Vegetable Lentil Soup {with Bacon}

I don’t always cook with bacon, but when I do… it’s delicious.¬† ūüėȬ† 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.¬† ūüėȬ† 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?

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Chicken, Kale, and Black Bean Soup {Stewsday}

Around midday Tuesday, snow flurries landed on my face.

Shortly after that, my Facebook news feed exploded with posts declaring that it was, in fact, snowing in Richmond in November.¬† We Richmonders poke fun at ourselves for¬†our level of freaking out at the first sight–or suggestion–of snow.¬† For a single inch of snow, school is often cancelled, the grocery store shelves go bare, people forget how to drive faster than 10 mph… It’s hilarious.¬†ūüėÄ ¬†Nothing stuck to the ground this time, but it was still fun. ūüôā

With strong gusts of wind and near freezing temperatures (okay, they weren’t that close to freezing… but low 40’s feels cold!), it was a gross day to be outside, but a perfect day for stew.¬† Conveniently, it also¬†happened to be Stewsday. ūüėÄ

Here’s what I threw together last night:

Chicken, Kale, and Black Bean Soup

1 lb chicken (cooked & shredded)
Diced tomatoes
Kale (a few large leaves torn into small pieces)
1 can black beans
2 c cooked brown rice
1 qt chicken broth
1 1/2 c water
1 1/2 tsp each: cumin, garlic powder, chili powder
salt, pepper, red pepper to taste

I first made a version of this soup after Thanksgiving last year with leftover turkey–if you have leftover poulty you’d like to use, this is a great way to use it.¬† I did not last night, so I cooked the chicken in a skillet with some olive oil first,¬†then started the rice (1 c dry) in the rice cooker.¬† We have lots of bags of veggies in our freezer from our garden this summer, so I used a quart-sized bag of sliced tomatoes.¬† I’m not sure what the canned equivalent would be–one 15 oz can, perhaps?¬† Either way, they break down and blend in with the broth, so you aren’t eating huge chunks of tomatoes.

Put everything except the black beans and rice in a large pot (I used the same one in which I cooked the chicken), bring to a boil, then reduce heat and let simmer.¬† Add the black beans and rice (when it’s cooked), and let simmer as long as desired–the longer it all sits together, the better it will taste!

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So hearty.  So nutrition-packed.  So delicious.  Perfect for a blustery winter fall day.

 

-Did you celebrate Stewsday this week?
-Kale: do you eat it, and if so, what is your preferred method of consumption?¬† (I don’t love the stuff raw, so putting it in soup works well for me!)

Holiday Season Wellness Goals

Confession: ¬†I’ve been hitting the leftover Halloween candy pretty hard this week.

As we move into the holiday season, where the sweets become even more abundant and most of the vegetables are cooked in cream-of-something soup, I’ve decided to set a few goals to stay focused, healthy, and feeling well. ¬†Now, I’m a firm believer that wellness is the sum of the good stuff we do for ourselves rather than the absence of the bad stuff. ¬†Along the same lines, I also believe in not depriving yourself if you really want something! ¬†The following popped up on my Facebook news feed a couple nights ago, and I laughed and felt disgusted at the same time:

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Really, Health.com? ¬†That’s the saddest little dessert I’ve ever seen. ¬†That’s a garnish for a dessert, in fact. ¬†There’s no way, if someone were craving pineapple upside-down cake, that that would satisfy the craving.¬†¬†I commented, “#notdessert”. ¬†ūüėÄ

But I digress.

 Therefore, my wellness goals for the holiday season are cumulative and non deprivation-based.  If you count yesterday (when I intended to write this post) and Christmas day, there are 50 days until Christmas!  

Goals

That means that I am aiming for an average of 6 servings of produce, 30 minutes of exercise, and just one dessert daily (my dessert goal is to not¬†exceed 5o servings.) ¬†The beauty of the cumulative goals is that they allow flexibility: ¬†Run for an hour one day? ¬†Take a rest day. ¬†Enjoy a few desserts on Thanksgiving? ¬†Forego a sweet somewhere else in the week. ¬†A few days of poor eating here and there won’t wreck a person; these goals will help me make sure a few days don’t turn into the whole holiday season. ūüôā

After day one, these are my stats:
-Fruits & Veggies: 6
-Exercise: 1 hour
-Desserts: 1

Be good to yourselves, friends! ¬†And for the love of all things delicious, please don’t ever eat a pineapple garnish for dessert.

