrew, Jenny, and I took a much-needed walk!

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We had a Dumb and Dumber moment during the walk.  The temperature was approximately 20 degrees, and I’d forgotten gloves.  Throughout the walk I was trying to tuck my hands in my sleeves, blowing on them to make them warm, sticking them in Andrew’s gloves etc.  After we’d been walking for, oh, 30 minutes, Andrew said, “Do you want my extra gloves?”  You’ve had extra gloves this whole time?? 😀

 The day after Christmas Andrew and I drove down to Raleigh to do Christmas with my family–first my mom, then my dad, aunt, and uncle.  Again, I wish I’d taken more photos, but I do have a few:

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Lauren helping my mom open a present 🙂

There is never a dull moment with my family; we laughed a lot, exchanged a few funny re-gifts, and just enjoyed being together!  Also, I must give a shout out to my sister, Whitney, for cooking some really delicious dinners while we were there;  I wanted to take photos, but the practice of taking food photos was ridiculed prior to my doing so. 🙂

On Friday, my dad, aunt, and uncle drove up to Raleigh from Atlanta, and we celebrated Christmas all over again.

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My dad and Lauren reading a book 🙂

On Friday night, some of the crew drove to Chapel Hill to see our beloved Tar Heels play basketball!  Andrew was not a UNC fan before we started dating, but he sure does look good in Carolina blue!

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On Saturday morning, Andrew and I went running with Aunt Ann, which has become a great tradition whenever we are together in Raleigh!  After a lot of sitting around and visiting, it felt good to get outside and move.

It was tough to say goodbye everyone, but we enjoyed the time together while we could!

And finally, a tradition that Andrew already hates doesn’t love but one day will appreciate, the second annual Christmas morning photo:

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Merry Christmas!

How did you celebrate this year?

Current Fitness Routine + The Funniest Running Photo I’ve Ever Accidentally Taken

During the month of November, between the leftover Halloween candy and Thanksgiving treats, I hit the sweets pretty hard, was a little slack on my workouts, and by the end of the month felt pretty blah.  At the beginning of December I recommitted to working out most days of the week and treating sweets as treats rather than something to be eaten whenever I feel like it.  Already I’m feeling better!

In terms of working out, I have been on a roll this month.  Despite the cold, I have been hitting the pavement running like a champ–yes, I am feeling quite proud of myself. 🙂

 

running1Frosty grass calls for fleece-lined spandex.

Here’s what the last week looked like for me in terms of fitness:

Saturday:  Kickboxing video
Sunday:  Jillian Michaels 30-Day Shred
Monday:  Run-40 minutes, easy
Tuesday:  30-Day Shred
Wednesday:  Run-30 minutes, intervals + walk- 60 minutes
Thursday: 30-Day Shred + walk- 15 minutes
Friday:  Run- 45 minutes

Jillian’s 30-Day Shred is tough–for those who don’t know, it’s a circuit-style exercise DVD that combines strength with cardio–but it’s not kicking my butt like the last two times I did it.  I take that as a sign that I am more in shape these days! 🙂

jillian2I do love being able to workout in my living room with the blinds closed 😀

On Wednesday morning I took a really funny photo by accident.  Running friends, you may understand what I am about to explain.  Or perhaps I will just sound vain or weird. 😉 Sometimes when I am running in the morning, when the sun is low, and I pass a solid fence, I think, “Wow, my shadow looks cool.  I wish I had a photo of that!”  On Wednesday this happened, and I decided to pull out my phone and try to get the shot.  However, by the time I took off my gloves and opened the camera, the terrain had changed a little bit, so there was a small hill leading up to the fence.  Here’s the result:

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Bahahaha.  My bottom half is on the hill in the foreground, and my upper half is on the fence, making it look like I have the tiniest waist and the biggest booty ever.  And with the tree, I look like I’m holding a gun.  I was really amused. 😀

And finally, because I like food and like posting pictures of food, here’s what we had for dinner last night:

rosemarychickenRosemary balsamic chicken, roasted Brussels sprouts, and quinoa.  Yum. 🙂

Have a great Friday, everyone!

-What does your weekly workout schedule look like currently?
-Have you ever taken a photo of your shadow while running (or wanted to)?

Less Meat Monday: Sweet Potato and Black Bean Tacos {with Chicken}

“Less Meat Monday” admittedly doesn’t have quite the same ring as “Meatless Monday“, but it’s a huge step for some members of this household (read: Andrew :)).  Last week he acknowledged that he should probably be eating a little less meat and a little more fiber for his overall health, and he gave me the green light to try some new dinner recipes in which meat is not the star.

