Wow, it’s been a while since I’ve posted anything. You see, a lot has happened over the past year which has really taken up a lot of time. I changed positions at my company, had a baby, went back to work, took classes for my MBA, finished my MBA, and then took a breath. Whew. It was a nice breath. During that breath I did whatever I wanted to do (as long as my son approved). I read a lot, caught up on some TV shows, went shopping and took some naps. I feel refreshed.
For 4 years I worked and took classes year round. I rarely had a break and when I did I tended to have a lot of changing up to do on other things that I neglected. Now, I actually have some free time. Free time? What is free time some of you might ask? I’m not sure if I fully know what it is, but I think it is that time during which you have stuff to do, but it is not urgent enough that needs to be done immediately. It’s the time during which you might able to read a couple more pages or surf the Internet or just sit down and catch your breath. Some of us, including myself, seem to have a difficult time knowing what to do with free time. We feel as though there must be something else that needs to be done. I’m starting to learn that it is okay to stop and take a breath and enjoy my free time. It is okay. We are all just individuals and we must take breaths for not only others, but for ourselves also.
My 11 month old son taught me that when he was just a few weeks old. It is probably the most valuable lesson he has taught me. You see, he had colic. So, my maternity leave was spent with a crying baby. I would just sit and hold him because then he would calm down. I spent hours holding him. During those hours though I was neglecting myself. I didn’t eat, drink or even go to the bathroom for long periods of time. Eventually I got to the point that I was having milk supply issues from it. It was at that point that I realized that I really wasn’t doing either of us any good if I didn’t take care of myself. If I didn’t, he wouldn’t be able to nurse. So, it was then that I started taking care of myself first. It sounds selfish, but if I didn’t do that I wouldn’t be able to take care of him.
Well, I have taken a deep breath, actually many deep breaths, over the past few months and I feel much better. I feel like I’m in a routine and things are humming along as they should. It’s nice.
Now, if only the weather would cooperate, it would be even better. Some of you have probably been rejoicing this winter since it has been rather warm. In Wisconsin, it has been very warm and we have had almost no snow. It might sound odd, but I actually don’t mind winter and snow. I like snuggling up on the couch with a good book and a cup of tea while there is a blizzard raging outside. I like going cross-country skiing. I love all the foods that come with winter. Beef stew just doesn’t taste the same when the temperature is above 40degrees, trust me, I’ve tried.
So, I was excited when I checked the weather for this week and we actually had a winter storm advisory. The first one of the year! Great! Ski trails here I come! I spent quite a bit of time this past weekend searching through my cookbooks looking for a good “winter” recipe. One that would heat us up all the way to our core. One that would preferably sit in the slow cooker all day making the house smell wonderful; so the minute I step inside after a long day’s work I remember that it will only be a few minutes until I warm up again.
Here is what I came upon: Ultimate Lentil Soup. It sounded so homey, granted not my childhood home. My only previous encounter with lentils was when I was in grade school and my mom decided to try them. I don’t know what she did to them, but they were horrible. I had almost completely written them off. But this past weekend, I felt adventurous. So, Ultimate Lentil Soup here I come!
This soup did exactly what I was hoping for. It warmed me to the core. It made our house smell wonderful. It was quite filling too. And it has given me a new opinion of lentils. This soup has quite the depth of flavors and they really hit the spot when you are in the middle of a winter weather advisory. So, if you find yourself in that position, try it. Even if you are uncertain of lentils, I’ll be happy to let you know that my husband and I agree that this recipe will be made again in our house.
Ultimate Lentil Soup (from Slow Cooker Revolution by America’s Test Kitchen)
2 onions, minced
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbsp EVOO
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1/2 ounce dried porcini mushrooms, rinsed and minced
1 1/2 tsp minced fresh thyme, or 1 tsp dried
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
4 cups vegetable broth
4 ounces bacon
3 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
12 ounces portabello caps, gills removed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 cup brown lentils, picked over and rinsed
2 bay leaves
8 ounces Swiss chard, stemmed and leaves sliced 1/2-inch thick (I omitted this since I couldn’t find Swiss chard. I was going to substitute spinach and put it in right before serving, but I forgot.)
1. Microwave onions, garlic, oil, tomato paste, porcini mushrooms, and thyme in a bowl, stirring occasionally, until onions are softened, about 5 minutes. Transfer to slow cooker.
2. Stir chicken broth, vegetable broth, bacon, carrots, portobello mushrooms, lentils, and bay leaves into slow cooker. Cover and cook until lentils are tender, 9 to 11 hours on low or 5 to 7 hours on high.
3. Stir in chard, cover, and cook on high until chard is tender, 20 to 30 minutes. Discard bacon and bay leaves. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve with additional olive oil.