Friday, March 6, 2015

Food Friday - Light Fare

from Kris B.

Black Bean Soup

Tracey and I have had this running joke about "brown" food.  There is a lot of it in the world and it is difficult to photograph it in an appetizing way, at least for me; so, we decided that we'd try for a "no brown food week" this week.  Fine.  I'll do black beans then.  LOL!.  

Well, I didn't really choose black to be difficult, but rather because I love black beans and as we continue our weight loss and healthier eating journey, black bean soup seemed a reasonable choice.  In the midst of these cold snowy days, certainly not the norm for March in Texas, a nice hearty soup warms the belly and the soul...and keeps the scale happy!

Sometimes I wish that I had bright, shiny brand new pots for these pictures.  Maybe brightly colored ones that would make even brown food look good.  Then I am reminded of all the meals that have been made in this pot...all of the different types of soups, the hundreds of pots of oatmeal, the pasta and sauce.  I think of the birthday dinners, the any day of the year dinners, the popcorn on date night, the jams and jellies made as gifts.  This pot has so many stories to tell.  It is showing signs of being well used, but that gives it its charm.  It has that lived in look that I like.

I moved to Texas to attend graduate school  back in 1983, when I was twenty one.  Though I had lived in many different states as a child, my only acquaintance with Mexican food up until my move here was Taco Bell.  And, the only beans that I was familiar with were green beans and kidney beans, which my mom put in chili and I really never liked them.  (I also had no clue about chicken fried anything and cream gravy before I came to Texas, but that's a whole other story.)  During my first year in the Dallas area, I was educated not only in music, but also in Tex-Mex cuisine - burritos, chalupas, enchiladas, tostadas, flautas, taquitos; I  learned quickly that every meal came with rice and beans.  I mastered the differences between charro beans, pinto beans and black beans.  Most importantly, I learned that I really liked all beans except for those dreaded kidney beans of my childhood.  This proved to be a good thing as ten years later my then three year old first child proclaimed herself a “political vegetarian.”  Don’t laugh!  She knew exactly what she meant and would gladly tell you all about it.  Now, at age 25, she is still a vegetarian, having spent a few years in there as a vegan.  (Culinary school to become a pastry chef cured that.  In her words, “There is just no substitute for real butter!”)  All that to say that we ate a lot of meals at our house whose primary ingredient was beans.  Well, some of us did.  Child number two was as much a carnivore as number one was a vegetarian and she despised beans.  Now, however, her eating preferences have expanded and she too has joined us in liking beans.  So, black bean soup is now a family favorite.

Everything food-wise in Texas is made better by garlic,

jalapeño, and cumin.

These, combined with the beans and tomatoes, create the essential flavor of this simple soup. 

 If you are not a jalapeño fan, you can substitute cayenne pepper.  Jalapeños can be difficult for some people to slice and remove the seeds because the capsaicin can burn the hands.  

(If your hands are feeling a little arthritic, this might actually feel good.). In all seriousness, I recommend wearing gloves if you are going to dice the peppers yourself.  If you do get some of the burning juice on your hands, several things may help to alleviate the sensation.  Ultimately, you are looking for something that will break down the juice.  Water doesn't do it.  Alcohol, vegetable oil, and milk or yogurt should do the trick.  Some say that coating your hands with a thin layer of oil (not enough to make your hands slippery) will keep the juices from penetrating the skin in the first place.  I suggest gloves.  It's just easier and safer. 

A slight digression...maybe I was subconsciously feeling bad about going black this week.  If your exposure and white balance aren't set correctly, those black beans quickly become blue beans.  LOL!  I had this same problem when I first switched from shooting in auto and moved to manual mode and was trying to photograph my black lab.  He too appeared blue.  Since there truly is no real blue food, as blueberries are actually purple, and blue is my favorite color, I think that I could be OK with blue beans. 


1 1/2 Cups finely chopped onion
4 cloves of garlic
1 jalapeno p2 Tbs 
2 Tbs vegetable oil
2 Tbs cumin
1/3 Cup water
28 oz. can of diced tomatoes, un-drained
2 16 oz. cans of black beans, un-drained
1/4 Cup chopped fresh cilantro

Heat the vegetable oil in a soup pot.  Cook the onions, garlic and jalapeño in oil until onions are tender, about five minutes.  Stir frequently to prevent burning.  Add the cumin, water and canned tomatoes with their juice.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat and let the tomato mixture simmer for six minutes.  *Add the black beans also with their liquid.  Continue to simmer for 10-15 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in the cilantro.  **Puree half of the soup in a food processor or blender.  Return the puree to the rest of the soup.

