Lunchtime lentil soup

I enjoy a lot of flexibility in my work place, and I’ve learned to take advantage of it in some healthful ways.

crockA few months ago, I was looking for some things at Bed, Bath, and Beyond and came upon the perfect slow cooker for one serving soups, beans and grains.  I bought it for $9.99, a bargain when compared to Amazon’s price for $19.99!  I use it every day.

Today’s soup was made of green lentils, brown rice, and a handful of brussels sprouts, with spices of garlic, turmeric, and black pepper.  I get to work every morning in plenty of time to prepare my soups,and it only takes about ten minutes.

I keep dry beans and grains in jars in a desk drawer, along with a sharp knife from home that will go through avocado skin easily enough when I bring one.

lentil soupSince I was off from work yesterday, I did not have an opportunity to soak the beans overnight in the slow cooker, so I used about dry lentils because they do not need to be soaked ahead of time.  I used about 1/4 cup of the lentils and the same amount of rice.  I packed fresh brussels sprouts from home this morning in my Snapware container, already spiced and ready to dump into the slow cooker.

It takes a couple of minutes to rinse the beans and rice in a tea strainer I have on hand, and then I put all the items into the cooker, plug it into the socket, and I’m done with it until noon, with plenty of time to spare to get my rooibos tea going.  By the time everyone else is coming in around 8:00, I’m way into my real work already and enjoying my first cup of tea.

At lunch time, I have my salad and homemade dressing I brought from home that morning, a couple of pieces of fruit, and my steaming hot soup.  I even leave myself enough time to take a 20-minute power nap when I’m not needing to work through lunch.


Mung beans

I use several varieties of beans and peas.  Another bean that is perfect for slow cooking without having to soak them overnight is the mung bean.  It’s loaded with protein, as are lentils, and very tasty, with a nutty flavor.  Being from Texas, I have always enjoyed black-eyed peas, and these also do pretty well without having to be soaked overnight.  Larger beans, like pintos and kidney beans, really need to be soaked.  But, that’s also very simple to do if you keep a stash of them at the office.


An extreme tangy tomato treat

For an extreme taste of tangy tomatoes, I found a couple of items that will forever remain in my pantry or refrigerator.

tom pasteThe Sadaf tomato paste, made in Turkey, features a “no salt added” variety that is rich in flavor and has no added ingredients.  It is great for a tomato-based salad dressing, and I use it in everything that calls for tomato flavoring when I don’t have any of my homemade Fresh Tomato Sauce on hand.Durra dates vinegar

With two big tablespoons of tomato paste, I add this very special vinegar from Durra, a Syrian company.  It is made from 100% raw organic dates and is diluted to 5% acidity.  I use as much as I need to get the tanginess I’m looking for, about 1/4 cup with the two tablespoons of paste.

This morning, when I was looking for a quick snack, knowing I wasn’t going to be able to stop and eat until late in the afternoon, I combined these two ingredients with some raw ground sunflower seeds, and ate them on some raw collard greens.

FYI, the tomato paste can be purchased at the link I provided.  The vinegar is a little harder to find.  I found both these products at the Halal Import Foods market in Arlington, Texas.  I would think most Middle Eastern food markets would have them, if you can’t find them online.  The cost compares well to domestic products, if not cheaper than many.

The peanut butter trigger

One food I am totally undisciplined about is peanut butter!  Omigod, I can’t eat just a little bit on a piece of bread or a white cracker and be done with it.  I stand at the counter with the jar open, a knife in my right hand (or, sometimes, a spoon), and with my left hand, I’m digging into the crackers or bread loaf!  pb_hero

Peanut butter is one of my hairline triggers that I really have to avoid in order to remain disciplined.  Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, like little devilish minions, jump into my shopping cart when I’m standing in line to check out.  And, of course, I try to destroy them immediately by swallowing them on my drive home.  It’s an obsession!

My point is this: Just because it’s okay to have something, like peanut butter — in small quantities — on a diet plan, like anything else that is too good to be true, it can ruin the whole purpose of my eating plan.  The urge has to be fought back BEFORE I take the first little “harmless” taste of it!  Restraint is almost impossible after I indulge in the least little amount.

As the meal preparer in our home, I won’t deprive my wife of it.  She IS disciplined about it!  But, I have learned how to brace myself for that peanut buttery smell when I open the jar, usually by eating a piece of fruit or drinking a salad smoothie while I’m making it for her.  It really does divert my attention well.

Peanut butter is just one of my triggers, but I am trying to identify them all.  Identifying the enemy is the first responsible act of this kind of “diet warfare!”

Garbanzo Leek Soup

I love Sunday afternoons when I have the opportunity to create a soup that I can enjoy throughout the week. It’s a bit of an undertaking to get all the ingredients prepared, dishes washed multiple times, trips to the market to get something that sounds just perfect, etc.  So, Sunday afternoons are best, especially when I can still watch a baseball game on the big screen in the other room!  Just absolutely perfect!

