When the weather starts getting colder, many of us start to crave hearty meals.  One of my favourites growing up was stew… it was always filling and it is warms you up quickly when its cold outside.  With our recent temperature drop to -30C it left me craving childhood favourites.

The catch?
I have been a vegetarian for two years.  I thought to myself, “how can I still make a stew that resembles my childhood favourite?”  Then the answer came to me: mushrooms!
Mushrooms have an earthy flavour and meaty texture, so they seemed like a perfect substitute for beef for a vegetarian hearty stew.
Mushrooms are also a source of vitamins and minerals.  Did you know that just 4-5 medium sized mushrooms contain 20-25% of the daily value for each of the B-Vitamins: folate, pantothenate and riboflavin? As well as 15% of the daily value for both selenium and copper.  Not just a source of vitamins and minerals, a serving of 4-5 mushrooms also has 3 grams of protein.  That may not sound like a lot – but when you eat a serving of mushroom stew you’ll get at least three times that, bumping it up to around 9 grams of protein per serving.  In this recipe I also added mashed kidney beans, not only does this up the protein and fiber content, it helps to make a thicker-heartier stew!
Mushrooms are also very low in sodium and carbohydrates, and have no fat or cholesterol.  Besides these health benefits, mushrooms have also been the topic of some research that looks further into the health benefits eating of mushrooms.  In two studies, it was concluded that mushroom extracts may stimulate the immune system.
Now that I’ve talked a little about the health benefits of mushrooms, here is the recipe!
PS – Did I mention this is a slow-cooker meal?  Slow-cooker meals are my favourite for hectic days, you can put it on in the morning before work and come home and dinner is ready!
(Also perfect for the holiday season when you’re busy preparing for Christmas!) You can check out more tips for surviving the holiday season by choosing low calorie cocktails, how to make social gatherings healthy, avoiding (and accepting) indulgences and more tips to still eat healthy with the chaos of the busy holiday season. Click on each of the links to read more!

Mushroom Stew

Ingredients:
4 cups diced cremini mushrooms
4 cups diced white mushrooms
3 cups diced Portobello mushrooms
2 cups of mixed diced vegetables (I used a frozen carrot, pea, corn blend)
3 TBSP tomato paste
4 cup diced potatoes
3 tsp crushed garlic
2 cup diced onion
1 tsp oregano
½ tsp savory
2 bay leaves
1 tsp salt
2 tsp pepper
1 cup of packed kidney beans (mashed or blended in a food processor)
4 tsp balsamic vinegar
2 tsp woychestershire
3 cups broth (I used vegetable broth, but you could also use beef broth to get a more traditional beef-stew flavour)
1/8 cup red wine vinegar
1 tsp soy sauce
6 TBSP corn starch
Directions:
1. place all ingredients except for the corn starch in a slow cooker
2. turn the slow cooker on the low setting for 6-8 hours
3. when ready to serve, make the stew thicker by mixing the corn starch with a small amount of water to get a thin paste and then stir this into the stew, wait a few minutes and stir again.  Its ready to serve!
References:
Lull C, Wichers HJ and Savelkoul HFJ.  Antiinflammatory and Immunomodulating Properties of Fungal Metabolites.  Mediators of Inflammation. 2005;2:63-80.
Ahn WS, Kim DJ, Chae GT et al.  Natural killer cell activity and quality of life were improved by consumption of a mushroom extract, Agaricus blazei Murill Kyowa, in gynecological cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy.  Int J Gynecol Cancer.  2004;144:589-94.
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