The Slow Kitchen – Lentil and Vegetable Chilli

I’ve been eating a vegetarian diet for about 6 weeks now, and this hearty lentil and vegetable chilli (spice optional) has been on my menu every one of those weeks. It ticks a lot of boxes: it’s healthy, it’s easy to make, it pairs perfectly with lamb or chicken skewers so is great for those nights when I can’t face cooking two meals, it freezes very well and is also great for breakfast.

In short, this recipe is a winner that should satisfy most tastes in your home, and like all other recipes in my Slow Kitchen series, is simple, easy, healthy and full of real ingredients. Enjoy!

Tasty Vegetable and Lentil Chilli

Lentil and Vegetable Chilli

(Serves 6, Ready in 40min+ depending on simmer time)

You’ll Need:

  • 1 onion – chopped
  • 1 clove garlic – crushed
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp chilli powder (optional)
  • 1 large carrot – grated
  • 1 cup mushrooms – sliced
  • 1 large zucchini – grated
  • corn cob – kernels only
  • 1-2 handfuls broccoli – roughly chopped
  • 1-2 handfuls cauliflower – roughly chopped
  • 2 cups leafy greens – roughly chopped
  • tin of black beans, red kidney beans or similar – rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup dried red lentils – rinsed
  • 1/2 cup passata
  • tin crushed tomatoes
  • 1 cup vegetable stock
  • salt and pepper
  • Natural yogurt, chopped coriander/cilantro, to serve

Note: This is another of my “use any vegetables in the fridge” recipe, so feel free to change up the vege mix to suit.

Simply:

  1. Sauté the onion and garlic with some olive oil. Cook until onion has softened.
  2. Add the cumin and chilli powder and stir for a minute.
  3. Add your chopped vegetables and cook for a few minutes, until they begin to soften.
  4. Add your rinsed lentils, combining well.
  5. Add your passata, tomatoes, stock and beans. Bring to the boil.
  6. Cover and simmer on medium heat for at least 30 minutes.
  7. Serve with yoghurt and coriander.

Note: This keeps very well and makes a great mid-week leftover meal or a healthy, substantial breakfast or lunch to take to work. 

Variations/Additions:

Need Meat?: Serve with a piece of steak or lamb cooked with some garlic and coriander. Marinated chicken skewers are also a good accompaniment and popular with kids.

More Vegetables: This recipe will work with virtually any vegetables you have on hand. Pumpkin, squash, kale, potatoes, carrots – they all cook up beautifully. Just note that you may need to add more crushed tomatoes or vegetable stock if you up the vege content by a lot.

Vegan: Leave off the yoghurt and you’re good to go with this dish. Try some sliced avocado on top instead.

Gluten-Free: This is a gluten-free dish, happy days!

Why I decided to stop eating meat

Why I decided to stop eating meat

This month I challenged myself to go vegetarian.

Truth is, I’ve always been curious about going vego and over the past few years I’ve been less and less likely to eat a lot of meat. But convenience and compromise got the better of me and I really, really didn’t want to be cooking two meals per night to accomodate for myself and Sparky and the kids. So I went along eating meat and cooking 2-3 meat-free meals a week simply because I enjoyed them more and it boosted the amount of vegetables we were all eating.

But I came to the realisation that it wouldn’t be too much of a change for me to shift to a vegetarian diet, so come the beginning of October I thought I’d give it a shot: 31 days of meat-free eating.

In the interests of complete transparency, there has been one bacon-related misstep. But aside from that (which I was surprised to discover wasn’t all that enjoyable anyway) it has been a simple and easy transition for me and I’ve decided to keep going with it beyond the end of October.

There are a few reasons why it’s been such a simple switch for me, and I want to be clear about them because they’ve definitely made life easier as I’ve made the change.

  • The kids are a little older now and I can find an extra 15 or 20 minutes to prep my meals every few days.
  • I’ve always enjoyed vegetarian food and was never a huge meat-lover anyway. If given the chance to cook what I wanted, it was almost always vegetarian or meat-lite. When we go out to eat, I always opt for the vegetarian dishes. So I was primed for the change anyway.
  • I’m more than happy to eat repeat meals and leftovers.

