Cold Weather Grub: Bean Soup

Bean soup with cornbread

It’s November, and the weather is cooling down. Now is the time for crockpotting on the weekend, and packing the results for weekday brown bag meals.

Here is a delicious bean soup that my husband made just this weekend, using his 6 quart crockpot. Easy to make and easy to freeze.

CROCK POT HAM & BEAN SOUP (6-8 servings)

You will need a 5-6 quart crockpot.

Ingredients:

  • 16 oz. Sprouts 15 bean mix (get from open bins in the dried food section at Sprouts), soaked overnight in 4 quarts water and then drained
  • 32 oz. canned vegetable broth
  • One cup water
  • 2 hamhocks
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1/2 tsp. Crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes

1.Soak beans overnight in 4 quarts water. Pour the mixture into a sieve or colander, letting the water drain.

2.Place the drained beans and next six ingredients in the crockpot.

3.Cook five hours on High.

4.Remove ham hocks, debone, and add meat to pot. Throw out the bones.

5.Add canned tomatoes and cook for additional 30 minutes on High.

This dish freezes well and can be re-heated in the microwave. It stays hot in a steel thermos and can be heated in a Crockpot Lunch Warmer or Hotlogic thermal bag (see “Gadgets/Equipment” section on “Menu”).

Don’t Forget to Read the Label!

Fruit juices at my local Albertson’s

I was reminded of this phrase as I walked through the produce department of my local supermarket. Across from the stalls of fruit and vege’s was an assortment of fruit juices. As you can see, the display was colorful and appealing.

I took a look at one brand of juice, which was advertised as containing several different types of fruits, with no added sugar:

But then I turned the container over and looked at the nutritional content. What I saw there gave me pause.

One bottle (appx. one pint) of this juice contains 49 grams of sugar. That’s a lot of sugar! It also contains 55 grams of carbohydrate, with a total of 250 calories. Meanwhile, there’s a negligible amount of fiber and protein, and no vitamins.

I don’t know about you, but I’m not willing to consume that many calories without getting a lot more nutritional value. This is why I’ve written more than once that it’s important to study the nutritional information for processed food at the grocery store.

By the way, I ended up purchasing some fresh greens and a couple of apples. Much less sugar, much more fiber. A good deal all around!

Art in a Lunchbox: The Beauty of Bento

From left to right: First box contains rice balls wrapped in nori and fresh shizu leaves. Second box contains stir-fried burdock, Japanese fried chicken, hard boiled egg, tomato and fried bitter melon. Website: shizuokagourmet.com.

Whenever I want inspiration re: arranging my brown bag lunches, I look at bento displays on a website called shizuokagourmet.com. Not that my lunch-making will ever reach these visual heights. Still, it’s fun to see.

According to Wikipedia, the bento is “a single-portion take-out or home-packed meal common in Japanese cuisine.” Bento portions usually consist of a rice dish, some sort of vegetable, and a protein. Japanese homemakers spend a great deal of time and effort in preparing and packing lunches for their families in decorative, even artistic arrangements.

A Japanese family showing off some of Mom’s bento creations.

Bento culture has existed in Japanese culture for eons, but has become popular world-wide in the last couple of decades. For example, you may remember Molly Ringwald’s elegantly packed sushi lunch in 1985’s “The Breakfast Club.”

Nowadays, one can find bento equipment at all sorts of virtual and brick-and-mortar stores. Below is a photo of a meal that I assembled using containers from a website called bentology.com.

Clock-wise from upper left: Spring mix salad greens, leftover fried chicken, sushi rolls.

This arrangement certainly doesn’t compare with the photo at the top of this blog. But it doesn’t have to in order to look appetizing. And when you arrange any type of lunch in an appealing fashion, bento or no bento, your meal will be more satisfying.

I should mention that bentos do not have to have an Asian theme. Take a look at this Mediterranean-themed arrangement I assembled not long ago. It hardly took any time to put together.

Clockwise from upper left: Store-bought stuffed grape leaves, grape tomatoes, pita chips, low-fat cheddar cheese, hummus.

