Have I mentioned that I LOVE soup? What could be better on these increasingly chilly days than a big bowl of warm and delicious? While I’ve shared quite a few soups with you (you’ll see they have their own category on the sidebar), I’ve admittedly been in a bit of a soup rut. My Go To soups are really delicious, but after a while, the kids “THAT one again?” resonates a little too deeply. I’ve gotten a little tired of my faves, and so went a wandering, with too little time for prep and a well stocked pantry. Problem solved.
Apparently it is possible to make black bean soup that is not Southwestern. It had never occurred to me, despite my bean friendliness, to use those guys for a different flavor profile – talk about being in a rut! Once again my friend Deborah Madison (perhaps I should just call these posts Little Sis and Deborah), showed me the way out of my self-inflicted black bean tunnel vision.
Ms. Madison suggests a simple American styled black bean soup, and with a few adjustments it worked stupendously for Mr. Little Sis and I. After the whole crew tasted it, with lackluster response, Mr. Little Sis and I decided that since the kids had passed on it anyway, we would in fact add the bit of Madeira called for in the original version, and boy howdy was it great, even with my radically shortened cooking time. This one would go gangbusters in a slow cooker. I finished the last bowl tonight and am happy to report that, as with so many soups, it’s even better after a few days.
American Black Bean Soup - adapted for speed and dairy considerations from Deborah Madison’s Black Bean Soup in Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone
- olive oil for the pot
- 2 c onion, chopped
- 1 c celery, chopped
- 1 c carrot, chopped small
- 2 c green pepper chopped small
- 4 bay leaves
- 4 t chopped rosemary
- 2 t dried thyme
- 2 T tomato paste
- 4 c black beans, soaked, cooked and drained or drained and rinsed from cans
- 4 quarts water
- leftover grains if desired (I used 1.5 c cooked brown rice)
- salt to taste
- 1 c Madeira
- 1 c coconut milk (or cream)
- chopped parsley
Warm oil in the pot. Add onions and saute for a few minutes. Add the rest of the veggies and herbs and cook until the color deepens a bit. Stir in the tomato paste and cook for an additional minute. Add the beans and the water. Bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer, partially covered for at least 20 minutes. Add salt to taste and grains if using. Cook and additional 5 minutes. Remove bay leaves and puree as much of the soup as your textural preferences dictate. A smoother puree can be achieved in a blender, but I don’t like to do all that pouring of hot soup, so I use an immersion blender. Add Madeira and coconut milk (or cream if you do moo). Serve with chopped parsley. Wow. So simple, so delish. Perfect wholesome antidote for Halloween’s madness.
Last Baby Step we talked about taking a look at what we really spend on food – including all those last minute purchases and take out bits. Today I want to focus on saving money on some of the healthiest food around, produce. Saving on produce tends to fall into two basic categories: 1) spending less and 2) using more (or wasting less if you’re into complete grammatical parallels). Both approaches are obviously valid, but the greatest savings (and satisfaction if you’re a cheap freak like me) comes from employing methods from both categories to maximize the nutrish for the dinero, moolah, green, whatev.
Some of these are obvious, but if you’re anything like me you tend to get real good about focusing on one and then forget some of the others. Let’s run through the possibilities. Healthy food, which for most folks means adding more produce, is affordable because it satisfies you and prevents spending money on chronic illness. Healthy food is more affordable if you get good at finding it cheap and using it all. Continue reading
I’m at the grocery store. I’ve brought the twins (something I try very hard to avoid). One of them is chasing me with a package of purple glitter nail polish and the other is asking in his most polite voice if he can just SHOW me something he saw a few aisles ago. I am maxed out. I have a list but I can’t freaking find it. My cell phone is vibrating into my side and I can see from the screen that it’s an old friend I’ve been exchanging voice mail with for months. Calgon take me away indeed. This IS shopping, though. Purchasing the stuff of life happens on regular days with all of their regular promise and regular pitfalls. Despite the purple glitter nail polish pleading (or whatever drives you nuts at the store), we all make it home with some food. Well, at least mostly.
