Lentils…I Love Them

Lentils. They’re tiny little wonders, powerhouses nutritionally, and oh so easy to cook. Unlike other legumes, no soaking is required. Lentils are about 30% protein and a significant source of fiber; that’s great news for those of us following a “nutritarian” eating plan. (For more on the whole concept of nutritarian, please check out the book Eat to Live by Dr. Joel Fuhrman.)

Image courtesy of dan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

There are many varieties of lentils. The brownish green ones and the blue French ones take a bit longer to cook but remain rather firm, though tender, when fully cooked. The red ones turn to “mush” very quickly, but are really good in soups to add a creamy base. Yellow ones are the foundation of Indian dal. And there are more varieties beyond these basics! I’ll focus on some of the specifics using different lentils in a later post. For today, my focus are those wonderful basic brownish green lentils.

Last Friday, I made a big pot of lentil stew and I’ve been eating on it every day. The stew itself is pretty basic, but each day I’ve changed it up a bit with a different seasoning. Before I write out my recipe, please note that I didn’t have fresh mushrooms on hand (needed to go to the grocery), but I did have a small can of portobello chunks. Also, I do not cook with salt. Some of the seasonings I use contain it, though. If you’re trying to avoid all salt, you might like to create your own spice blends.

Basic Lentil Stew

1 medium onion (I used red, but any variety works), coarsely chopped

3 stalks of celery, coarsely chopped

4 medium carrots, sliced (about 1/4″ thick)

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 can no-salt added diced tomatoes (I used Trader Joe’s brand)

1 cup brown lentils, rinsed and picked over

2 cups cubed butternut squash (I used the pre-cut variety from Costco) or substitute sweet potato chunks

3 bay leaves

Water or vegetable broth

1 small – medium  zucchini, sliced about 1/4″ thick

1 small can mushrooms or 6 or 7 sliced white or portobello mushrooms

About 8 oz frozen leaf spinach (it’s not exact; I used 1/2 of a bag…you can use fresh spinach, too)

Water saute the onion, celery, carrots and garlic in about 1/4 cup water  until the water is almost gone. Add tomatoes, lentils, butternut squash, and bay leaves. Add water or vegetable broth as needed to keep the stew from burning dry and becoming too thick as the lentils cook. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to low; cover and cook until the lentils are soft (depending upon your stove, this will take about 30 – 40 minutes; taste them!) Add the zucchini, mushrooms, and spinach and cook, covered, and additional 10 – 15 minutes, until hot.

I re-heat about 1-1/2 cups for my meal and add one of the following before heating: Italian Seasoning and fresh lemon juice, to taste; 1-2 teaspoons green or red Thai Curry Paste (depends upon how hot you like it); 1 – 2 teaspoons Indian Curry Paste (I like Patek’s brand); 2 teaspoons smoked paprika; 1 -2 teaspoons chili powder.  I’ve also added other veggies when making this; green peas, corn, green beans, etc. all work well. Get Creative!

This is really versatile and very tasty! I meant to take a picture of my cup of soup today but, the bowl was empty by the time I remembered. Maybe next time.

If you try this recipe, let me know. And please share any changes you make or how you spice it up! Questions or problems? Let me know that, too. Bon Appetit!

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Who Are You?

I’m reading the book, A Life That Matters: Five Steps to Making a Difference by P.K. Hallinan, a pastor and a children’s book author. Even before he was an author or a “real” writer, he told people “I am a writer.” P.K. now teaches a course to would-be writers and encourages them “to act as if it were already so.”

How many times do we tell ourselves “I’m not a ______?” How many times do we live up to what we’re not? Words are powerful. They have the power to kill a dream or make a dream come true . . . in our own lives, and in the lives of others. I remember, as a child, telling my dad what I wanted to be when I grew up. (I had a profound interest in archaeology.) My dad listed the reasons why I could NOT be an archaeologist. My dream was snuffed out. A teacher told me I’d never make it in science. I didn’t. For years I’ve told myself that I’m not an athlete. I didn’t become one.

My mindset has changed, though. Today at the gym, chugging along on the treadmill, I said over and over “I AM A RUNNER.” I still walk more than I run and my pace doesn’t exceed 4.0 mph, but I AM A RUNNER. I’ve never run a 5k, much less a marathon, but I AM A RUNNER. I may not look like one, but I am! Some day others will see what I believe I am today.

Many people (I once was one of them) look in the mirror and say, “I’m fat” or “I’m unhealthy” or “I’m ugly.” What happens when the dialogue changes to “I’m at my right size” or “I’m healthy” or “I’m beautiful”? We become what we believe we are. We may not look like what we believe we are….but we are; our bodies are playing catch-up with our minds. One day the rest of the world will see that we are what we’ve believed ourselves to be, too.

So . . . Who Are You?

Making Circles

A comment made by another blogger (emjayandthem.wordpress.com – great blog!) reminded me of this poem by Edwin Markham, a not-so-well-known poet of the early 1900s:

Outwitted

He drew a circle that shut me out —
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But Love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle that took him in.

I first read that poem 40-some years ago and have remembered it for as many years. The words definitely had an impact on me. It is a reminder that no matter how poorly I am treated, I do not need to respond in the same way. Love will always win out; it’s the larger circle.

We live in a time where civility seems greatly diminished. There is so much anger and hatred toward whole groups of people….because of their skin color, because of their religion, because of their country of origin, because of their language, because of . . . If we don’t have a reason, we create one. We shut each other out rather than drawing each other in. In the process, we lose. We lose our humanity; we lose our selves; we lose our peace . . . we lose our possibilities.

Markham also wrote this:

There is a destiny that makes us brothers:
None goes his way alone:
All that we send into the lives of others
Comes back onto our own.