* For a thicker soup, drain and rinse one of the two cans of black beans.
** Again, for a "brothier" soup, puree less or none.  I have also pureed the whole batch.  You may have to experiment to find the texture and consistency that makes you the happiest.

Garnish the soup with a dollop of sour cream or plain yogurt, tortilla chips, and/or a bit of Mexican cheese.

Without adding any of the garnishes, a 1 cup serving of this soup is 6 Weight Watchers points.

This recipe is adapted from one of the Mousewood cookbooks. 

from Tracey G

Bow Tie and Spinach Salad

In this adventure of trying to drop a few pounds, it's time to find some new stuff to make, to mix it up, new ways to eat the healthy stuff because it can get rather boring treating it the same old ways ;-) Obviously none of these ingredients are new, but it's fun to find new ways to combine them and season them, and it keeps it interesting! So, begins my quest. This week I started with my favorite recipe publication, Taste Of Home. And this is the recipe that jumped out at me. Unfortunately I can't partake fully of it as I am doing the Nutrisystem JumpStart kit thing, lol, but after, when I am totally responsible for myself, you can bet I'll be making it again - it's really yummy, and am I glad, or else I'd have to find another recipe to try for this week, lol. 

Now, I do have to say that from the get-go I had to modify it, lol. It just seemed to happen that way, lol. The dressing called for is a reduced fat version, and my grocery store had no such thing, just a full fat version, so that's what I used. I couldn't find any multigrain bow tie pasta, so went with traditional. I didn't like the look of the tomatoes, so I doubled up the red pepper. I had a larger bag of spinach than called for so I used that, lol. I think about 6 oz were called for and I had 9 or 10 ounces, lol, and used cannellini beans instead of garbanzos/chickpeas because that's what I had on hand ;-)  Just goes to prove generally you can work with what you have or what you can get and it will all turn out just fine ;-)

There is really not a whole lot of steps or direction to this recipe, it's pretty much cut the veggies, cook the pasta, measure the dressing and mix. LOL 

Let's start with the veggies that are chopped and prepared in some way. There's a medium red pepper, there's supposed to be 2 plum tomatoes as well, but I used 2 medium red bell peppers...

There's  2 cups of broccoli florets...

Additional ingredients are: 1/2 cup halved Greek olives, 1/4 chopped toasted walnuts, 1/2 cup cubed part-skim mozzarella, and a can of garbanzo beans or chickpeas - but in this version I made, they're cannellini beans. 

 used bagged-washed-ready-to-serve baby spinach, might as well save a step if I can, lol ;-)

Measure out 1/3 cup of the reduced-fat (or in this case, the full fat, lol) sun-dried tomato salad dressing... 

Cook 2 cups of bow tie pasta according to the package directions, drain and transfer to a large bowl...

Add your vegetables to the pasta, toss with the dressing and sprinkle with the salt - mixing it up well. Just before serving, sprinkle with the toasted chopped walnuts. That's it! :-)
I'm not sure how much I derailed my NutriSystem plan with the taste-testing, but it was totally worth it because it was totally yummy :-)

Bow Tie & Spinach Salad
Recipe courtesy of Taste of Home

2 c uncooked multigrain bow tie pasta
1 can (15 oz.) garbanzo beans or chickpeas, rinsed and drained
6 c fresh baby spinach (about 6 oz.)
2 c fresh broccoli florets
2 plum tomatoes, chopped
1 medium sweet red pepper, chopped
1/2 c cubed part-skim mozzarella cheese
1/2 c pitted Greek olives, halved
1/4 c minced fresh basil
1/3 c reduced-fat sun-dried tomato salad dressing
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 c chopped walnuts, toasted

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain, transfer to a large bowl. Add beans, vegetables, cheese, olives and basil to pasta. Drizzle with dressing and sprinkle with salt; toss to coat. Sprinkle with walnuts.

Per Serving: 319 calories; 13g fat (2g saturated fat); 6mg cholesterol; 660mg sodium; 39 carb; 7g fiber; 14g protein 

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