a pot of bean soup.

Honestly?

I haven’t been much in the mood for cooking lately.

This, I’m sure, has something to do with the overabundance of chopping and whisking and baking that was done over the course of the past few days.  It has left me in a funk.

But, alas, even when I’m not in the mood for cooking, people still need to eat (me included.)  And the idea of purchasing a couple of Subways was completely out of the question (I’m practicing a new form of frugality before considering it my official “New Year’s Resolution.”)

Besides, I thought to myself, a pot of soup can basically cook itself.

While the soup did just that (cooked itself, I mean) I wrote down all of the things which I spend too much money on and which things I would like to spend more.  All in preparation for my upcoming resolution.

My motto is that there is never a better time to start than today!

(For the record, bean soup is ridiculously affordable.)

I spend too much at coffee shops.  And books and magazines, which could just as easily be borrowed from the library.

I would like to spend more on fitness (it’s an investment for life) and on the organizations which I feel strongly about supporting (can we say local soup kitchens?)

And I’d like to find more frugal meals for the week, balancing out the pricier meals (wild caught salmon = not cheap but totally worth every penny!)

Let me just get it out there.  This doesn’t always come easy for me.

It’s not that I go crazy at the mall or buy a daily soy latte from the ‘bucks.  But I do have my moments, and I’d really like to put some serious thought into where each and every hard earned penny goes.  Not to be a scrooge or a penny pincher.  Just to be, you know, made aware.  

Huh.  What do you know?

It seems that after all this talk and discussion, the soup is done.

It pretty much cooked itself.

Trader Joe’s 17 Bean and Barley Mix
(Serves: 6-8)

This soup has a bountiful mixture of baby lima beans, black turtle beans, blackeye peas, dark red kidney beans, garbanzo beans, great northern beans, green lentils, green split peas, large lima beans, light red kidney beans, navy beans, pink beans, pinto beans, red lentils, small red beans, small white beans, yellow split peas, and pearl barley.

That would be exactly seventeen nutrition-packed beans.  Phew.

I followed the recipe on the back of the bag very closely, but added in some extra garlic, extra tomatoes, some watercress and some hot pepper to spice things up a little.  It’s a very comforting dish for a chilly autumn day.  Enjoy!

  • 1 16 oz. bag of Trader Joe’s 17 Bean and Barley Mix (or, any combination of the beans listed above)
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 cup onion, chopped
  • 1 cup carrot, chopped
  • 1 cup celery, chopped
  • 1 cup bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 2-15 oz. cans diced tomatoes with basil, oregano and garlic (or plain)
  • salt, pepper and tobasco sauce to taste
  • 4 oz. bag of watercress, chopped
  1. Soak beans overnight in a large pot with a good amount of water.  Drain and rinse.  Pour 4 cups broth into pot with beans.  Set aside.
  2. In a separate pan, cook onion, celery, carrot, pepper, basil and garlic in olive oil until soft. Combine this mixture and remaining ingredients into the bean pot and cover with more broth. Simmer covered for about 1 hour to desired tenderness. Be sure to occasionally check liquid level and add more broth if necessary. Salt and pepper and add tobasco sauce to desired taste.  Add watercress and cook an additional 3-5 minutes.  Enjoy!

QUESTION: What are some ways you practice being frugal?

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at home on the farm.

The more I think about it, the more I realize that my family is right.

I need to marry a farmer.

There’s just something special about a farm.

I realize that the work gets dirty.  Smelly.  Tiring.

But still.

Still.

I can’t help but smile and laugh whenever I’m around farm animals.  I find cleaning out stalls to be therapeutic (don’t laugh!)  And nothing makes me feel more at home than when I’m taking care of horses and dogs and cats.  So I’m pretty sure that I’d love taking care of cows and pigs and goats too?

Yep.  I think I need to marry a farmer.

Or.  If that doesn’t happen, I’ll just need to open up my very own goat farm, complete with a few cows, some chickens and a trusty ol’ farm dog.   😉

Anyways.

Not much cooking went on over here today, as it was way too warm to fire up the oven.  Instead I opted for some leftovers and sauteed a bunch of kale that had been picked this morning.

