Tag Archives: nutrition

Easy Bean Soup with Vegetables

I didn’t grow up eating beans. The most I remember were baked beans that were served when we had hot dogs for dinner, the latter of which was an infrequent treat. Those beans were nasty and kind of creamed but they were non negotiable.

Many years back I started educating myself on nutrition and beans became a staple in my diet. Beans are filling, nutritious, fiber powerhouses. I love chickpeas/garbanzo beans above all others but also like black beans, black-eyed peas, pinto beans, white beans, and lentils. Some people don’t like beans because of the gas but one thing I read early on was that the more you eat beans the less that is a problem and it’s true (not just something they say to talk you into eating more beans).

The other day I saw a bean soup mix on sale for $2 so I bought two packs. Generally I don’t pay more than a dollar a pound for beans as one of their attributes is their low price. However, a mix of bean types is always priced higher. One time I made my own bean soup mix by combining a variety of beans I had on-hand but I assure you I got nowhere near 15.

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The first thing I did/do is toss out the little chemical packet of flavoring that comes with the soup. Dry beans need to soak overnight so I put these in a big jar covered with water in the refrigerator so they’d be ready to cook the following day.

This winter I treated myself to a wonderful purchase, a deep stock pot. I love it! In it I sautéed a smallish chopped up onion in a little canola oil, stirring occasionally. After the onion had cooked, I filled the pot half way with water and added the now-drained beans. I don’t always add vegetables but I had some ready to use, so I added half a pound of fresh green beans cut in half, and a little over half a pound of sliced carrots, all of which I brought to a boil. If you don’t bother adding vegetables it’s still a healthy, filling soup.

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I turned the pot down to a simmer and added fresh ground pepper and some fresh Rosemary from my herbs. (You can add whatever you like.) After about an hour I tasted the largest bean to make sure it was cooked as well as a green bean and carrot slice. Near the end of cooking I added a 28oz can of rinsed, diced tomatoes and a generous splash of balsamic vinegar. Vinegars are a great way to add flavor without salt or more fat (the only fat in this is the canola oil for sautéing; you can even saute with just water for no fat). I add the vinegar toward the end of cooking so the flavor doesn’t all cook off.

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With the canned tomatoes added near the end of cooking since they are already cooked

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Ch-ch-ch-Chia! (seeds that is)

P_20160214_152245.jpgSo, recently I posted a drink recipe, Everything but the Kitchen Sink Drink that included chia seeds. I’d never had them before buying a 15oz bag last month. Chia seeds get such swell press for their nutritional properties that I was curious if I’d be able to see any measurable benefits. I finished the bag in just under a month, so I was knocking back essentially half the portion size listed per day.
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As I’d said in the other post, chia seeds are not exciting. Not offensive, but not “Oh, yum!” either. (I looked through my files and found a Delicious Living article from a few years ago – July 2011 I think – which described them as “flavorless” which I guess is better than the “boring” I said.)

I noticed two results. The first was I dropped a pound or two which I attribute to the high fiber. I don’t need to lose weight but to maintain it, which in winter is more challenging. So my weight is right where I want it. (Many years ago I read & kept an article which said the secret to weight loss is fiber. That simple maxim stuck with me and besides that, if there is anything adults are forever being encouraged to add to their diets, it is fiber. The Delicious Living article notes that with 6 grams of fiber per 2 tbsp, chia seeds have more fiber than any other whole food.)

The second specific thiing I noticed was that my nails grew a tad faster. I already have a decent amount of calcium in my diet and this was just an added boost. That is, I didn’t eliminate any of my other calcium sources while I was eating chia seeds. There may be other, less obvious benefits (the good fats ought to be working in there somewhere), but these were the ones I could measure.

Because I found the chia seeds for such a decent price ($2.99 for a 15oz bag), I went ahead and bought a second bag. I’m pretty sure I won’t try to eat it in a month, but I think it’s a nice addition to my diet, not for its bland taste, but for the nutrients. It’s one I’ll definitely have to remind myself to eat, because I’m pretty sure I’ll forget it exists otherwise.

Fruit Yogurt drink (otherwise called a “smoothie”)

Mmmm

Mmmm

I love my blender drinks and generally use the same/similar ingredients to my fake “icecream”.

I got a single serve “personal blender” for $10 and I use it all the time – the cup unscrews from the base and you drink right out of it – less dishes to wash!

It's about 1 foot tall. I use it so much the brand name wore off. Love this little guy!

It’s about 1 foot tall. I use it so much the brand name wore off. Love this little guy!

For ingredients, I usually use what’s on hand; more frozen fruits in winter and more fresh in summer. The fresh fruit drink pictured above was:

*3/4 cup water
*About 1/2 cup plain, non-fat yogurt (also I try only to buy yogurt which says the cows aren’t treated with hormones – yep, that’s right, actual cows are involved in yogurt production!)
*Strawberries
*A banana
*Blueberries
*Unsweetened coconut
*Brown Sesame Seeds (aka unhulled)
*Blackstrap Molasses (lots of iron, some Calcium)
*About a teaspoon unsweetened peanut butter
*Ground Flax Seed
*Nutritional Yeast
*Cocoa powder
*Cinnamon

Oh man is that good!