Moreover, I realised I wasn’t enjoying the meat I was eating. I have no real problem with the idea of eating meat but I recognised that resources were going in to producing this meat that I wasn’t even enjoying. Which really is the driving force behind my change. Why should something die for my food if I don’t actually want or enjoy it? It seemed wasteful and the opposite of mindful living.

Making the change to vegetarianism is not, strictly speaking, making life simpler. It is undoubtedly making the food I eat much simpler though, and that is agreeing with me.

I feel lighter and healthier. My digestion is better than it has ever been. I have lost a little weight. I’m eating more vegetables than ever before. I’m also making an effort to eat a much more balanced diet and not relying on meat to provide me with protein. I’m mindful of things like my iron intake, and eating a wider range of foods as a result.

I’m reading a lot more about nutrition and thinking about my food in a new way. Some resources that have been helpful are:

Later in the week I plan to ressurect my Slow Kitchen series, this time featuring some of the vegetarian recipes I’ve been eating a lot of lately. This week – lentil and vegetable chilli as given the thumbs up by a dedicated omnivore!

Are you currently eating a vegetarian or vegan diet? Or are you interested in trying it? Let me know if you have any questions about the transition or how to feed a meat-eating family while maintaining a vegetarian diet and I will try to drop some of my limited knowledge on you.

More humanity. Less stuff.

We need more humanity

Last week I was interviewed on the radio, which was weird/fun.

The host and I were chatting about minimalism and simple living when a text came through from a listener.

The host read it on air, and the text simply said, “You want to know what it is to live simply? Go visit Nepal and see how little they live with.”

And I couldn’t agree more. That one, simple message neatly summed up a complex issue I really struggle with: the privileged position from which I can write.

“Oh look, a [relatively] affluent woman talking about all the stuff we don’t need. There she is, surrounded by all the things many people would literally die to give their families. Clean water. An abundance of food. Good health. Access to doctors, hospitals, medicine. Security. Safety. A support network. The ability to vote. The freedom to have a different opinion and not fear for her life.”

Sometimes, I admit, I feel like I have no right to be talking about simplicity.

Sometimes I feel like a ridiculous idealist. It’s not hard when life is so easy.

Sometimes I feel like a jerk, tossing about ideas of living with less, when a majority of the world’s population don’t call that ‘minimalism’, they call that ‘life’.

But then I realise that those of us with the most (and, yes, if you’re reading this on a computer, with electricity, in a building or a place of relative safety, then I am talking to you) are the ones in a position to make the biggest changes.

Most of us would agree we need far less than we currently have.

So what would happen if we all shed that excess and became content with having less?

  • Our focus could shift further away from stuff.
  • The world’s over-stretched resources could spread further.
  • We could help more people.

That’s what I really want to see in the world. Focus less on stuff and more on humanity.

The difficulty – and I understand this as much as the next person – is in getting to that point. It’s all well and good to talk about it, but when the reality is of an over-stuffed garage and a wardrobe full of clothes and nothing to wear, moving from theory to practice is difficult.

This year I have been part of a 12-month program called A Simple Year. Each month members have received a module of work tackling different elements of simplifying life – from work to money, travel to how to maintain simplicity once you achieve it. The modules include comprehensive reading materials, guidebooks, projects and homework, as well as live calls where students are able to ask any questions they may have.

It’s been a massive success this year, with many of the participants telling us that life has changed in dramatic and positive ways. So we’re doing it again in 2015.

The program was created by Courtney Carver of Be More With Less, and I am so happy to co-present alongside her and the following simplicity advocates:

If you’re interested in finding out more about the course, early- bird regstration is open until 14th November. Check out all the details and course specifics at simpleyear.co

How to deal with sentimental clutter

How to deal with sentimental clutter

A few weeks ago I had a documentary crew out to our house. They were filming a short piece on the emergence of minimalism in Australia and asked me to be involved.

I was really excited to be asked, but I won’t lie: I was terrified. Terrified of being on camera. Terrified of sounding like a privileged douchebag. Terrified of being found a fraud when people exclaimed, “That’s not minimalism!”

Part of the shoot was done in the small garden shed we use as secondary storage. In it we keep things like our lawn-mower, my gardening gear, house paints, camping equipment, outdoor toys, a couple of boxes of Christmas decorations and one memory box per person.

I was asked to open each of the memory boxes to show how I manage to keep a balance between sentimentality and clutter. I was happy to do this until I was asked to open a plastic crate down on the bottom shelf.