I love early fall when all the stands start selling greens and cabbage and squash.  It makes me feel slightly better about having to say goodbye to peaches and watermelon.

(And pumpkin?  Well.  Pumpkin makes *everything* better!!!)

Driving to some of the nearby farms was worth the trip, as we now have a fridge full of produce and a yard full of pumpkins and corn stalks.

It’s starting to really look like fall around here.

Which I love, love, love.

I also love farms.

And cows.  And goats.  And produce.

And.  Well.  I think I need to marry a farmer.

QUESTION: Is there a lot of local produce available where you are right now?  What are your some of your favorites?

forever a classic.

Thank you—each and every one!!—for the warm comments and shouts of recognition, after what I now fondly call my 15 minutes of fame in being Freshly Pressed.  What an absolutely delightful surprise; and I’m so glad that you were all able to share with me, in my overabundance of blueberries.  Speaking of which, I now have a fridge full of even more berries, which will most likely be eaten out of hand or in my morning oatmeal.

But.  Who knows?  I’ve said that once before.  The fun just never stops. 😉

You know, now that I think of it, the overabundance of produce never seems to stop around here, either.

More specifically, the tomatoes and basil.

(and the cucumbers too, but that’s another conversation for another day)

I’ve come to the conclusion that if I ever have to choose but two ingredients to define the tastes of summer, this is what I’d choose.  Yes.  Tomatoes and basil.  Fresh from the garden, straight to my plate.

Bumper crops and overabundance aside, this combination of flavors is forever a classic.  I can’t imagine a summer without them.

(especially when garlic and olive oil are involved!)

I was lucky enough to find this bright, perky piece of Cod at the grocery store.  Freshness of the fish is key here (as it almost always is!) as anything “fishy” tasting will only put a damper on the summery mood.

Because, after all, nobody will notice your lovely tomatoes if there’s a fishy aftertaste going on. 😉

The entire meal came together in just under 20 minutes.

The delightful combination of tomatoes and basil.  Yes.  This is exactly what I’d choose.

Summer—defined.  And forever a classic.

Side Dishes: Baked Sweet Potato and Sauteed Zucchini in olive oil, balsamic vinegar and topped with a slice of fresh mozzarella

Cod with Tomato-Basil Salsa

  • 5 medium/large tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • 1 large handful of basil, chopped
  • about 1/4 cup chopped chives
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup vegetable broth
  • 1 large clove garlic
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1-1/2 pounds cod (or haddock or other firm, white fish)
  1. Preheat oven to 425.
  2. Combine tomatoes through salt & pepper, in a medium bowl.
  3. In a oven safe dutch oven or cooking pan, heat oil over high heat.  Add fish, skin side up.  Cook for 2 minutes, flip, and pour tomato mixture on top.  Continue cooking for another 2 minutes or so.
  4. Place cooking pan or dutch oven in the oven for about 7-9 minutes, or until fish flakes with a fork.  Serve immediately and ENJOY!
QUESTION: Do you have a vegetable garden?

June’s Leftovers.

Do you know what I love about fresh new months?

Fresh new ideas and resolutions.  New vegetables and farmers markets.  New places to see, new plans to be made.  New, new, NEW!

However, yesterday was still June.  There were still some loose ends that needed tying before I could kiss the month goodbye, so long.  Leftovers to be finished before any brand new things could arrive.

Yes.  And vegetables to be stir fried.  Leftover quinoa to be eaten.

Quinoa, just like rice, can be frozen quite nicely.  Which is why I most always double the batch and pop one in the freezer.  It takes about 3 minutes to reheat it in the microwave, which is perfect for late nights, crazy days, or for that last dinner in June.

This was the easiest meal of the week (not counting, of course, that bowl of cereal which impostered itself as dinner a couple of nights ago.)

I simply heated a pan with a drizzle of olive oil, added the last of the veggie drawer—carrots, asparagus, zucchini, peppers and onions, and topped it all off with one of my most favorite sauce recipes.

The sunflower seeds added just a touch of fun.  Just a touch of crunch.