Do you have any wellness goals for the holiday season?
What would you add to my three categories?

Rainy Day Weight Circuits

I don’t know how things look out your window, but here on the East Coast there was a quick switch from hot to cold-and-rainy¬†in the last week. ¬†While I am not afraid of the rain and certainly don’t mind running in it, if I can complete my workout without actually leaving the house in this weather, that is fine by me!

I created and have been doing this weight and cardio workout from the warmth (well, dryness, anyway) of my living room this week:

Living Room Weight Circuit

 

By moving straight from one exercise to the next without a break, you can make it a cardio workout as well as strength. ¬†I typically use two 10-lb dumbbells for the moves that require weights (and sometimes for the walking lunges, if I’m feeling ambitious :)).

Give it a try, and let me know what you think!

What have we been eating this week to power such a grueling workout? ¬†Well, I’m glad you asked! ¬†The last two nights we’ve had one of the most neutral-colored meals possible: ¬†tilapia + brown rice pasta + spaghetti squash.

tilapia

We baked the tilapia with a mixture of butter*, garlic, lemon juice, and basil, and made extra to season the brown rice pasta.  We roasted the squash with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Everything was delicious, despite falling in the oh-so-visually-appealing beige-yellow-tan category.

(*Nature’s Promise organic non-dairy buttery spread)

Tonight may be a stew night, despite the fact that it’s not Stewsday. ūüėČ

Have a great Thursday, and if you’re experiencing the weather we are, stay dry!

What are you eating this week?
How does the rain affect your workouts?

Sleep Deprivation and Why My Husband is the Best

Good morning! ¬†The last week has been slightly hectic, and I apologize for my subsequent blogging hiatus. ¬†Every time I started a new post I thought, I got nothing. ¬†Don’t worry… I have returned :).

On Friday night our youth group had a lock-in at church–50+ people, all night, no sleep. ¬†The night was full of: manhunt (similar to hide-and-seek), dodge ball, movies, a ghost tour, duct tape games, and lots of food.

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The object of the duct tape game was to tape someone so that they hang on the wall for the longest once the chair is pulled away.  The winner (the girl on the right in the above photo) said her winning strategy was simple: wear pants.  Great life advice as well.

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Part of the “ghost tour”… it’s not everyday you get to wear a gorilla costume ūüėÄ

¬†I had a blast, and I think all the youth did as well, but I spent the rest of the weekend recovering from the lack of sleep! ¬†Spoiler alert: when I don’t get enough sleep, I become helpless, and Andrew is a saint. ¬†I crawled into my bed around 8:45 AM and slept until 12:30 PM Saturday. ¬†When I finally shuffled myself downstairs to the kitchen, my sweet, sweet husband handed me a bowl of overnight oats. ¬†Before he’d gone to bed Friday night, Andrew prepared my breakfast knowing I’d be too exhausted to function Saturday morning. ¬†How sweet is that?

After very slowly eating breakfast, I was ready for a nap. ¬†(Yes, one hour and the process of eating oatmeal zapped all my energy.) ¬†I hobbled back upstairs, crawled back into bed, but could not seem to fall asleep. ¬†I started thinking about soup. ¬†It was a little chilly, and I was so tired, and soup sounded like just about the greatest thing in the world. ¬†But how can I get this soup? ¬†I’m upstairs in bed. ¬†Do we even have soup in the house? ¬†I decided my only option was to call Andrew’s cell phone (he was still all the way downstairs at this point). ¬†I called and sadly heard his phone vibrating on his bedside table. ¬†Dang.

I hobbled back downstairs and stood in the kitchen, where Andrew had pulled out the rubber gloves and was deep cleaning the sink and counters.  After a minute he turned and looked at me.

