You have to wash and rinse the lentils several times before you put them on to cook. The washing is the most important thing to the flavor I think, because I washed mine a lot more than I did last time and they cooked better this time. Just keep washing until the water is much more clear than the first time you rinse them. (you will see what I mean)
Then, pour them into your crockpot and cover with water. About 3-4 inches above the lentils. Stir in the seasoning packet that is included with the package.
While you are cooking the onion and garlic, thaw 1 package of frozen chopped spinach in the microwave until it is able to be broken apart. Add it to the pot of lentils by loosely breaking it into pieces in the pot.
Depending on what kind of carrots you have, you will want to add them at different points throughout the cooking process. The first time I used a bag of frozen carrots, so I added them about the last 2 hours. Last night I had a can of carrots, so I added them about the last hour. The stew will need to cook all day in the crockpot on high. I started mine about 10:30 yesterday morning and it was perfect at around 5pm, and great for dinner at 6pm.
Here is a photo of our finished stew last night. It is a very hearty and delicious stew! We top ours with Italian cheese and eat it with homemade buttermilk biscuits! I will have to share my recipe for buttermilk biscuits next because I have finally perfected them and have a consistently PERFECT turnout!
Oh, and one more thing. We had two parts of a country ham steak leftover from our breakfast the previous day in the mountains, so I threw it in as well for extra flavor. It was great last time without it too, so I don't think it is super necessary. It absolutely added more "bad" for us, but there is SO MUCH good about it to start with...I think it evened out! ha ha!
This dish is one of the very healthiest things I have ever made! The two main ingredients are SUPER healthy foods as you can see below. The best part is that a little bowl of this will make you feel VERY full...
Here is just a sampling of facts about the ingredients and how GREAT they are for you (click the title for more detail):
Lentils, a small but nutritionally mighty member of the legume family, are a very good source of cholesterol-lowering fiber. Not only do lentils help lower cholesterol, they are of special benefit in managing blood-sugar disorders since their high fiber content prevents blood sugar levels from rising rapidly after a meal. But this is far from all lentils have to offer. Lentils also provide good to excellent amounts of six important minerals, two B-vitamins, and protein-all with virtually no fat. The calorie cost of all this nutrition? Just 230 calories for a whole cup of cooked lentils. This tiny nutritional giant fills you up--not out.
Phytonutrient Flavonoids for Optimal Health
Researchers have identified at least 13 different flavonoid compounds in spinach that function as antioxidants and as anti-cancer agents. (Many of these substances fall into a technical category of flavonoids known as methylenedioxyflavonol glucuronides.) The anticancer properties of these spinach flavonoids have been sufficiently impressive to prompt researchers to create specialized spinach extracts that could be used in controlled studies. These spinach extracts have been shown to slow down cell division in stomach cancer cells (gastric adenocarcinomas), and in studies on laboratory animals, to reduce skin cancers (skin papillomas). A study on adult women living in New England in the late 1980s also showed intake of spinach to be inversely related to incidence of breast cancer.
Carrots are an excellent source of antioxidant compounds, and the richest vegetable source of the pro-vitamin A carotenes. Carrots' antioxidant compounds help protect against cardiovascular disease and cancer and also promote good vision, especially night vision.
Onions are a very good source of chromium, the mineral component in glucose tolerance factor, a molecule that helps cells respond appropriately to insulin. Clinical studies of diabetics have shown that chromium can decrease fasting blood glucose levels, improve glucose tolerance, lower insulin levels, and decrease total cholesterol and triglyceride levels, while increasing good HDL-cholesterol levels. Marginal chromium deficiency is common in the United States, not surprising since chromium levels are depleted by the consumption refined sugars and white flour products as well as the lack of exercise. One cup of raw onion contains over 20% of the Daily Value for this important trace mineral.
Garlic: too much to copy one portion....click and read!