Here’s the thing. Like so many of our normal self-maintenance routines, food shopping is very much an act of habit. If you have not been in the habit of seeking out and buying healthier food, it becomes awfully easy to miss in the market. And if your market is set up like most markets, they’re not making it any easier for you to get to those real food goodies. There are some critical things to remember about grocery stores if you want to make some healthier selections. 1) Most real food spoils. 2) Much of the food sold in the average grocery store does not spoil. 3) The grocery store is a for profit business, not a purveyor of health.
Let’s talk a little bit about these ideas. so you can come away from this step with a better strategy for hitting the market. Continue reading
Where are you spending money on food other than the grocery store?
Since we tackled the problem of time spent preparing healthier foods in Baby Step # 7, we Sis sisters thought we should address the cost of eating healthier food.
Food is available in many places, almost every place these days, and prices do vary. I’m sure you’ve noticed. It always hurts me to pay twice or three times as much for a granola bar in a convenience store than it would have had I bought a box (or made something and packed it in a little Tupperware cup).
And it also hurts to pay for food at work that costs much more than it would have cost me to pack leftovers because I ran out of time, or left my lunch at home. We all do it, but we can’t honestly assess what we are spending on food each week or each month if we don’t include our expenditures outside of the grocery store. I confess that my grocery bills are higher since we have begun eating more real food (un-prepared, un-processed fresh and some frozen foods). However, I also spend less in restaurants, convenience stores, at work or on outings than previous to the change in diet.
While Little Sis and I have created some cheap healthy recipes (try the Cheap Eats category on the sidebar for a starting place), and can make many things ourselves more cheaply than we can buy them (almond milk, almond butter, high quality baked goods, macaroni & cheese, salad dressing, etc.), there is no denying that fresh fruits and vegetables, especially organic ones, cost more than a cart full of hamburger helper and canned green beans. However, and again, the comparison is not fair unless you consider the entire picture of food costs. Continue reading
My Southern grandmother’s way of asking if we wanted more was not, “Would you like some more?” It was “What’ll you have?”
In other words, “Which of these delicious things will you have more of now?” And it was hard, both physically and socially, to not promptly pick your personal favorite of her offerings. For me it was her hot milk cake, her watermelon rind pickles, her homemade biscuits with homemade plum jelly or her sugar cookies. Notice the sweet theme…. oh yes, I was a sugar hound!! It was not only delicious but complimentary to have more.
Our culture has become very much about more. If you have’t seen Super Size Me, I highly recommend it for an eye opener on serving sizes (and other outrageously egregious practices) in fast food restaurants. The film has some rough language and frank talk about sex, so may not be appropriate for younger kids.
In the less is more and more is really more dichotomy of our culture that loves:
both skinny bodies and large breasts;
both many choices and extra large servings;
both designer names and cheap food;
both the most expensive health care system in the world and the 37th most effective health care system…
we are in a watermelon rind pickle indeed. Continue reading
Now that the glow of yet another holiday is beginning to mellow, I find that it is time again to confront the kind and quantity of the food I’m putting in my mouth. Truth to tell the stomach virus that plauged us over the break kept most of my holiday indiscretions in check, but man that sugar craving is an opportunist. A couple of chocolate eggs (the little ones, not the big honkers) and it’s over. I’m all in, wanting it all the time. When I’ve been relatively well-behaved, I’m a salt kind of gal, but straight up candy or cake can get that sweet tooth rolling… I find myself returning to my own baby steps, reviewing the things I’ve learned over time that work for me: indulging the sweet tooth with fruit for a few days while watching the other carbs, upping the veggie intake to promote well-being and satiation. It occurs to me that many of you may find yourselves in the position of returning to food sanity after each of these holidays as well, and that what’s more a few more folks might be interested in climbing aboard after a weekend of peeps and coconut cake. Continue reading
In our last Baby Steps post, we were considering the ways that we think and talk about food interact with our eating habits. I had a mini-revelation about my own eating evolution while completing a home improvement project this week, and if you’ll indulge me I’d like to share that with you.