“Hi honey. ¬†How are you doing?”

“I’m tired. ¬†Let’s make soup.”

“We can make soup, but I don’t think we have everything we need. ¬†Do you want me to go out and get you some soup?”

“I don’t know. ¬†I think I need a shower.”

Andrew went back to cleaning because he’s an awesome husband, and I made the trip upstairs to take a shower… where I fell asleep. ¬†When I finally got myself ready to leave the house (it took longer than you might think), Andrew walked upstairs to change clothes. ¬†He picked up his cell phone.

“Did you call me at 1:30?”

“Yeah.”

“Where were you?”

(I patted my side of the bed.)

“You called me from the bed?”

“Yeah. ¬†About the soup.”

“What about the soup?”

“That I wanted some.”

“I didn’t have my phone with me.”

“…I know.”

Sleep deprivation at its finest. ¬†God bless that man for being patient with me. ūüėÄ

We ran a few errands, acquired all the ingredients for this soup, and made my sleepy dreams come true:

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Mmm. ¬†Soup. ¬†ūüôā

Sleep was the theme of the rest of the weekend: ¬†fell asleep on the couch Saturday night, slept in Sunday morning, fell asleep on the couch again Sunday afternoon…

Andrew and I both took off work today because my lack of sleep stole our weekend, and we have some good things planned for the day (that’s not entirely true… we are¬†planning to plan some good things for the day, but so far we haven’t made it past, “Sleep in and eat breakfast.” ūüėÄ

Have a great Monday!

Sleep deprivation:  do you become as helpless as I do?
What did you do this weekend?
Have you ever worn a gorilla costume?

 

In Defense of (Posting Pictures of) Food

My name is Catherine, and I am a foodie.

salmon and quinoa

I’ve seen a disturbing trend on social media lately: food photo hating. ¬†That’s right–there are people out there right now who are bored to tears by the photos we post of our delicious meals and culinary masterpieces. ¬†If you are one of those people, this post is for you. ¬†I’d like the chance to explain to you why I post photos of the food that I grow, eat, and love.

When I initially wrote this post, I included a witty, but snarky apology for forcing others to look at our food photos. ¬†Before posting I decided it was probably a little too heavy with the sarcasm, so instead, I will say this: if you don’t like what anyone posts online, hide them from your news feed, don’t follow them on Instagram, and don’t click on the link to their blog. ¬†That’s what I do when you post photos of… er… never mind. ¬†The choice is yours. ¬†I won’t be offended.

I post photos of food because I get excited about food. ¬†You post photos of what excites you, right? ¬†Scrolling through my Facebook news feed right now I see photos of: new boots, a sailboat, a double-layered marble cake with chocolate frosting, a baby deer, a wedding, a new haircut, the sorority squat, a football helmet, a new purse, a baby with a dog–We post little glimpses of our lives, and a good meal is one of those glimpses for me. ¬†Here’s why:

1. Food powers everything we do. ¬†All the activities we love are possible because we have good food in our bellies. ¬†Running marathons, hiking, playing with your kids, focusing in school or at work (okay, maybe you don’t¬†love that, but it has to be done), simply hanging out with friends–your performance and ability to be in the moment will suffer if you are not well nourished. ¬†What you put in your body matters; ¬†while we may not¬†be what we eat, we certainly feel the effects of what we eat (or don’t eat). ¬†

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“We are indeed much more than what we eat, but what we eat can nevertheless help us be much more than what we are.” -Adelle Davis

2.¬†Food tastes amazing. ¬†As vital as food is to our lives, it could have been as boring as breathing–something that just happens naturally and keeps us alive. ¬†Instead, God gave food taste, and why in the world would He have done that if we weren’t meant to enjoy it? ¬†Eating, like other activities that ensure the survival of the human race, is meant to be pleasurable. ¬†Food is a gift, not only in the fact that we have it and aren’t starving, but that it tastes so good! ¬†Why would you not celebrate that?