Although there was not a large volume of food in this lunch, the arrangement satisfied the eye as well as the stomach, and I felt more satiated as a result.

In conclusion, you can find out more about bento culture and recipes by looking for books and websites on the subject. You might start with justbento.com, a delightful website with lots of recipes and ideas for lunch. Its creator, Makiko Doi, has also written a book called “The Just Bento Cookbook: Everyday Lunches to go.” Also, bentology.com is a good place to check out bento-style equipment.

Take a look at the Bento/Lunch Boxes section of shizuokagourmet.com. It’s like looking at artwork at a museum, the meals are that beautiful.

Finally, I would invite you to check out the excellent article on Wikipedia referenced below. It will provide details on the history of bento, as well as great photos of bento meals.

Reference:

“Bento”  Wikipedia:  The Free Encyclopedia.  Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.  25 October 2019,.  Web.  28 October 2019.

shizuokagourmet.com, Bento/Lunch Boxes

Cottage Cheese Salad

Cottage cheese salad

During the last several decades, cottage cheese increasingly took a backseat to the much more exotic and sexy yogurt products that sprang up in supermarket dairy sections. A pity. Cottage cheese is tasty, full of protein and calcium, and it takes absolutely no time to prepare.

Instead of just plopping a scoop of cottage cheese in a bowl, try adding flavor and texture using this recipe, created by my husband, Peter.

COTTAGE CHEESE SALAD (1 serving)

  • One cup cottage cheese
  • One medium vine-ripe tomato, sliced
  • One tablespoon bottled balsamic vinegar
  • One tablespoon chopped green onions
  • One tablespoon packaged bacon bits (found in the bottled dressing section)

1.Slice tomato and place in a plastic lunchpail container. Drizzle with one and a half teaspoons of balsamic vinegar.

2.Place the cottage cheese on top of the tomato. Drizzle the rest of the balsamic vinegar over the cottage cheese.

3.Sprinkle with green onions and bacon bits. (For vegetarians, substitute one tablespoon low-fat feta cheese for the bacon bits.)

4.Cover container and place in frig overnight for a tasty brown bag lunch!

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This salad works as a main or side dish. Delicious with crackers. Great on a hot day when you don’t feel like cooking. In addition to tomatoes, try adding canned asparagus and/or drained canned kidney beans for more color and flavor.

Recipe: Chicken Adobo

Chicken adobo with white rice that I cooked last night

Chicken adobo, a classic Filipino dish, consists of chicken simmered in a mixture of vinegar and soy sauce. It is easy to make and reheats well. Perfect for a brown bag lunch, along with a salad. If you do not have a microwave at your workplace, please check the menu on this blog and look up the “Equipment and Gadgets” category. There you will find descriptions of portable heating devices. I would recommend both the Crockpot Lunch Warmer and Hotlogic thermal bag for reheating this dish.

Here’s a recipe that I tried just yesterday. It turned out great!

CHICKEN ADOBO (6 servings)

  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
  • 6 cloves garlic, smashed with the side of a knife and peeled
  • 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 6 skin-on bone-in chicken thighs

1.Place the soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, black peppercorns, and bay leaves in a large saute pan. Place the chicken thighs, skin side down, into the pan. Bring the liquid to a boil over high heat, and then cover and simmer over low heat for 20 minutes. Turn the chicken over, and then cover and simmer for another 10 minutes.

2.Uncover the pan, and then increase the heat to high and return the sauce to a boil. While occasionally turning and basting the chicken, continue boiling the sauce, uncovered, until it is reduced by half and thickens slightly, 5-7 minutes. Serve with steamed white rice.

The site from which I obtained this recipe indicates 332 calories per serving. (Not counting the rice.)

Reference: https://rasamalaysia.com/classic-chicken-adobo-recipe/

Nuts: A Nutritional Powerhouse

The next time that you go to that vending machine for your afternoon cookies, crackers, et al, please consider selecting a bag of nuts. Nuts are nature’s way of providing maximum nutrition in a small package. Filled with protein, minerals, fiber, and healthy oils and fats, nuts provide a nourishing pick-me-up when you feel the need for a snack in between meals.