some of the gap crap
Our back door has never really closed properly. The lock stuck, the handle was dodgy, and worst of all, there was a visible gap when the door was closed. I could see light coming in. And if there’s light, there is a draft I must stamp out. I HATE drafts. The well-installed door jamb insulation just didn’t seem to cut the mustard. Because we had no idea what we were doing and because we had some on hand, we stuffed some rubber insulating crap into the gap. The kind that sticks on one side and sits in the gap when the door is closed. It blocked the draft, for a while. In case you’re wondering, we will get to food… Continue reading
The release of Michael Moss’ book Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us has prompted a flood of news stories. Moss is a New York Times reporter and a Pulitzer Prize winner. The guy has street cred as an investigator. I’ve not yet read the book; however, I’ve read the excerpt provided by Moss to the NYT Magazine. I also heard Moss interviewed on NPR’s Fresh Air yesterday. Moss’ revelation confirms the worst of my concerns about the producers of processed and convenience foods. The long and short of it is that when you feel like you can’t stop eating Oreo’s, that’s because you very nearly can’t. It’s not you, it’s them.
Moss reveals that in 1999 the Vice President of Kraft addressed CEOs of the other leading food producers and laid out his concerns about the growing obesity crisis and the increasingly clear links between highly processed foods and some of America’s biggest health threats. This individual worried about his industry’s culpability both from a moral and a financial perspective – we could get sued people. The response of his peers? We are responsible to our shareholders. We’ve spent a long time figuring out exactly how much salt, sugar and fat to use to ensure that consumers will buy our products and we cannot risk the loss of marketshare that would surely result from a change in practices. Let me say that part again: we are beholden to our shareholders. Guess who’s not in that sentence? You (unless of course you are a majority shareholder in General Mills or something).
Let me be clear, I am aware that companies who make food are for-profit companies. I realize that this is the arena in which they are making their living. Somehow, however, the brazenness of the shareholder beholden-ness shocked me. The implications of the food industry’s refusal to consider health crises in food formulation are vast. For me, the takeaway from Moss’ revelations is two-fold: 1) processed and packaged has been scientifically researched and developed to maximize taste, addiction, and profit, and 2) the onus of providing your body with nutritious food falls entirely on you. Continue reading
“Yeah you. The one who is being unkind and intolerant to someone.”
“I’m nice to other people, what are you talking about?”
“Well, I certainly try.”
“And what do you say to yourself when you look in the mirror?”
“And what do you say to yourself when you make a mistake or slip up on a plan or intention?”
“Well that doesn’t count!…… Does it?”
What do you think? Does it count?
When my students would pronounce themselves stupid or a jerk after making an academic or behavioral mistake I used to ask them what they would say to their best friend in the same circumstance. They always had lovely encouraging things to say to their best friend. But we don’t treat ourselves like a best friend. And although the deep seated human condition from which our self-directed harshness and nastiness arises is beyond my expertise in terms of explanation (or understanding, as I do it too), I do have some suggestions for overcoming it. I believe that a lot of our problems related to diet and food choices stem from the same kind of negative self-directed language as well as the language that advertisers have drummed into our heads. Continue reading
Hey there! In our baby steps series we have urged folks to adopt a plan for changing their eating habits a little bit at a time. Whether you’re following the Baby Steps or not, there is not way to avoid the fact that planning what you’re going to eat is one way to give yourself a shot at a healthier meal. Our friend Barb Hoyer takes this one step further and suggests that you don’t just plan how you’re going to do it, but imagine how that’s going to work. This is SO smart. Big plans fall short if we fail to be realistic about how to put them in action. Give her a minute of your time and increase your chances of planning healthier and realistic food choice. Thanks Barb for helping me see a detail that I often overlook!