I had no idea what was in there. I knew it was my stuff, but it could have been anything.

Upon opening it I realised it was old marketing materials, catalogues, business cards, order forms, inspiration boards, design sketches and press clippings from my jewellery label. I had not thought about this stuff in over two years, and it’s been more than four years since I closed down the business. The question wasn’t, “What is it?” but rather, “Why do I still have it?!”

I muttered some kind of excuse as to why I still had this clutter, and swiftly moved on.

But over the following days I really thought about it a lot.

I remember having gone through all this stuff during one of my biggest purges, and going back to look at the contents now I can see I did keep only what was interesting or had some sentimentality attached to it.

It’s really interesting to go back and trace your journey towards simplicity by looking at what you’ve held on to during various purges. By looking at the contents of this box I could see the process of becoming less attached to my business (and the goals, successes and stories tied to it) but hadn’t been ready to let go. I could, however, see a big shift, and the good news was that I had been intentional about it rather than blindly keeping everything related to my business.

And, when it comes to dealing with sentimental items, I think that is the key: Be intentional.

We need to be intentional about what to keep and what to let go of. Instead of looking at the box of trinkets or childhood items and saying, “Argh! I can’t decide so I’ll keep it all,” we need to make a decision.

If that decision is, “I love this thing and want to keep it,” then that’s perfect. If that decision is, “I don’t know yet,” that’s OK. It might be the best answer for now. But you need to ask the question. You need to be intentional about keeping things. Otherwise it will continue to be just clutter.

So last week, I headed out to the shed and opened that last remaining box of deferred decisions.

It was interesting to look through the contents and see what I had thought was important. I didn’t feel bad for having kept it, but upon inspection more than 2 years later, I realised it had changed from stuff I had intentionally chosen to keep, to clutter.

And I realised that the transformation from clutter to sentimental works both ways.

When we are initially faced with the idea of simplifying our home, we balk at the idea. “But this isn’t clutter! All this stuff is sentimental!”

Then we move a little further into our journey and we realise that much of that sentimental stuff is, in fact, just clutter. Deferred decisions, guilt and a lack of time.

We move through that clutter slowly, methodically, keeping what we believe to be important. It becomes sentimental again.

It gets packed away, saved for posterity. Then we rediscover it, hiding in a dusty box in the shed, and we realise that it’s no longer sentimental. It’s changed back to being just clutter. Much of it is stuff that we were simply afraid to be without, but with the passage of time has come the realisation that it’s OK.

And so it was that I found myself looking through the contents of that box in the shed. It was interesting, but I was ready and happy to let it all go. So I did. Every single piece.

I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a (brief) moment of fear as I picked up each of these items and put them in the recycling box. But, quite literally, the second I let the item drop from my hands, I felt a lightness. A relief. A release. And I knew I was making the right decision.

How to declutter – any space, any time.

How to declutter - any space, any time.

Hello! If you’ve made your way over here from The Feed or Daily Life, welcome! Glad to have you here. Any questions or comments, feel free to drop me an email and introduce yourself.

————

Belongings, possessions, accoutrements. Keepsakes, mementos, sentimental items. It doesn’t matter what shape it takes – if any of this stuff is weighing you down, it’s clutter. And if you want to simplify your life, you need to lose it.

This means one thing – decluttering.

Yes, it’s a buzzword. Yes, it’s hard work. Yes, it may force you to face some of your demons. Yes, you’d prefer to be sipping margaritas in the sun. (Who wouldn’t?)

But when you’re done – even if it’s simply decluttering a single surface in your home – you will feel lighter. You will feel proud. You will feel a sense of calm when looking at that space.

So many of us get overwhelmed at the thought of starting that we never really begin, but if there is one thing I could tell anyone about decluttering it’s this:

Start small.

Don’t tackle the store room, the garage or the toy box[es] first. They’re too big. You will get halfway through, become overwhelmed, stop, get disheartened and find yourself more discouraged than before.

So trust me, start small.

When people are trying to pay off multiple debts, they’re often told to put all their efforts into paying the biggest one first. This seems to make sense.

But so often, the better way is to pay off the smallest debt first. It will take less time, and you get a victory. You win right from the start. You beat that debt and won’t ever go back to it. This makes you hungry for more victory. So you focus on the next smallest debt. And so on. It snowballs and you build momentum.