This is my soup for the week, and I couldn’t be happier with the results!garbanzoleesoup


3-4 cups of garbanzo beans, prepared from dry beans, or “no salt added” canned
20 oz of Fresh Tomato Sauce (see previous post)
1 leek, 6 inches long, thinly sliced
10 Brussels sprouts halved

Prepare beans as you would any dry bean, soaking overnight, and boiling until softened throughout.  Let cool.  Save the water from the pot to reuse in the soup. After cooling, pour whole beans into a blender with enough water to simplify blending into a puree.  Then, pour the puree into the same pot used for preparing them.  If too much water is left in the pot, pour some of it out before pouring the beans in.  Keep soup consistency in mind.  Using the blender again, blend the Fresh Tomato Sauce (from previous recipe) with the Brussels sprouts, using the pulse setting to retain a rough texture.  Pour the sauce and sprouts into the pan with the puree, add the sliced leeks, and heat for one hour over low temperature, stirring occasionally.

Makes 4 servings

Chickpea Sauce (updated)

It’s true, I like Mediterranean flavors and spice combinations, as I’ve mentioned before.

I needed a sauce that is not tomato-based, since I already have one of those that is full of flavor, and it needed to follow the strict “no salt/no oils added” rule of Eat To Live.  This turned out well, and is a repeatable, storage-friendly sauce that I can keep on hand.

Tonight, I ate it as a topping for my baked eggplant slices, and some steamed cauliflower and broccoli, and it was perfect for my tastebud cravings.chickpeasauce

1/2 cup Chickpeas (I boiled the dry beans at home, but canned is also okay, if you can find the “no salt added” type.)
4 mushrooms (steamed ahead of time.  I always have some ready for recipes in an airtight container)
1/4 cup Italian Parsley, chopped
1 tbsp dried black ancho pepper, chopped
3 tbsp tahini paste
1/4 cup fruit vinegar (I used Trader Joe’s Orange Muscat Champagne Vinegar)
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tbsp chia seeds, ground
2 tbsp turmeric root, minced (or 1 tbsp tumeric powder)
1 tsp black pepper, ground
1/2 tsp thyme, ground

Combine ingredients in a blender, puree, adding tbsp of water as needed for desired consistency, usually about 1/3 cup.
Heat in small pan, or microwave, before using as a topping.
Makes about 1.25 cups.

For the sliced eggplant, I sliced a large eggplant length-wise, with a slice of onion and lemon, and baked for 45 minutes, covered, at 380 degrees.
I added the sauce in generous amounts.

Serves 2 as a main dish, more if served as a side.

Sweet Tofu Salad Dressing

The salad dressings in the Eat To Live program are important for a couple of big reasons.

One of the adages of Eat To Live is “Salad Is the Main Course!”  If the dressings are not bursting with flavors that satisfy the senses, then the salad — the main course! — can be rather dull and discouraging for newcomers.  The “no oils/no salt added” basic rule can feel very confining to a newcomer, so in my view, the more flavorful the dressings are, the more success a person is likely to have on Eat To Live.

Also, the dressings are an excellent way to create your own “favorite” with experimentation and combining flavors that appeal to you most!  The creative process is what makes this exciting for me, along with the actual personal contact I have with every element that goes into it.

This dressing is one I created this evening, and it is wonderfully light and pleasant to the taste buds.  See what you think about it.

Sweet Tofu Salad DressingSweet Tofu Salad Dressing

1 pkg (approx 16 oz) of silken tofu
1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1/2 cup tahini paste
1/4 cup fruit vinegar (I used Trader Joe’s Orange Muscat Champagne Vinegar this time.)
1 cup fresh blueberries
4 medium shallots
4 garlic cloves
2 tbsp ground chia seeds
1/4 cup Italian parsley
1 tbsp red pepper sauce (I used Louisiana Hot Sauce, though it has a tiny bit of salt in it.)
2 tsp black pepper

Chop, dice, or slice all ingredients and combine them in a blender.  Blend on puree setting, if you have it.  If not, blend until the dressing has the thickness you like.
Makes about 40 oz.

Banana Avocado Breakfast Smoothie

In order to get out the door and to work on time, I put all these items in an airtight container the night before so that I can simply put it all in a blender for my breakfast the next morning.  I can even drink it on the way to work, so it’s a time-saver.  And, it’s very healthful and delicious.  Here is the basic smoothie, and I change it up with new things occasionally.

1.5 cups unsweetened coconut milk
1 banana, sliced
1 avocado, skin and seed removed
1 cup fresh blueberries (frozen okay during off-season)
1/4 cup flax or chia seeds, freshly ground (I use a dedicated coffee grinder)
4 sprigs of fresh mint, chopped with long stems removed
1 large handful of fresh greens (spinach and baby kale are ideal!)
Ice cubes as desired

Place all items in blender, and blend to desired consistency.  I use the puree setting on my blender, and it’s very smooth and delicious.  It makes about 16 oz.

Substitutes: Any berries, walnuts instead of listed seeds, nut milks (low or no sodium important)