Sesame seeds are your friends

My autocorrect turns the word sesame into seamen which sounds vaguely dirty. Who talks about seamen anyway? Why would autocorrect feel that talking about men at sea is more common than discussing small, nutritious seeds? I mean when’s the last time you ever heard anybody use seamen in a sentence?? Maybe in Alaska or fishing villages it gets more play: “The fish are running superbly this year. Let us pray the seamen return with a fine catch.”

So anyway. I want to tell you about brown seamen. Strike that; I want to tell you about brown sesame. If you’re anything like I was, you don’t give sesame seeds much thought. They are the little white things that fall off bread and collect on your plate, right? Turns out there is more to them. Turns out those little white things are hulled sesame seeds, whereas brown sesame seeds are unhulled and similar to brown rice and brown, i.e., whole wheat bread, more nutritious.

Here’s the nutrition breakdown from a bag of Bob’s Red Mill:

Fiber, Calcium, Iron, oh my!

Fiber, Calcium, Iron, oh my!

Not only are they better for you, they also taste like something, which is not generally true of white sesame seeds. Whenever I get a new product to try, I eat some plain, right out of the container. A spoonful of brown sesame seeds is dense and chewy – it takes awhile to chow down – with a somewhat nutty flavor. That said, I doubt many people eat them by the spoonful.

If you’ve ever bought sesame seeds from the spice aisle, you may have noticed they’re usually sold in a dinky container with a high price. However, buying larger portions (which I’ve found online) brings the price per pound down considerably. The way I figure, for spices, seeds, and such that I go through a lot of, it makes sense to purchase large sizes, freeze the bulk of it and pull portions out when needed to fill a small container. (For other examples, I buy big containers of cinnamon and basil because I go through both fast.)

I keep sesame seeds in the refrigerator (they should be refrigerated or frozen)

I keep sesame seeds in the refrigerator (they should be refrigerated or frozen)

So what to do with brown sesame seeds other than eat them by the spoonful? I put them into baked goods like breads and muffins, but their usefulness is not limited to people who bake. They are great additions to smoothies, blender drinks, cereals hot and cold, and homemade “icecream”. I found that once I started using them, it was easy to find foods to add them to (which is different than a nutritious additive like flax seed, say, which has bitter-ish taste and doesn’t go well with everything). There are also black sesame seeds – who knew?! – that have a nutrition profile similar to brown.

Grocery shopping: healthy, healthy, healthy, junky, healthy

Which item doesn't belong?

Which item doesn’t belong?


This is my grocery store receipt from earlier this week: 3 lbs apples, 1 lb lettuce, 1 lb carrots, 1 lb pears, a bag of spinach, almost 2 lbs bananas, almost 2 lbs tomatoes, and… potato chips. Sort of a vegetable, yes?

This list pretty much captures my overarching diet philosophy, that is, mostly healthy with a little bit of junk. Does all the healthy stuff cancel out the occasional junk? I reckon it does, and if not, I am just not willing to never have anything “unhealthy.” How many people get to the end of their life and say, “If only I’d never had any chips. I coulda been somebody?”

I’m not a purist. I get cravings. Mostly I don’t give in, but once in awhile do. To stay honest – and I realize this stickler practice isn’t for most – whenever I have something junky, I jot it on my calendar. That’s how I know this is the second time this year I bought potato chips.

IF chips were healthy, I’d eat them every week. Salty, crunchy, greasy, oh my! A savory trifecta! The chips I got this week were a mixed pack, including two flavored kinds. I can’t say when I last ate a flavored chip (as I’m well aware their ingredient lists are appalling), but when I munched into that first barbecue-flavored chip the other day, my senses flooded with pleasure. Oh man was that good! Potato chips have a secret ingredient that changes an otherwise rational person into a dopamine-filled chip junkie whose only thought is “More, MORE, MORE.”

The bags are labeled in a way that caught my notice.

They're Made from potatoes? Is this anything to be boasting about?

Made from potatoes? Is this anything to be boasting about?

Drink up ladies and lads!

I mostly drink water. Plain old tap water. And if that’s a problem, it is far too late for me. Occasionally I buy juice, orange regularly, apple less often. I bought a bottle of the store brand apple juice yesterday, with the thought I’d use it sparingly to flavor water. After I got it home I noticed tiny printing on the back, in the same font size that expiration dates are stamped, the ones which can be difficult to decipher, what with liquids sloshing in the background. It wasn’t an expiration but something I’d never seen before on any product:
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Now it just strikes me that if the manufacturer considered this bit-o-information good news or at least believed the consumer should think it so, they’d pass it along more like THIS:
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