“A Creed”, stanza 1, reported in Poems of Edwin Markham (1950), page 18.

I don’t believe in some cosmic karma, but I do believe that what “we send into the lives of others” does have consequences in our own lives. We are all tied together whether we like it or not. We get to choose how we will treat each other. We get to choose how we respond when someone treats us poorly.

The following is attributed to Mother Teresa (with similarities to The Paradoxical Commandments by Dr. Keith M. Kent; see http://prayerfoundation.org/mother_teresa_do_it_anyway.htm )

People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered.
Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives.
Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies.
Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you.
Be honest and sincere anyway.

What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight.
Create anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous.
Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, will often be forgotten.
Do good anyway.

Give the best you have, and it will never be enough.
Give your best anyway.

You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God.
It was never between you and them anyway.

We get to choose…we get to do it anyway…we get to draw a great big circle to draw people in. Let’s start doing it right now!

Weakness Allowed Here

I made it back from my adventure visiting my granddaughters (and their mommy, my daughter, and daddy). The weather was perfect autumn weather in the New York City area and we were able to be outside quite a bit. My girls are growing up so quickly and they are full of questions and laughter. What a treat to spend time with them!

My return to Houston via Newark International Airport was, from an adult standpoint, the most interesting part of the whole trip. I had the most amazing taxi driver (I’ll call him TD because I did not learn his name) on the way to the airport. TD is a naturalized American citizen, a native of Egypt, and a Coptic Christian. TD had strong opinions about what was going on in Egypt and surrounding countries right now….after the uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya followed by the most recent attacks on U.S. embassies, there is much about which to be opinionated. In a short span of time, he was able to provide me with insight into politics based on Islam. (Please note, I follow politics to a degree, but I don’t immerse myself in it.)

TD’s most important statement was a religious one, though, and it is the one statement that has made an impact on my thinking. He mentioned that, while he was still in Egypt, he was asked by a Muslim why he was a Christian. His reply was, “Because my GOD is alive, yours is dead; you can go see his grave.” Then he added this, “In Islam, they must defend their god; my GOD is strong and powerful. HE doesn’t need to be defended. I am the weak one.”

And that is the reality….I do not need to defend GOD or my belief in HIM. HE is the strong one; I am the weak one. HE defends me! How amazing is that! That’s why I, as a Christian, don’t have to go around terrorizing those who malign Jesus or my faith in HIM. HE can handle that; it’s not my responsibility. All I need to do is keep my eyes on HIM. Thank you, TD, for reminding me of that important truth.

 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 2 Corinthians 12:9  (NIV)

It really is okay to be weak.

Distracted….

I fully intended to continue my post regarding Cardio Coach this week…that was not to be. I got sidetracked by life.

A friend of mine from church wound up in the hospital, my husband has been at home the whole week and creates lots of interruptions, and I’m getting ready to take a week long trip. Distractions are part of life. Surely you have them, too. How do you handle them?

I don’t always handle distractions (interruptions) too well. When I awake in the morning, I lie in bed for a bit and formulate a plan for what I want to do and/or accomplish that day. When my plans get messed up, I can easily wind up in a bit of a tailspin because I’m annoyed at something disrupting my plan. I have to re-orient myself and something on my self-imposed “to do” list never gets done. That’s the unsettling part….I can’t put a mental check mark by that item. Oh, NO! (Please note, this does not stress me out; it annoys me.)

The reality is that interruptions happen and, how we deal with those distractions says a great deal about what’s important to us. People come first, stuff comes later. There are some things on my list which are totally inconsequential; the world will not come to an end if I don’t get to Target today. There are some things that can easily be put off….so what if I don’t finish the laundry? (Unless I need it finished so I can pack for a trip, it’s not really a big deal.) That’s the stuff. Praying for a friend who’s going through some hard times, having a conversation with a loved one, pushing a child in a swing….that’s where REAL life happens. We miss so much when we let the distractions keep us from the connections. In our busyness, we often forget that each day we have a choice to make at least once…create something of lasting value (a beautiful memory or a relationship) or create something that’s gone as soon as completed. (Like dusting, it has no lasting value. As soon as the task is completed, the dust begins to form again.)

What choice are you making today?

Cardio Coach

My friend, Joyce, over at theimperfectnutritarian.wordpress.com has been recommending Cardio Coach to me for months. A week ago I finally ordered the 5 CD special (they came VERY quickly) and yesterday I ripped the CDs and synced to my MP3. Today I tried out the first CD.

WHEW! Now I get what Joyce has been talking about. I spent 40 minutes walking and jogging with a sprint thrown in for good measure. And Sean O’Malley’s voice was so encouraging. Now…I’m not out of shape. I’ve been working with a trainer for a few months, after all. BUT I do have a major problem with cardio….first I was on medications that made it hard for me to reach my goals; now I’m off of the medications (thanks to plant-based eating, I might add), but some of the residual effects linger. Cardio Coach has me working on perceived exertion not on my actual heart rate. This really will work for me.

This week I’ll continue to use the first CD in the hopes that I can get my stamina built up a bit. Next week I’m traveling and my exercise will consist solely of walking and playing with my granddaughters (no complaints there!). The following week, I’ll probably use CD 1 again one more time and then switch to CD 2 which will continue to help me build my cardio stamina. I’m PUMPED! (And yes, there’s a pun in there if you think about it…)

I have more to tell about Cardio Coach tomorrow (or the next day). For today, though, just go check it out here: www.cardiocoach.com Browse through the site and, if your finances allow it, order the CDs and try them out. It’s like having a personal trainer to push you without the cost. You, too, could be saying “WHEW!”