Below is a list of nuts and the nutrition they provide. Keep in mind that to receive optimal benefits from the fats in this food, it may be better to eat most types of nuts raw. You can obtain raw nuts at your local whole foods store; for example, Sprouts.

In this post, I am giving calorie estimates for raw nuts. Roasted nuts may have additional calories because of oil added in the roasting process.

Almonds. Can be eaten raw or roasted. Almonds are a source of biotin, vitamin E, copper, managanese, vitamin B2 phosphorus, magnesium and molybdenum. One oz. of raw almonds (23 almonds) is approximately 132 calories

Brazil nuts. Can be eaten raw or roasted. Brazil nuts are a source of selenium, which is necessary in regulating the thyroid gland. They are a source of copper, magnesium, phosphorus, manganese, zinc, thiamine, and vitamin E. One oz. of raw Brazil nuts (6 large nuts) is approximately 187 calories

Cashews. Can be eaten raw or roasted. They are an source of copper, phosphorus, manganese, magnesium, and zinc. One oz. of raw cashews (18 whole cashews) is approximately 221 calories.

Hazelnuts (also known as filberts). Can be eaten raw or roasted. They are a source of vitamin E, thiamin, magnesium, copper, and manganese. One oz. of raw hazelnuts (20 kernels) is approximately 176 calories.

Peanuts. Can be eaten roasted or boiled. Strictly speaking, peanuts are a legume and not a nut. They are a source of copper, manganese, vitamin B3, molybdenum, folate, biotin, phosphorus, vitamin E, protein, and vitamin B1. One oz. of raw peanuts (28 whole peanuts) is approximately 207 calories. Consider getting dry roasted peanuts to save on additional fat and calories.

Pumpkin seeds (also known as pepitas). Can be eaten raw or roasted. Pumpkin seeds are a source of manganese, phosphorus, copper, magnesium, zinc, protein, and iron. One oz. of shelled, raw pumpkin seeds is approximately 180 calories.

Sunflower seeds. Can be eaten raw or roasted. Sunflower seeds are a source of vitamin E, copper, vitamin B1, selenium, phosphorus, manganese, vitamin B6, magnesium, folate, and vitamin B3. One oz. of sunflower seeds is approximately 204 calories.

Walnuts. Can be eaten raw or roasted. Walnuts are a source of omega-3 fat, copper, manganese, molybdenum, and biotin. One oz. of walnuts (14 walnut halves) is approximately 196 calories.

References:

  • Healthline.com, “7 Proven Health Benefits of Brazil Nuts,” “7 Ways Hazelnuts Benefit Your Health,” “Raw vs Roasted Nuts: Which Is Healthier?”
  • wh.foods.com, “Almonds,” “Cashews,” “Peanuts,” Pumpkin Seeds,” Sunflower Seeds,” and “Walnuts.”

Lentil and Beet Salad

For those of you who have access to a Trader Joe’s, here’s a nutritious and delicious item that you only have to assemble to enjoy. You will find the ingredients in the produce and cheese section of the store. The dish is great as a vegetarian entrée, or as a side dish for a meat entrée. It’s ideal as a brown bag item.

I should mention that I obtained this recipe from Celine Cossou-Bordes’ excellent book, “Cooking with Trader Joe’s.” (I have substituted low-fat feta for her recommended full-fat goat cheese. Also, bottled vinaigrette to save prep time.) You can buy Coussou-Bordes’ book on amazon.com.

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LENTIL & BEET SALAD (4 Servings)

  • One pkg TJ’s refrigerated Steamed Lentils
  • 6 pearl tomatoes, cut in wedges
  • One pkg TJ’S refrigerated Steamed and Peeled Baby Beets
  • 6 oz. low-fat feta cheese, crumbles
  • 3 oz. bottled vinaigrette dressing
  1. Place lentils in a medium bowl and heat in microwave for 3 minutes. Stir in tomatoes and beets.
  2. Pour vinaigrette over lentil mixture, stir to combine, then sprinkle with feta cheese crumbles.
  3. Refrigerate.