There.  The veggie drawer is empty.  The remaining quinoa has been eaten.

Goodbye, June and Hello, July!

(p.s. The kitties are doing well!  Today is the last day I’ll be spending with them, as their ‘parents’ are coming home tonight.  I think Stitch knows something about this, because he’s been nothing short of Mr. LoveBug lately, with his head butting and meowing and acting all silly with excitement.)

(Highstreet, on the other hand, continues to act all regal and sophisticated.  Until a rope passes in front of him, which is when he unleashes his inner jaguar.)

Off for a run.  And then off to fit some studying time in!  It’s always nice a feeling, to start a new month off on the right foot.

Hot And Sour Sauce

Combine: 6 Tbsp. vinegar, 1/4 c. low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth, 1/4 cup water, 2 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce, 1 Tbsp. Asian chili sauce, 2 tsp sugar, 2 tsp cornstarch, 1 tsp sesame oil.

QUESTION: What are you most looking forward to in July?

dietetic internships, leaky tarps, and eggplant on the grill.

Well.  It’s officially official!  Ten and a half months of dietetic interning, learning, working, training, advancing.  Ten and a half months of homework assignments, endless projects, new friends, new places, new experiences.

Completed!

I’ve been running on pure adrenaline these past few days, as I finished up with some last minute assignments and as I bid my fellow interns goodbye after graduation (not forever, of course!)

And then.  This morning?  I crashed.  Absolutely crashed!

I didn’t feel at all into my morning run.  I didn’t feel like reading.  Or baking or cooking or even eating for that matter (!?!?!)  I was pooped, whiped, tuckered out.  Exhausted.  Thank goodness for the Grill Master (aka, Dad.)

I can always count on him to change my mind about the eating thing.

And so, the rest of the day consisted of me dicing a few vegetables here, throwing a few spices there, and generally just allowing myself to enjoy the day.

Dad manned the grill.  Mom helped. 😉

We had a nice wide spread of grilled vegetables.

The eggplant was by far my favorite component of the entire meal.  I’ve only had the purple globe a couple of times, served in the delightfully understated peasant dish of ratatouille.  And mostly, I think of it as a veggie fill-in for the old Italian favorite–eggplant parmesan.

Really, it hadn’t crossed my mind to throw it on the hot grill until today, but I’m glad we gave it a go.  It was thick, meaty and dense.  And perhaps best of all, it was absolutely intoxicated with extra virgin olive oil.  Heaven.  I can only imagine what kind of pizza or sandwich this would make.  So many new possibilities!

Lots of veggies, some grilled potatoes and a slab of BBQ tofu.  This plate earned my vote for meal of the week.

We don’t often eat off of paper plates, but we have some extras kicking around the house.  This totally added to that “camping out” kind of feeling! 😀

Eaten outside on the deck, under a tarp which dutifully protected us from an oncoming rain storm.

Well.  Mostly.  Until about 10 minutes or so later, when it too decided that it was pooped, tuckered and whiped out from the past week.

Eeeps!

We all ran indoors, hiding from the storm.  Dancing around puddles.  Laughing as the rain plummeted down, down, down upon us on the way in.

Today was wonderful, delicious, peaceful.  Dare I say it, perfect?

Yes.  I dare.  What a lovely Saturday.

Grilled Eggplant

  • 1 large eggplant
  • 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and Pepper
  1. Preheat grill to medium/high.
  2. Slice eggplant about 3/4 inch thick, into circular slices.  Brush both sides with olive oil.  Sprinkle on some salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Place on grill for about 3-5 minutes.  Flip once browned and soft.  Continue cooking for another 3-5 minutes.  Enjoy!

QUESTION: What was the best part of your SATURDAY?

a bowl of warm weather soup.

Through the heat of summer, I will eat my weight in leafy salads.  I will also eat my weight in vegetable soups.

Yes.  Soups!

Soups that are served piping hot in the winter are usually versatile enough to be served chilled during the warmer days of summer.

If the idea of chilled soup weirds you out just a little, then I recommend you start with a basic, chunky, minestrone soup.  Filled to the brim with bright, summery vegetables.

