Curried Sweet Potato Soup

I went to the local Trader Joe’s for some cooking ideas. Like other stores, TJ’s has a line of vegetable soups-in-a-carton. I purchased some of their sweet potato bisque:

The soup is creamy, low in fat, with a high vitamin A content. I decided to add some vitamin C (bell pepper, tomato) and a little zing. Here’s the result:

CURRIED SWEET POTATO SOUP (2-3 servings)

  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • One small sweet Vidalia onion, chopped.
  • One large red bell pepper, cored and chopped
  • One medium on-the-vine tomato, chopped
  • 2 tsp. curry powder
  • One 32 fl. oz. carton Trader Joe’s Sweet Potato Bisque

1.Saute the onion and bell pepper in the oil for four minutes.

2.Add the curry powder to the vegetable mixture and saute for one more minute.

3.Add the tomato and saute for another minute.

4.Mix the sweet potato soup* into the vegetable mixture. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes.

5.Puree the soup using a food processor or immersion blender. Very good with naan bread.

This soup freezes well and can be reheated in a microwave or Hot Logic thermal bag. (See the “Equipment and Gadgets” section of this blog’s menu to learn more about the Hot Logic mini oven.)

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*If you don’t have access to a Trader Joe’s, pre-made butternut or other winter squash soup will work with this recipe. Several grocery stores, including Sprouts, stock cartons of these soups.

Instead of a Resolution…a New Habit

An apple a day…..

Instead of applying a new resolution for 2020, I’m trying something different. I want to create a new habit.

I got the idea from a book called The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, by journalist Charles Duhigg. The author cites scientific research that tells us where habits come from and how they are hard-wired into our brains. One outcome from this research is a formula for breaking bad habits and creating new ones. According to Duhigg, science tells us that you can’t really get rid of a bad habit. However, you can substitute a healthier routine and thus improve the habit.

I will apply the formula to my own situation in creating at least one new good habit:

1. Identify the routine. While I did not gain weight around the holidays, I got into some bad eating habits that played havoc with my digestive system. Holiday sweets, too much diet coke, very little fruits and vegetables made me….well, a little “uptight and out of sight.” One bad habit has been to nibble on some leftover sweets late in the morning, after I have finished exercising at the gym. I’m always hungry at that time.

2. Experiment with rewards. I’m going to start by adding at least one piece of fruit to my diet for now. I am extremely fond of apples, and during this part of the year, the markets offer some tasty varieties. I love the flavor and crunchiness of a good apple, and I love to see them displayed on my kitchen counter. So I pulled out a really pretty pasta bowl, went to the market, and bought some apples:

After swimming 12 laps today, I came home feeling hungry. Instead of grabbing a candy, I grabbed an apple. It was very satisfying as a mid-morning snack! And I got some fiber in my system. Oh, and while eating the apple I watched enjoyable videos on my computer.

So here’s a summary of Duhigg’s habit loop:

  • Cue: Mid-morning hunger.
  • Routine: Go to the fruit bowl and eat the apple.
  • Reward: The taste and crunchiness of the apple is satisfying, especially while watching enjoyable videos.

I’ll let you know how this new habit is doing. Meanwhile, I’ve successfully continued another new habit I started a few weeks ago: Drinking a glass of water when I get up in the morning. Before, I slaked my morning thirst with coffee. But I find that extra glass of water works well into a morning routine:

  • Cue: I’m thirsty in the morning.
  • Routine: Before I have my first cup of coffee, I drink eight oz. of plain water.
  • Reward: I’m no longer thirsty. I feel relaxed and refreshed.

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I’ll let you all know how these new habits are getting along throughout January. Meanwhile, look for new recipes on this blog starting next week!

Reference: The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, by Charles Duhigg

Navigating the Holiday Office Banquet

The holidays are here….and so are the holiday office parties. I’ve included in this post some good information from the American Heart Association regarding how to negotiate seasonal parties while maintaining your waistline:

APPETIZERS AND HORS D’OEUVRES

• Get involved. Whether potluck or not, offer to bring a dish. You can make a healthier item, giving yourself at least one good option to enjoy.

