Sunday, January 20, 2013

(almost) Instant Soup

Did you know that in roughly the time it takes to open a can, pour the contents into a saucepan and heat it to a simmer, you could have prepared a tasty, nutritious and low-sodium soup from scratch? Such is the wonder of miso.

Many groceries sell instant miso packaged in little cups to which hot water is added. This is certainly a nice convenience for the office, but if you have access to a stove, you can make your own in about the same time it would take to heat the water.

Miso, a fermented soybean paste popular in Japanese cooking, can often be found in the produce section of the grocery, although at my favorite food co-op it is kept in the dairy case. While the price for a jar or tub may seem expensive, a little goes a long way. Depending on the variety and your taste preference, as little as a teaspoon can adequately flavor a cup of broth.

Miso Soup
I'm partial to the miso produced by the South River Miso Company, which can be purchased online or in some natural food stores. The company sells several varieties of miso, traditional and more boldly-flavored. My favorites are garlic red pepper and dandelion leek. Kept in the refrigerator, an opened jar will last indefinitely.

To make the soup pictured, I diced a carrot, a rib of celery and a slice of onion, sautéed them in about a teaspoon of coconut oil, added a cup and a half of water and brought it to a simmer, tossed in a handful of baby spinach and let it wilt. After removing the pot from the heat, I stirred in about 2 tablespoons of garlic red pepper miso. That's it! In less than 5 minutes, I had a delicious, filling, healthy, low-calorie and inexpensive lunch (2 points for those on WW).

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Shedding Excess Weight

Ah, the New Year. January is peak time for new resolutions, and the most common of these is to lose weight. We've all read, and seen the evidence, that the majority of Americans are now overweight and an increasing number are obese. This alarming situation is costing billions in health care, negatively impacting our quality of life, and even shortening our average lifespan.

I believe we're suffering from a bloating that extends beyond our waistlines. Overconsumption of food may be one of the easiest excesses to identify and chastise, but the effects of other types of overconsumption are also pernicious. Studies and dire warnings abound of the lethal consequences of our abuse of fossil fuels. Concurrent with this has been the production of toxins whose damage may never be fully understood.

Cheap energy and industrial processes have certainly brought great benefits to humanity, notably in the advances in health care and communications. But they have also enabled us to fill our living spaces with junk that further weighs us down. Witness the proliferation of television shows devoted to the problems of various types of hoarders!

Electronic media is also often too much of a good thing. We may spend hours a day reading status reports from friends near and far, new and old, known and unknown, while leaving little time to share coffee with a neighbor.

Lately, I've been wondering if battling the bulge in one area of life would be more powerful if accompanied by a simultaneous battle of bulges on all fronts. A full-scale war on excess weight, if you will!

I got a head start in early December on my waistline portion of the effort by joining Weight Watchers. (Yeah, I know, who does that just before the holidays? Really!) My goal is to lose the weight I gained with my last pregnancy. I think it's time, since the baby is now 16. As this has been somewhat of a foodie blog in the past, I disclose this to warn any remaining readers that future recipes and cooking tips posted here likely will have the "this is good for you" filter applied. But they will be delicious as always!

I also plan to share my efforts to lighten the weight of my home, and -- if I'm brave enough -- emotional and mental weight.

And, in this spirit of reducing excess, I'll end this post. See you next time!