Very, Very Veggie Stew

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With Lent upon us, it seems to bring renewed interest among some of my friends for creative ideas for meatless meals.   We have several meat free dishes that we enjoy (I try to cook meat free once a week), but I’m always up for new ones.  ESPECIALLY if they can be made in the crock pot.  None of the vegetarian dishes that are in our usual rotation are crock pot dishes, so this Very, Very Veggie Stew, from Hungry Girl, sounded like it was right up my alley.

I hadn’t heard of Hungry Girl until a few months ago, but that’s probably just because I’m out of the loop, because it seems that she is a pretty popular woman.  She’s not only a New York Times Best Selling author, but she’s also the host of her own television program, which airs on two channels.  In addition to that, she has a food product line that you can find at your local grocery store, including a lower carb whole wheat and flax flat bread, which I used to make my personal pizza using Knock Off Papa John’s sauce a few weeks ago.  Hungry girl lists the calorie count, the number of weight watchers points, and the number of carbohydrates for the recipes that she creates, which is helpful if you’re keeping track.  One of her books highlights 200 recipes with under 200 calories per serving, which I think is a pretty impressive feat, considering that two pieces of regular old bread can contain more than 200 calories.

So, back to this Very, Very Veggie Stew.   If you’re watching counting, it only has 100 calories per 1 cup serving, or 2 points. I’m not a calorie counter, I’m a carb limited, and this has 14 grams of effective carbs per servings, which is reasonable for me, most days.  It is  definitely packed full of veggies, plus it includes garbanzo beans, which are one of my favorite kind of beans, and the combination gives color and texture, which generally make me extra enthusiastic about a meal.  Oh, and I found cubed butternut squash at the grocery store, which I never knew existed, and that left me some extra time and energy to surf the internet mindlessly clean stuff…

Garbanzo beans, onion, eggplant, zucchini, tomato, carrot and butternut squash form the bulk of this healthy dish.

Peel the eggplant, do some chopping and toss everything in your crock pot.

Next, gather your tomato paste, spices and broth.  This recipe uses a good amount of flavors that I wouldn’t have thought to use together.

Olive oil, vegetable broth, tomato paste, garlic, salt, basil, cinnamon, paprika, ginger, and a no calorie sweetener packet (I used trulia, but you could use whatever you like, or even regular old sugar if you don't mind a few extra calories).

Mix them all together in a big bowl.

Then pour them over your vegetables and beans, and stir them together,coating everything evenly.  Yummmmm….

Cover and cook on high for 4 hours, or on low for 7-8 hours.  I cooked it on low, because I generally plan our menu to use the crock pot on days when I am going to be gone all day.

The house smelled amazing when I walked in the door that evening.  I served this with a side of raw, cut veggies and store bought french onion dip.

Now…

I loved this dish.  I thought the flavors were so rich, and interesting, and delicious.  The vegetables weren’t mushy, which I worried about, given the long cook time, and it wasn’t at all dried out.  Perfect amount of sauce.  Plus, it packs in so many servings of vegetables into one single dish, I felt healthier with every bite.  I thought it was so great…

And then, with a huge smile on my face, and my mouth stuffed full with a big old bite of this awesomeness,  I looked over at my family…

My husband said that it “needed something”, which, while nondescript and not entirely negative sounding, is one of the only things he’ll ever offer in terms of negative feedback about a dish that I make– although, he couldn’t suggest what he specifically thinks the dish is lacking.  Christopher said that it was just “ok”.  His Majesty ate cucumbers and peppers and only a few spoonfuls of the stew, but that isn’t saying much, since some days, he doesn’t eat much for dinner, regardless of what is served.  It got eaten, but not as enthusiastically as some other dishes.

The recipe, as I served it (generously) made 3 large servings, one small toddler serving, and left a big serving that I happily enjoyed for lunch the next day.  I love leftovers. But I was so bummed as I finished it off, because I REALLY liked this dish, but I know that I won’t add it to the menu again if my guys don’t like it.  For me, nothing is worse than preparing a meal that no one enjoys.

I’m thinking of adding meat to it, maybe a beef, and keeping the spice/broth/tomato paste combination the same, maybe that will jazz it up enough for them to like it… Do you have any suggestions for how I can salvage this dish so that everyone can enjoy it as much as I did?

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