Tuesday, 8 January 2013

New Year, New Waistline

And so the misery of yet another year has begun. No more holidays in sight (well, to be honest, I'm jetting away to the Canary Islands in the beginning of February but it's still a lifetime away...), no sugar, no chocolate, no fun. Well, apart from going to the gym. Which is great fun! I just have the best instructors ever, they make me come back again and again, because working out and sharing some of their amazing positive energy is the best thing ever. Healthy life is obviously a balance between eating healthily, enjoying some goodies every once in a while, and being physically active. For me the hard thing isn't the exercise. I really enjoy it, honestly. Well, at least 90% of the time. Sometimes dragging yourself out in the rain and the dark to get to the gym is a bit uninspiring. Especially now that I switched to another gym which is not around the corner like my old gym. But it's totally worth it, the classes are much better, and the instructors are amazing. 

Clearly my problem with the healthy lifestyle is eating healthy. Well, not even that is such a problem really, I like healthy food. I'm lucky that I really love fresh veggies in all forms. It's the part about enjoying goodies within reason that I struggle with. I just can't keep it to a small treat every once in a while. If I told you what I have eaten over the last three or four months, you would not believe it. You would think it would be impossible for a human being to gob down so much food. But trust me, my friends, it is. And that is why I am currently wearing only skirts, as I cannot get the zip done on my jeans. Not even on my fat jeans! The only way to try and lose weight for me is to go cold turkey on sugar in all it's forms. No treats until the jeans fit again. It worked for me a year and a half ago when I got rid of almost a third of me. Part of that has been creeping back, and now I'm taking action again. I'm not going to quite the extremes I did back then (I don't think months of doing three hours of exercise every single day is really a good idea in the long run) but I have to get rid of my sugar addiction. I did it once, so I can do it again.

To keep on the straight and narrow I have decided I will have to give up one of my favourite hobbies. No more browsing Pinterest or food blogs. Looking at pictures of all those wonderful cakes and cookies and chocolates and bars and pies and whatnots is just too painful. Except of course, I have already slipped. However, I can proudly say that what I found was NOT this Oreo cookie bark from Cookies and Cups, but this really yummy looking lentil stew from Chocolate Covered Katie. And this was a great find today as I was going to make a lentil soup. But that was just the same old lentil soup I always make, so I was really happy to run into this recipe. And I had almost all of the ingredients at home. The only thing I didn't have was mushrooms. And having just got home from work, I really couldn't be bothered to go out mushroom hunting, so I decided to finally use up the bag of dried mixed mushrooms that has been living in my kitchen for way too long. And I threw in a handful of dried black trumpets as well, lovingly hand picked straight out of the clean Finnish forests by my Mum. I'm currently trying to use up all the food I have stocked in my kitchen, I have such a bad habit of buying more and more without using up the old ones first, and with a kitchen the size of a shoebox, it might be a good idea to try and keep the food stocks to a minimum. It's not like I'm going to starve, with six (!) grocery stores within a five minute walk. Truth be told, there are a few things I absolutely must have stockpiled in my kitchen. As long as I have onions, chick peas, tuna and tinned tomatoes, I'm ok. I know that's enough to survive on if there was a crisis. Not that I know what kind of crisis that would be, but still. Better safe than sorry.

Well, after all that rambling, I guess it's time to finally get to the good part. This recipe is not only healthy and colourful, but it is also great for using up any left over veggies from the fridge. The list of ingredients may seem long, but at least for me, almost all were things I already had at home. Fresh mushrooms will work as well as the dried ones, the original recipe used fresh mushrooms.

Lentil stew, slightly adapted from Chocolate Covered Katie (serves 6):
40 g dried mixed mushrooms
2 onions
1 tsp coconut oil
2 cloves of garlic
4 big carrots
3 stalks of celery
2 bell peppers (I used one yellow and one red for the nice colours)
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 tsp dried cumin
2 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp dried chilli flakes
2 cups dried red lentils
400 g tinned tomatoes
2 cups vegetable broth (i.e. 2 cups of water and a veggie stock cube)
100 g spinach
grated zest from one lemon (original recipe says 1 1/2 tbsp, but I only had one small lemon at home, so I ended up with a bit less)

According to my estimations, one serving contains 209 kcal (2.7 g fat, 43 g carbs of which 7.9 g sugars and 14.7 g protein).

The howto:
If using dried mushrooms, rehydrate the mushrooms in boiling water for 20ish minutes. Chop onions, finely chop the garlic, and chop the carrots, celery and bell peppers. Heat the oil in a large saucepan and cook onions for about 5 minutes. Then add the garlic, carrots, celery and peppers and cook for another 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms, vinegar and spices and let cook for another 5 minutes (15 if you are adding fresh mushrooms). Add the lentils, tomatoes and broth, and cook until the lentils are done (for me this was about 40 minutes, and I had to add another cup of water during the cooking, so keep an eye out). Right before serving, add spinach and lemon zest, and cook for 2-3 minutes. 

The verdict:
Food with lots of veggies in different colours is always tasty. It's nice to eat because it makes you feel so healthy. This was a bit different from my usual lentil stew, which was really great, I need to stop cooking the same old things over and over. This stew was nice and warming on a cold evening, and with plenty of lentils it's nice and filling. Also, letting it all slowly cook together really brings out the natural sweetness in the veggies, I think the addition of tomato paste and lemon really enhances this aspect. 

One thing I have always wondered about, is how all the "real" food bloggers always get their food to look so nice. Just have a look at the photos on Katie's blog, the stew looks so beautiful and colourful and appetising. Mine, despite tasting absolutely wonderful, turned out to look like a bunch of red goo. Oh well, beauty is only skin deep. 

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