• Come prepared. If the party is during lunch, eat a healthy breakfast followed in mid-morning by a high-fiber snack, such as an apple or a small handful of almonds. If the party is at the end of the day, enjoy a proteinpacked lunch like grilled fish or chicken with a salad and then later in the afternoon have another high-fiber snack. If you’re not too hungry when you go to the party, it will be easier to avoid overeating.

• Go easy. Avoid loading up on foods that are fried, buttered or have a lot of cheese and cream. Even though the portions may be small, these fat-laden bites can really pack a punch. Look for fruit, veggies and dip, whole-grain crackers, and baked or grilled items.

DESSERTS

• Use the buddy system. By splitting a dessert with someone, you can cut the calories and fat in half and avoid being wasteful. It’s a win-win!

BEVERAGES

• Mix it up. If alcohol is being served, alternate each glass with a glass of water. This will help reduce your thirst while filling your stomach and you’ll consume fewer calories.

• Watch seasonal drinks. Many holiday beverages have so much added sugar, they may as well be a dessert. Keep in mind what else you’ve eaten; it may be best to enjoy these drinks on another day.

Reference:

Post-Thanksgiving Turkey Leftovers

Bear Creek Chicken Noodle Soup with turkey leftovers

What to do with that leftover turkey? My husband’s solution is to use Bear Creek soup products. You can find them at Sprouts, as well as many mainline grocery stores.

Peter added 1 1/2 cups of chopped turkey and a couple of sliced yellow squash to a package of Bear Creek Chicken Noodle Soup. It was delicious!

Thanksgiving for Two: Turkey Breast

Roasted turkey breast

If you are only cooking for yourself or another, don’t let that keep you from enjoying some Thanksgiving turkey. Consider roasting a turkey breast.

That’s what my husband and I are doing. Earlier this week, I purchased a lovely kosher Empire turkey breast from Trader Joe’s. (I should mention that many other stores also offer this alternative to the entire bird.) I vacuum bagged the breast and placed it in the freezer. Wednesday, I plan to thaw it out. Thursday, I will place it in a square glass casserole dish, and cook it for about an hour at 350 degrees Fahrenheit. I always stick one of those instant thermometers into the breast to confirm the center of the meat is at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit when done.

If you are single and don’t anticipate getting leftovers from a host’s Thanksgiving meal, I would still recommend cooking a turkey breast for yourself. White meat turkey is quite delicious and a nutritious addition to any brown bag lunch. I enjoy turkey in a sandwich with both mustard and mayo. It’s delicious in pita bread with hummus and makes a good addition to home-made meat and bean burritos. I also like it in salad and soup.

Here’s a nutritional break-down for six ounces of roasted turkey breast, no added ingredients (Source: United states Department of Agriculture)

  • Calories: 320
  • Fat: 12 grams
  • Saturated Fat: 4 grams
  • Cholesterol: 120 mg.
  • Sodium: 110 mg.
  • Protein: 48 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 0 grams

I’m assuming that the above breakdown is for turkey with skin, because MyFitnessPal.com lists far fewer calories and fat for skinless turkey breast. (appx. 200 calories with 2 grams of fat per 6-oz serving.)

One final note: Whenever I prepare cooked meat of any kind, I always vacuum bag it using my Food Saver. I think this device is a great investment, especially for you single people out there. Used properly, the Food Saver keeps cooked meats, rices, pastas, and cheeses from drying out prematurely, and it eliminates food waste. I’ve been able to safely eat vacuum-bagged cooked meat up to two weeks after I first cooked it. Also, when you freeze raw meat using the Food Saver, you don’t get freezer burn. Safety warning: Keep raw meat and cooked meat in separate bags to avoid contamination.

My FoodSaver

Reference:

https://www.fsis.usda.gov/shared/PDF/Chicken_Turkey_Nutrition_Facts.pdf

https://www.myfitnesspal.com/food/calories/turkey-breast-skinless-boneless-370357228?v2=false

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!