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“Nothing would be more tiresome than eating and drinking if God had not made them a pleasure as well as a necessity.” -Voltaire

3. Food builds relationships. ¬†Because we need food to power everything we do, and it’s not a boring pill that we have to take each morning, the act of eating gives us reason to pause a few times during the day, often with other people. ¬†How many relationships in your life have developed over the course of many meals? ¬†The vast majority. ¬†From childhood dinners with your family to school lunches in the cafeteria with friends to dates with your husband, sharing a meal bonds us with others.

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“If you really want to make a friend, go to someone’s house and eat with him… people who give you their food give you their heart.” ¬† ¬† ¬† -Cesar Chavez

4. Food is art. ¬†Some of the most beautiful colors I’ve ever seen are in my garden. ¬†I take no credit for this, but I certainly enjoy it! ¬†Fresh produce is inherently visually pleasing.

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“Did you ever stop to taste a carrot? ¬†Not just eat it, but taste it? ¬†You can’t taste the beauty and energy of the Earth in a Twinkie.” -Astrid Alauda

That’s why I post pictures of what I ate for dinner–because that meal was a crucial piece of my day that gave me energy to do what I love, provided quality time with people I care about, and pleased my senses in a way that compelled me to turn and thank my Creator and Provider.

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If you aren’t at least a little bit excited about food, it might be time to reconsider what you’re eating or the pace of your day–I wouldn’t get excited about eating a fast food hamburger in my car or macaroni and cheese from a box before running out the door either. ¬†Good food doesn’t have to take hours to make, it just has to be real food.

So, happy eating to all. ¬†And don’t forget to post photos. ūüôā

Sandwich Hater’s Lunch Jr. (Guest Post)

Our guest blogger today is my amazing big sister, Whitney. ¬†She brings a new perspective to the blog–the challenge of getting a 6-year-old to eat healthy foods daily. ūüėČ ¬† Enjoy!

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“Occasionally my sister Catherine (DoDo to my children) posts about her lunch choices as a self-proclaimed “sandwich hater.” I can relate to these messages because, (although I enjoy anything that someone wants to put between two slices of perfect carb laden bread), my 6 year old absolutely refuses to eat a sandwich. (Editor’s note: ‘atta girl!)

Kendall is in the First grade in a year round school.  I remember sitting in the parent orientation meeting before she started Kindergarten and listening to the Food Service Manager (head cafeteria lady) describe a typical school lunch.  I was horrified.  HORRIFIED.  A 5 year old cannot be expected to lay the foundations for their entire academic career when we are feeding them hot dogs as a protein and tater tots as a vegetable.  I knew then that I would be packing her lunch every.single.day.

So now comes the dilemma of this post.  I need lunches that are: nutritious, portable, able to stay fresh until 12:30, likely to be eaten by a 6 year old, and void of all sandwich related paraphernalia.

A typical lunch for Kendall looks like this:

1 organic cheese stick, 1 homemade “Gogurt”, seasonal fruit, seasonal vegetable, and some sort of carbohydrate. This could be crackers, granola bar, veggie straws, etc. ¬†(I know, I know. The protein police have something to say about this. Cheese and yogurt both have protein and she’ll eat some chicken at dinner.) ¬†She also gets a treat, but there’s a rule. ¬†If anything in her lunchbox comes home (i.e. carrots) then her treat also has to come home. She can’t eat a cookie first and not have time/room for cucumber slices.

The best investment we made in the lunch project was some good Ziploc reusable containers.  They have three compartments that separate her food so nothing runs together and they fit perfectly inside her lunch box.  I also found these awesome silicone Popsicle molds that work great as yogurt containers.  I just mix plain Greek yogurt with fruit, honey, or granola.

The next best investment we make is letting Kendall help pack her lunch most days.  She gets to choose a fruit and a vegetable, she gets to help put it all in the box.  She is now invested and empowered in her own meal and is more likely to eat it as a result.

We are fortunate in the fact that Kendall’s best friend at school also comes from a “real food” family. ¬†Together they stage a daily lunch room sit-in on school lunches, Cheetos, and most importantly: sandwiches.”

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How could you make that sweet face eat a sandwich? ¬†Also, she comes by her love of ice cream naturally ūüėÄ

Thanks, sis!