Friday, March 18, 2016

Bean Week

I decided to start with something basic and familiar:

White Chicken Chili
3 cups cooked white beans ( 2 cans rinsed or 3 c pre-cooked in a crock pot)
4 cups broth
1 large onion
1 yellow bell pepper, minced
1 jalapeno pepper, minced (with seeds for more heat and flavor)
2 Poblano or Anaheim peppers, minced
 4 cloves garlic
1 Tablespoon cumin
 1 1/2 tsp coriander
1 tsp ancho chili powder
1 large chicken breast, diced.

Serve with cilantro, lime and plain yogurt.

Adjust the heat with the mix of peppers.  This combo results in a mild-medium hot chili (depending upon the peppers and  your taste buds)
On the heat scale:
Jalapeno = 3500-8000
Poblano 1000-2000
Anaheim 500-2000

Minestrone Soup
2 onions, diced
4-8 cloves of garlic
1 46 oz of V-8 juice

1 quart low sodium broth
4-6 cups cooked dried beans (garbanzo, lima, white)
6-8 large carrots, diced
inner 4-6 stalks of celery including the leaves, diced
1 bell pepper, diced
2 cups whole wheat pasta
1 Tablepoon each of dry oregano and basil
1 teaspoon each of thyme, onion powder, and garlic powder

2 zucchini, diced
4 cups fresh greens (spinach, cabbage, chard)
1 pound frozen  peas

Cook onions until golden, add garlic and cook 3-5 min.
Add remaining ingredients and simmer 15-20 minutes.  You may want to wait until the last 5 minutes to add the greens, peas and any veggies that you want to remain crunchy such as zucchini.

Serve with fresh parsley, basil and parmesean cheese.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Dried Beans

So today, I have spent 4 hours waiting for legumes to re-hydrate.  I could just buy canned version, but this has no added sodium and a fraction of the cost.

Usually I soak the beans overnight.  But today I did the "quick soak"
Rinse the beans.  Remove the broken bits.  Add double the water.  Bring to a boil then turn off the heat.  Let sit at least 1 hour.

At this point they either need to sit in a crock pot for 4-8 hours, or simmer on low about 2 hours.

I added 3-4 cloves of garlic, but otherwise, no other ingredients until they re-hydrate.

This was about 2 pounds of beans ( 3 scoops from the bulk scoop = 4 cups)  for about $1.50.

3 cups of dry garbanzo beans - $1.24

Hummus:  3 cups of garbanzo beans,.  Zest and juice of 1 organic lemon.  1/2 cup of tahini (sesame peanut butter).

I cooked this longer than usual ( 2 hour simmer) and removed as many of the chick pea skins as possible ( maybe 70%),  Best hummus ever.

I put 3 cloves of garlic into the cooking liquid and 1 into the final result.

Shopping List

This week's list starts pretty veggie heavy.   $29

garlic x 4
onion (pantry)
16 mushrooms
2 zucchini
1 jalapeno
2 Pablano peppers
Munchy veg: sweet pepper bag & 2 peppers in the fridge, sugar snap peas, sliced carrots, baby carrot, grape tomato, asparagus x 2, green beans,.

Nuts, Legumes and whole grains.
The white beans $1.44 for just under 2#.  Waiting to become chili.
Dry garbanzos $1.24.  This is $24 worth of commercial hummus.
Oats.  $0.84  and I only used 1/2 for 4 servings.
Barley $1.08

What else did I buy?
Kefir $3
Yogurt $3
Broth $5...I usually have some in the freezer
Nuts: $6 for vegetarian dishes
Chicken $ 6

So, for about $68, I have most suppers and and $2 reheat meals.

Happy Gut Bacteria Challenge

The newest buzz in nutrition is to improve the balance of good and bad bacteria that hang out in your intestines.  Lots of people have written books about this, and even more are trying to make a buck or two selling products promoting this idea.

I decided to do a month long challenge  starting with foods that we already eat and are easily available at chain grocery stores in Boise.  I'll have to hit some specialty stores in order to accomplish all the goals.

The basic principles are:
1) Lots of variety of good microbes (the more sources the better)
2) High fiber, 38g per day.  Especially legumes
3) Small amounts of meat.  Grown without antibiotics.
4) Fermented foods (sauerkraut, kimchi, miso)
5) Eat foods that the good guys like to eat: resistant starch, legumes, onions, garlic, veggies

Additional challenges I see:
Time: To find a balance between cost and time, I will develop menus that involve 1 shopping/prep day, 2 evenings of 20 minute meals, and everything else pre-prepared and ready to eat or re-heat & eat.

Cost: I'll include my actual costs with each recipe.  I am initially using many convenience prepped foods but will note if there's an extra cost saving option.  For example, I bought "Carrot Chips" which are just pre-sliced carrots for $2 for 12 oz.  I could have paid the same amount for 2 pounds of carrots, but would have had time involved slicing them.

While I am an advocate of organic farming practices, I will focus the budget on "the dirty dozen" and give priority to locally grown over certified organic as in talking with local producers, I know many of them use organic practices but don't qualify for the certification process.
Buy Organic: fruits you eat whole (berries, grapes, peaches, apples), leafy greens, tomato, peppers
Don't bother: fruit you peal (banana,pineapple, avocado), cabbage family (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage...because even bugs don't like to eat them), anything grown underground, asparagus.