Naturally, I was thrilled—as Andrew puts it, I always have one foot firmly in the vegetarian camp.  Now, we are not going vegetarian, but I am planning to make Mondays “Less Meat Mondays”, and try new recipes in which I can cut the amount of meat significantly with beans, lentils, or some other form of plant protein.

Here’s what was on the table last night:

Sweet Potato & Black Bean Tacos {with Chicken}

2 15 oz cans black beans, drained and rinsed
½ lb chicken, cooked and shredded*
2 medium sweet potatoes
½-1 c salsa
olive oil
chili powder
cumin
salt & pepper
mixed greens
lime
cilantro
goat cheese
corn tortillas

1. Preheat oven to 400°.  Chop sweet potatoes into ½-inch cubes.  Put in bowl, and toss with olive oil, chili powder, cumin, salt, and pepper.  2. Spread sweet potatoes on a pan, and place in oven for 30 minutes, stirring/flipping halfway through.  3.  While the potatoes are cooking, combine beans, chicken, and salsa in a pot, and heat on low.  4.  When potatoes are done and beans are hot, place in tortillas with greens, cilantro, lime juice, goat cheese, and/or whatever sounds good :).

(*I actually cooked the chicken in a skillet as soon as I put the potatoes in the oven;  there’s plenty of time to do this and heat the beans, but if you have leftover chicken you want to use, this is a great way to do it!)

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The tacos were a hit!  Andrew said he did not miss the extra meat—typically we use 1- 1 1/2lb of meat for any given dinner, which will last us two nights, so only using 1/2lb of chicken was a significant drop for us.  You can also leave out the chicken entirely, and I doubt you’d miss it.

Happy eating to all! 🙂

-Do you observe Meatless Monday?
-Any recommendations for high-protein, meatless (or less-meat) dinners that I could try in the coming weeks??

Vegetable Lentil Soup {with Bacon}

I don’t always cook with bacon, but when I do… it’s delicious.  😉  Yesterday we had about 1/2 lb of bacon that we needed to use (leftover from a Thanksgiving dish), and we’d picked up some green lentils at the grocery store this weekend, so I decided to create a new recipe.  The result was fanstastic.  I don’t want to oversell it, but this was a real winner for us. 

Vegetable Lentil Soup {with Bacon}
1 1/2 c green lentils
4 carrots
3 celery ribs
4 Roma tomatoes
2 c spinach
2-3 garlic cloves
6 slices bacon*
6 c chicken broth
Salt, pepper, & red pepper to taste

(*I used a natural, nitrite-free bacon.  When I sliced it, the last 1/2-1 inch was pure fat (as opposed to the other pieces that were half fat, half meat), and I couldn’t justify using it, so I tossed it out.  This recipe is actually 6 slices of bacon minus 1/2-1 inch of fat from each slice. :))

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1.  Chop carrots, celery, tomatoes, and garlic (minced).  Cut bacon into 1/2 inch pieces.  2.  In a large Dutch oven or stock pot, cook bacon over medium-high heat until cooked through.  3. Add carrots, celery, and tomato, and saute for 3-4 minutes.  4.  Add garlic (move other veggies and make room on the bottom of the pot so it can actually cook), and saute for about 1 minute.  5. Add chicken broth, lentils, and seasoning; bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer with lid tilted for 25-30 minutes (until lentils are soft).  6.  In the last 5 minutes add spinach. 

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Again, at the risk of overselling it, this was a fist-pump-because-I’m-so-happy-I-made-something-so-tasty meal.  The bacon just gives it so much good flavor!  It worked well for us because there was enough meat that Andrew didn’t feel deprived, but a sufficiently small amount of meat that I wasn’t picking around anything in my bowl (which sometimes happens; chicken is very hit-or-miss for me).  Most of the protein (13g per serving) came from the lentils, which I love.

When we bought the lentils, Andrew noticed the very high fiber content–15g per 1/4 c dry serving.  After we’d tasted and determined how good this soup was, as we were ladeling it into bowls, I had to remind Andrew that eating multiple large servings might have some undesired effects.  😉  He appreciated the reminder and held himself back a bit.

If you don’t have a Stewsday meal planned for tonight, give this recipe a try, and let me know what you think!

How often do you cook with bacon?