(I also recommend that you stock your freezer full of individual servings of this soup, as it will disappear quickly!!)

Since we’re on the topic of recommendations, can I just throw one more out there?

Okay.

I recommend serving this soup with either a grilled cheese sandwich, dunking it into the tomato based broth as you go. Or, serve with sweet potato chips for that delightful, crunchy, sweet factor.  C-R-U-N-C-H.

Yes.  I eat many, many salads in the summer.  I also eat lots and lots of vegetable soups.  Cold, chilly soups that cool me down and fill me up.

It’s like summer.  Summer in a bowl.

Garden Minestrone Soup

(serves 8)

Serve hot in the winter and chilled in the summer!

  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2 tsp fresh oregano
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 cups chopped yellow squash
  • 3 cups chopped zucchini
  • 1 cup chopped carrot
  • 1 cup fresh corn kernels (or frozen)
  • 4 cups chopped tomato, divided
  • 3 (14 oz) cans fat-free, low sodium chicken or vegetable broth, divided
  • 1/2 cup barley
  • 1 (15.5 oz0 can white beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 (6oz) package fresh baby spinach
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  1. Heat oil in a dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Add onion to pan; saute 3 minutes or until softened.  Add oregano and garlic, saute 1 minute.  Stir in squash, zucchini, carrot and corn; saute 5 minutes or until veggies are tender.  Remove from heat.
  2. Place 3 cups tomato and 1 can broth in a blender; process until smooth.  Add tomato mixture to pan; return pan to heat.  Stir in remaining 1 cup tomato and remaining 2 cans broth; bring mixture to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes.
  3. Add barley and beans to pan; cook 10 minutes or until barley is tender, stirring occasionally.  Remove from heat.  Stir in spinach, salt and 1/2 tsp pepper.  Serve and enjoy!
QUESTION: What are some of your favorite warm weather eats?

that makes sense.

It was a rainy day, today.  Dreary.  Shivery cold.  And dark.

Oh.  Yes.  And cold.  Did I mention that already?

Somehow, I got it into my head that a spaghetti squash—and only a spaghetti squash—could sooth things over.  Make the cold wet weather okay.  Actually.  Better than okay.  Enjoyable, even.

Why a spaghetti squash?

Good question.  I was thinking the same thing, as I strolled through two grocery stores before finally finding one.  It didn’t really make any sense, but I decided to just roll with it.

I’ve used spaghetti squash in many ways before, but lately I’ve been eating it as…well…spaghetti.  It goes marvelously with a rich marinara sauce and it pairs well with other vegetables and seasonings.

Such as…

Shiitake mushrooms. Diced fresh tomatoes.  Handful of chopped kale.  And garlic.  Lots of garlic.

The perfect meal for a cold, dark, and dreary sort of day.

Now that makes sense.

Spaghetti Squash with Sauteed Vegetables

(Serves 2-3, depending on size of spaghetti squash)

  •  1 whole spaghetti squash, cut in half lengthwise and seeded
  • 2 tsp walnut or olive oil
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic
  • 1 package of shiitake mushrooms, wiped clean
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 2-3 handfuls of kale, chopped
  • splash of balsamic vinegar or soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup feta cheese
  1. Heat oven to 375.  Place spaghetti squash cut side down on cookie sheet that has been sprayed with cooking spray.  Cook for 20 minutes, check for doneness, and continue cooking as necessary.  Squash will be ready once knife is able to poke through.
  2. Meanwhile, in a nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium heat.  Add garlic and cook until fragrant and beginning to golden.  Add mushrooms and cook for 2-4 minutes.   Add tomato and kale.  Continue cooking until kale is beginning to soften and wilt.  Add a splash of the vinegar or soy sauce, and cook for another 1-2 minutes or so.
  3. Once the squash is cooked, scrape out insides with a fork.  This will look like spaghetti.  Add it to the pan, mix together and cook for another minute.  Scoop onto plates and top with feta cheese.  Enjoy! 😀
QUESTION: Mushrooms.  Love or Hate?