Also there are always exceptions.  Like today when I went to by the organic cherry tomatoes I bought last week at Winco, but they didn't have any this week. And the Organic rainbow baby carrots are the sweetest thing I have ever eaten so I will keep buying them even for more $.

Additional Challenges:
I hate yogurt and oatmeal.  Hubby hates fermented foods and would like to eat a weeks worth of meat in each meal.

Among the group going to do the challenge with us, there's a mix of options for lunches between having to pack a "sack lunch" and being able to reheat a meal.  And there is at least one person who insists he won't eat "leftovers", but eats frozen convenience food all the time (get over it!).

So here we go.  The 4 week Happy Gut Nutrition challenge.  I'll post menus and recipes in subsequent posts so sign up to get updates via blog readers or email.

Monday, January 5, 2015


I hate mornings.
I hate everything about mornings including food.
I get hungry at 10:30am.
I married a morning person.
I have a morning person work schedule.
Quite a conundrum.

I spent the first couple decades of my life skipping breakfast and the next couple trying to figure out some kind of fuel source that doesn't make me hurl.

I'm not a fan of eggs.  Traditional breakfast options are too greasy or too sweet.  Oh and while I'm being whiny, I should point out that when hubby retired and was home when I was getting ready for work, it made me late and forgetting lunch...simply because he made the mistake of "talking to me".

 My solution is breakfast burritos.  Frozen in batches.  A month's worth left at work to re-heat.

I buy a 1.5 pound package of spicy, Italian bulk sausage and the same amount of ground pork or turkey (whichever is cheaper).  I bake that on a rimmed 1/2 bun pan at 450 for about 20 minutes. After it cools, I break it into smaller pieces with my fingers and add 2 packages (2 pounds total) of frozen vegetables (any combo you like). Normally I add onions and mushrooms for filler and flavor, but I skipped them because of the new veg mixes.  Saved time. :)

I also roast about 5-6 small potatoes, diced, using the same pan I cooked the sausage, using a small amount of the left over fat from the meat.  That also takes about 20 minutes and can be done at the same time as the meat with a small amount of olive oil.

I heat the tortillas 5 at a time in the microwave for 30 seconds to make them soft.  Then I add about 2/3 c of the filling to each.

No 2 batches of my breakfast burritos are ever the same.  This combo makes 20 burritos, about 470 calories and 45 carbs each.  They cost $1.25 each and re-heat in the microwave in 2 minutes.

Size Matters

You may have read about the trick to use smaller plates to help with portion control.   Here's last night's supper as illustration.  Hubby's on a 10.5" plate.

Compared to mine on an 8" plate.

The coleslaw and pineapple portions are the same.  On the other hand, I made my sandwich with 1 slice of bread instead of 2.  It also used an ounce less meat.  I also skipped the butter on my sandwich and put some of the slaw on my sandwich after the photo.

Difference between the 2 meals?  230 calories.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

High Nutrient, Low Cost Challenge

Like many people, I am re-focused on my health and nutrition goals in the new year.  As I was running errands Saturday, I stopped at Albertsons for a few things to get us through to my normal shopping day (Monday). I also threw away the receipt, but here's the list with some recalled costs.

I didn't think at the time to take a photo, but here's what $30 bought:

1 deli roasted chicken ($6?)
3 tubs of fruit - pineapple & cantaloupe. (3 for $10, usually $4 each)
2 1 pound bags of "baby carrots" ($5)
1 small head of cabbage ($2?)
1 bag of organic romaine lettuce hearts ($4?)
2 heads of broccoli ($3?)

For meal 1 (2 people), I cut of the stem of the broccoli and saved it for coleslaw and added 1/2 package (8 oz) of baby carrots and steamed in the microwave for 3 minutes.  Added 2 tsp butter while hot and tossed to spread the flavor.

Served 2 cups of mixed veg with legs and wings of the chicken and 1 cup of mixed fruit.

$2.50 per person
40 carbs, about 400 calories
loaded with vitamins C and A
4 minutes to prepare.

Meanwhile, I found a KFC coleslaw knock-off recipe.  I used 1/2 of the small cabbage, 4 carrots shredded along with the broccoli stems, 1/4 onion, plus the mayo, lemon and milk I had on hand for the sauce.  1 cup per person,

I served this for dinner with baked halibut (stashed in the freezer), 3/4 c of brown rice (staple) and 1 cup of a frozen mixed veg blend.

A fair estimate for the side dishes would be about $1.25 per person.  Halibut cost would depend upon where you live and the season.  I think I won this fish at a fund-raiser.

Currently, the chicken bones are becoming amazing broth.  I saved the breasts to use for sandwiches (to buddy up with the remaining cole slaw).

The odd bits of chicken, I'll add back to the soup.

I put all the bones and skin from the deli chicken into a pot.  I also rinse out all that "jell" from the bottom of the container and included that in the pot.  After I took the photo, I added 1/4 onion, 2 cloves of garlic and some dried herbs: tarragon, rosemary & a bay leaf.  It will simmer for a couple hours.  I will then pull out all the bones and bits, then let it cool overnight to solidify the fat.

So...are you SURE you want to try to convince me that eating healthy is expensive?