What a Difference a Night Makes and Super Soups to the Rescue

March 24, 2010 at 10:04 pm Leave a comment

   With March 20th marking the first day of spring, ads nagging us to get into shape for bathing suit season can’t be far away.  For me personally, that concept no longer computes.  Glute-lifting lunges aside, unless I hear about a dirt-cheap, non-invasive route to a thigh and derriere lift, this body isn’t likely to experience public bathing suit exposure again.  Ever.  But there is the thought of Capri pants and skinny jeans to be considered, so maybe it is a good time to talk about leaning up the cuisine a bit.

 Helpful hint number one:  no matter how nutritious our year-round food choices, northerners’ portion sizes tend to expand in inverse proportion to winter’s shortened days.  If we reverse that trend and pay attention to a few basic slimming guidelines, we’ll have it made in the … sun.  (Don’t forget to use a smaller plate when you are cutting portion sizes.) 

Hint number two:  a good night’s sleep is a vastly under-sung element in weight control.  Just think about how crummy the “spring forward” daylight savings changeover makes you feel.  I walk around crabby for three or four days until my sleep patterns adjust, and then I still feel tired for another week or so after that.  It all makes sense when you consider the powerful effects of sleep-related hormones:  people who sleep less generate more ghrelin, which signals an empty stomach, and less leptin, generating a false message that fat stores are insufficient.  No wonder I’m cranky.  I eat, but still feel hungry, and my sleep-deprived muscles – affected by higher cortisol levels and less efficient glucose metabolism – make working out feel like treading quick sand.  Nix these negatives by getting at least 7-1/2 hours of sleep every night.

 And number three:  fill up on soup.  It’s a great antidote to hunger, whatever its cause, and when you make your own, you can load it with low-fat broth and veggies, lean meat, and beans for fiber and satiety.  The high liquid content leaves you full to capacity, with no guilt attached – as sure-fire a formula for satisfying a grouchy brood as ever there was.  Two of my recent favorites are a variation on the same theme:  Slow-Cooked Pulled Chicken, Black Bean, and Vegetable Soup or Quick Turkey Cannellini Soup.  Add a slab of Dense Whole Grain Bread with a dab of Homemade Almond Butter and a small Hawaiian Sundae for a feast accompli.  Even that enticing commercial with the office full of Kit-Kat munchers won’t have any power over you after this comforting repast. 

For the Pulled Chicken, Black Bean, and Vegetable Soup:

*crock pot skinless, chicken – leg and thigh meat:  4 C boned & shredded, plus gelatin                                                                       1 tsp olive oil                         1/2 C diced onions                        3/4 C diced celery                             1 green pepper, diced                                         2 large peeled carrots, sliced    1/2 tsp garlic powder             1-14 oz can diced tomatoes             2 C cooked black beans                                                                    up to 4 C chicken broth 

(*Cook skinned, bone-in dark meat chicken pieces in a crock pot with 1 cup of red wine and water to cover for up to 8 hours.  Pluck out chicken pieces and cool to room temperature, then remove bones and any undesirable bits, and pull chicken into shreds.  Cool broth until it becomes gelatinous and scoop into a four-cup measure.)

Sauté onions in olive oil in a heavy kettle over medium-low heat for 3-4 minutes; add celery and pepper and cook for another 3-4 minutes.  Add enough canned chicken broth to stewing gel to make four cups and add this to the kettle, along with the chicken, carrots, garlic powder, tomatoes, and beans.  Simmer over medium low heat for at least one hour, longer if possible.  (I did mine for 2-1/2 hours.)  Add additional chicken broth if desired. 

Or, for the quicker alternative, Turkey and Cannellini Bean Soup: 

1 tsp olive oil                            1/2 C diced onions                 3/4 C diced celery

1 yellow pepper, diced            1-16 oz can turkey breast   1/2 tsp garlic powder            1-14 oz can diced tomatoes            1-15 oz can cannellini beans     up to 4 C chicken broth       2 C chopped beet greens (or spinach or kale) 

Sauté onions in olive oil in a heavy kettle over medium-low heat for 3-4 minutes; add celery and pepper and cook for another 3-4 minutes.  Drain turkey broth from can into a four-cup measure and add enough chicken broth to make four cups.  Add broth, turkey, garlic powder, tomatoes, and cannellini beans to kettle and simmer over medium low heat for up to an hour.  In the last fifteen minutes, add the chopped greens, cover, and simmer until greens are tender. 

I bought a wonderful little book (100 Great Breads, by Paul Hollywood; published by Barnes and Noble) a few years ago, and it’s loaded with both healthful and indulgent options for the enthusiastic baker. I highly recommend it.  But if you are short on time or energy, your bread choice might be a good, hearty whole-grain artisan bread, available at most grocery stores these days.  I happen to be blessed, in this tiny blue-collar suburb in which I live, with a bakery outlet for just such breads.  My problem is controlling myself when I shop; there is, after all, some limit to how much a chest freezer will hold. 

The almond butter is pretty darned easy: 

1-1/2 C raw almonds                        1-1/2 C toasted raw almonds                        1/3 C canola oil

2 tsp sea salt                                         1-2 TB honey

Toss the almonds into a heavy-duty blender (Vita-Mixer; one of the best kitchen investments I’ve ever made). Drizzle in 1/4-cup oil and add salt.  Pulse and blend until of desired consistency, adding up to 1/3 C of oil total, and enough honey to suit your taste.  Store in a sealed container in the refrigerator. 

For dessert, 1/2 C of reduced fat vanilla ice cream with sliced banana, strawberries, and pineapple and a sprinkling of toasted coconut.  There.  Feel better?  I know I do.


Entry filed under: Musings of a Midwestern Foodie. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , .

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Recipe. According to Encarta, "a list of ingredients and instructions for making something." The thesaurus offers the alternate terms, "formula, guidelines, directions, steps, technique."

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