Souper (Not Fat) Tuesday: Mushroom and Wild Rice Slow Cooker Stew

January 1 came and went this year without any resolutions. I don’t know if that’s the cause or just another symptom of the winter haze I’ve been in the last six weeks. Here’s what I remember:

  • I made a quick, kid-free trip to see my sister in Madison. We ate, we drank (okay, I drank, she’s pregnant with nephew #2) we slept, we watched The Heat and a documentary on conjoined twins (okay, I watched that, she fell asleep), we ate some more.

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    Sissy dinner out. We’re still talking about the tofu pork buns.

  • I opened five books and finished two, including Lena Dunahm’s “Not That Kind of Girl” (I liked and identified with some parts of it, rolled eyes/got bored with others) and Sarah Vowell’s “Unfamiliar Fishes” (a fascinating and funny history of Hawaii).
  • We finished The Wire, one of the most gripping and enlightening TV dramas I’ve ever watched. We also finished the second season of “The Fall” (starring one of my creepy crushes, ol’ Christian Grey himself) and started the new season of “Broad City” (tell me you are watching this hilarious show).
  • I considered an opportunity to go back to work full-time and, for a variety of reasons, decided to stay home.
  • I tweeted. A lot. (This could also be contributing to the haze.)

But when I try to remember anything else, all that comes to mind is shivering and gray skies and wearing a scarf even when I’m inside.

Oh, and eating. Lots of eating.

Now, I’m at a point in my life where I’m comfortable with my body and don’t obsess much about weight. I’ve accepted that I’m never going to be skinny-skinny, naturally or otherwise, and am more concerned about what my body can DO (grow two babies, run a half-marathon, carry Rory and a cup of coffee up the stairs) than how it looks.

That said, I still weigh myself regularly. There is a ten pound range that I bounce around in: my “thin,” which isn’t actually thin but takes some effort to get to, so I usually don’t bother; my “normal,” which is where I tend to land when I’m eating decently and working out fairly regularly, and my “high,” which often is just the result of a Mexican food binge.

But at some point between that freelance job in the fall (which I loved doing, with the bonus of working on this great spot) and the holidays, my “high” weight became my regular weight. I wasn’t too worried; I figured that come the new year, with kids back in school and routines back to normal, my weight would go back to normal, too.

But, no. Inexplicably, despite the fact that I was working out several times a week, it did not go down. Not only that, it crept up.  Up into a range from whence I feared I’d never see it come back again.

So I decided to do something about it. Not to get “skinny,” but to get back to normal. To reset. Recalibrate.  Lent seemed like the perfect time. (Though if I’m honest, this is less about spiritual sacrifice than regaining feeling in my lower limbs when my jeans are buttoned.)

I decided to sign up for Weight Watchers online. (The advertising person in me wonders if this is because or in spite of their new advertising campaign, which I think is fantastic creative but always makes me hungry.)

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I’d done Weight Watchers before, pre-wedding and post-baby, and I know that if you do the program, it works. Actually, in my experience, even if you cheat the program it works, which says a lot about how excessive my normal eating is.

I started Wednesday. It was possibly the dumbest thing I’ve ever done: start a diet smack-dab in the middle of a week when both kids were home from school due to the Great Blizzard of 2015 (i.e., one inch of icy snow).

For starters, my house was stocked with yummy things we had baked to entertain ourselves. And with the kids home, I wasn’t able to work out.

Then there was the issue of my mental state: nothing makes me want to stuff my face/drink myself silly more than being stuck in the house with two boys suffering from a serious case of cabin fever.

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Yeah, it looks nice, but you know it took 20 minutes to get everyone ready to go outside for 15.

But I did it. I chose the “Simply Filling” plan. It allows you to eat most “whole” foods until you’re satisfied, plus gives you a bank of “points” to use on anything else you want.

The first couple days were ugly. There was a lot of stomping and whining when I realized how much junk in my pantry I shouldn’t be eating. I also quickly realized how much I WAS eating: grabbing a pastry every time I got coffee, having a beer every night with The Wire that lead to pretzels and ended with ice cream.

That “inexplicable” weight gain suddenly was much more, er, explicable.

Putting a stop to mindless, constant eating has not been easy.  I haven’t been following the plan 100%, but paying attention to what I put in my mouth and to this crazy notion of “stop when you’re full” has been eye-opening. Yes, right now I’m a little crabbier than normal, but it’s tempered by the good feelings that come with using a little self-discipline.

Fortunately, between previous stints on Weight Watchers and last year’s Clean Eating Challenge, I have a decent supply of recipes that fit into the Simply Filling plan. The real challenge is finding ones that the kids and Pat will eat. The boys’ pickiness seems to get worse with every passing day.

This recipe, which I first made ten years ago, fits the bill. All the ingredients are plan-friendly and are things the kids will eat. (Okay, they probably wouldn’t eat leeks if they knew they were in there, but they disappear into the recipe.)

Best of all – it could not be easier. A little chopping and browning, but then dump it in the crockpot and you’re done. Enjoy!

Mushroom and Wild Rice Slow Cooker Stew

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(recipe and photo from weightwatchers.com)

1 1/2 tsp olive oil

2 cups leeks, white parts only, finely chopped (about 2 large leeks)

2 cups shiitake mushrooms, sliced

1 cup carrots, diced

3 cups vegetable broth

1 tsp table salt

1 cup uncooked wild rice

1. Heat oil in large nonstick skillet. Add leeks and mushrooms and saute until tender, about 5 minutes. (Note: if you’re in a hurry, skip this step and simply add all ingredients to the slow cooker. But it was pretty easy.)

2. Spoon leeks and mushrooms into a 4- to 5- quart slow cooker. Add carrots, broth, salt and rice; cover and cook on low 6 to 7 hours. Yields about four 1 1/2 cup servings.