Decluttering is the same.

Back in the day I would try to declutter an entire room at a time. I’d walk in to our cramped spare room and empty the contents of one storage container on the floor, start shifting through the pile, get distracted, start on another pile of crap, realise I hadn’t finished the first one, go back to that, get overwhelmed, discouraged, frustrated, until I’d give up and close the door.

It never worked very well.

So one day I focused on just the kitchen drawer. You know the one – random utensils, chopsticks, a couple of lego bricks and a fine dusting of bread crumbs. (Come on – everyone has one. There’s no shame in it.)

It felt good. I didn’t get overwhelmed. I didn’t give up halfway through. And because the space was contained and the task was achievable in one sitting, I was able to push through the distractions until it was finished. Never before had a clutter-free drawer been so inspiring!

I found myself itching to do more, so next I tackled the medicine cabinet. And over the following days I moved on to the bathroom cabinet.

Then the hall stand.
The fridge.
Tupperware drawer.
Laundry shelf.
Cleaning cupboard.
Dry goods cupboard.

None of these was a big thing on its own. Most took between ten minutes and an hour to do. But the combined impact of having a clean, decluttered kitchen, organised bathroom cabinets and tidy laundry felt amazing. And I hadn’t even started the big stuff yet.

So my biggest piece of decluttering advice is to start small. Give yourself 15 minutes and choose one space to declutter today.

Your Never-Fail Decluttering Technique

When it comes to the physical act of decluttering, many of us get stuck again. Deciding to start small, and actually decluttering that small space are two very different things, so here is my tried and tested technique for how to declutter. You can use it when working on any space and it will never lead you astray:

1. Decide on a single surface to declutter.

Once you begin, do not move on to another until this one is completely clutter-free and (preferably) well organised.

2. Establish an area as your work space.

You need a clear, flat work surface for sorting and organising.

3. Grab four boxes or bags.

  • Donate Box – for anything in good condition that can be donated to charity, given as hand-me-downs to friends or family, or given away using Freecycle, TuShare or other similar services.
  • Throw Away Box – anything not in good, useable condition.
  • Recycle Box – items that can be recycled (typically papers, cardboard, some plastics, tin, etc).
  • Holding Box (optional) – keep any items you’re unsure about. Put these items in storage for six months and then decide (based on whether you missed or needed the items) if you will keep or donate the contents.

4. Remove everything from the space you are decluttering.

Take everything out of the drawer/shelf/cupboard you are working on and place it all on your newly cleared work surface, leaving the space completely empty. Clean it with a damp cloth. I like to use diluted white vinegar in a spray bottle, as it helps remove mustiness.

5. Pick up each item individually and decide if you will keep it. If you’re unsure, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I need this?
  • Do I want this?
  • Do I use this? (Or have I used it in the past year?)
  • Do I love this?
  • Is it beautiful?
  • Is it meaningful?

The amount of time you spend on the decision will depend on what it is and how much is has meant to you in the past. (Decluttering the fridge will take less intense scrutiny than decluttering a box filled with keepsakes from your childhood, for example.)

6. Work through each item, placing it in the appropriate box, or back on the now-decluttered surface. 

7. Box up the items for donation and recycle/throw away the things you can’t give away.

8. Marvel at the beautiful clutter-free surface you’ve just created.

Once you’ve found your decluttering groove, this method will become second-nature and you’ll be able to tweak things so they work better for you. But while you’re in the early stages of simplifying, starting small and following these steps means you’re less likely to get overwhelmed.

Other Helpful Resources for your Decluttering Needs

  • Sign up to join my free Slow Home BootCamp – it’s a 7-day email course designed to help you take the first important steps towards creating a slow home. Sign up here.
  • If you’re looking for support as you begin your simplifying journey, I run a Facebook group you may be interested in joining. There are almost 3,000 of us in the group, and we share the ups and downs of our personal decluttering efforts, as well as ideas and encouragement. Plus it’s genuinely the nicest group of people I’ve ever had the privilege to get to know, and we’d love to meet you. (It’s a closed group, meaning you need to be manually approved, so bear with me if it takes a little while to pop you in. I may be sleeping at the time!)
  • This post has a fabulous list of crowd-sourced decluttering tips that are invaluable.

 

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