Thursday, October 27, 2011

Cultivating Gratitude...and Cooking Lentils Bourguignon

Today was one of "those" days.  The sort of day when it could be said that instead of me working at my job, "in Mother Russia, job work you."  Life has been pretty stressful lately -- and poor Hubs has had to live with a wife who's prone to sighing deeply and occasionally bursting into tears at the end of a long day.

When things get difficult, I try to focus on the good things in order to keep myself from getting bogged down in worries about work, the future, and what I'm doing with my life.  My Dad once told me that it's important to cultivate what he called an attitude of gratitude, and when the going gets tough, I make a concerted effort to get grateful.

When I'm going to sleep at night, I try to think of at least five things that happened during the day -- if not more -- that I'm thankful for.  If I can't come up with five things that happened during the day, I'll go with five general things that can't be confined to the course of 24 hours (i.e., I have an awesome husband, a wonderful family, and good friends).

So, for today, I'm thankful for the following things:

1) The fact that my mom got some good news after a recent health scare.  I'm really, really close with my mom, and I'd been worried about her - so this good news is a huge relief.

2) All your lovely comments on yesterday's post!  I can't tell you how much I appreciate it, and I'm glad y'all liked my tribute to my Gram.

3) Hubs's giant hugs as soon as he comes home - few things make me feel more safe and happy than a bear-hug from him.

4) New contact lenses!  My old ones were super painful, so I'm excited to no longer have pains in my eyeballs. :)

5) When I got off the shuttle from work this evening, I could tell that it was about to rain buckets -- and I made it inside my apartment juuuuuust in the nick of time before the rain started.

6) Once I got home, I had a hankering for something hearty and comforting.  Back before I went veg, I used to love beef bourguignon - so I decided to try to make a vegetarian version.  French lentils are hearty, protein-rich, and filled with iron, so I thought they might go well with a bourguignon stew.  I topped it with caramelized onions (my favorite condiment in the world) and garlic croutons (how-to is below), and it was just what the doctor ordered.

Lentils Bourguignon
1/2 cup French lentils
3 carrots
2 celery stalks
2 potatoes
2 cups vegetable broth
2 cups red wine
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 tablespoon dried oregano
1/4 tablespoon dried rosemary
1/4 tablespoon dried thyme

Step 1: Chop up the carrots, potatoes, and celery.  Put them into a stock pot with the broth, wine, balsamic, and spices.

Step 2: Let it simmer over medium heat for 30 minutes, or until the veggies and lentil are all tender.  Although it has a lot of liquid to begin with, the cooking process boils it down to a thick stew - so don't worry if it looks like waaaaay more liquid than seems necessary at first!

Step 3: While the stew is doing its thang, make the...

Caramelized Onion and Garlic Croutons
*I learned how to make the garlic croutons from watching a Mark Bittman video podcast on iTunes - so I can't take credit for this idea!
1 onion
6 cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

Step 1: Thinly slice both the onion and the garlic.

Step 2: Separately sautee each (the onions cook much more slowly than the garlic, so it's best to separate 'em so the garlic doesn't get carbonzied).  The garlic before:

Garlic after:

Once the stew is ready and the onions and garlic are happily caramelized, you're ready to go - serve up the stew, garnish with the garlic croutons and find something to be grateful for. :)

Happy almost Friday, y'all!

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