Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Wellness Kitchen

Last week, I was at the Durham Public Library waiting for a local author, who I was assigned to photograph, to arrive. Waiting is a game often played by newspaper photographers… in college studying photojournalism, I was taught that it’s always better to arrive early and have to wait a few minutes, than to arrive on time and miss some integral part of your assignment. Nevermind being late. So, as a rule, I’m almost always a few minutes early to assignments. And so, I wait.

As a perused the shelves of books in the downtime, naturally, I gravitated towards the cookbooks, and my eyes became fixed on this one:

The Wellness Kitchen, which focuses on the nutritional aspects of food. It’s full of healthy recipes, complete with a nutrition guide for each, and tons of little facts about the nutrients found in different foods, and the best way to get those nutrients from them.

I’ve mentioned before the fact that I don’t eat red meat. I am certainly not someone who thinks it’s “wrong” to kill an animal for food. Personally, I think it’s all part of a cycle, and we’re all part of a food chain. Really, I stopped eating meat one day when I was in seventh grade, after listening to my geography teacher lament about how chock-full of artery-clogging fat red meat was. I got home from school that day, and just decided “starting tomorrow morning, no more beef or pork.” Also, let me state, for the record, I was an overweight child- that is one of the defining factors in my childhood. But, starting that day, I made a conscious decision to eat healthier. Now, I know that a lean cut of red meat is perfectly fine once in a while, but, it’s been nearly thirteen years, and I don’t have even an inkling of desire for it. So, to this day, I only eat poultry and fish.

During my freshman year in college, I tried going completely vegetarian, but found that I wasn’t having a well balanced diet, so I went back to only not eating red meat. Now, I consciously make an effort to eat healthfully, but I don’t deny myself anything. I don’t believe in “diets.” I don’t think it’s smart or sustainable to cut entire groups of food, like “white” or “carbs” from your daily diet. I think that you should eat things that taste good and are good for you. But indulge yourself a little- I have a sweet tooth, obviously.

So when I came across this book I grabbed it and checked it out. I skimmed through the book, looking for something to try out, and settled on a black bean soup recipe, using dry beans, and some simple, clean flavors. I decided to jazz it up a bit, so added two sweet Italian turkey sausages, corn, a little chipotle flavored Mrs.Dash, and about a quarter cup of barbeque sauce to the recipe. I thought it seemed like a great dinner for the rainy, dreary day that Saturday was, and would be pretty low maintenance, since I was planning to remove wallpaper, and repaint the kitchen that day- always a multitasker. The recipe is as follows:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 sweet Italian turkey sausage links
  • 2 cups dried black beans
  • 9 cups water
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 ½ teaspoons oregano
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoon Mrs. Dash chipotle seasoning
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup smoky barbeque sauce
  • 1 cup frozen corn kernels
  • sliced green onions, and (low fat) shredded cheddar cheese, to top with
  • tortilla chips

In a large pot, sauté the onions and garlic in the olive oil. As they are cooking crumble the meat from the sausage links into the pot.
Cook until the sausage is browned. Add the black beans, then the water. Stir in the tomato paste, oregano, cumin, Mrs. Dash, salt, and barbeque sauce. Bring to a boil, then simmer for one and half hours, until beans are tender. Remove about 1/4 of the beans and liquid from the pot, and puree in a blender (or use a hand blender if you have one). Return the puree to the pot and stir in. Add the corn kernels and heat until cooked through. Top with the green onions and cheese. Serve with tortilla chips. Makes 4 servings.

So I got the soup started, set it on a simmer, and began removing wallpaper, sanding, and painting. By the time I had finished one wall, the soup was ready. The barbeque sauce added a little zingy sweetness to it, and the chipotle finished it off, giving it just a hint of heat. I served it up with some blue corn chips, and had my dinner. The only thing I would mention is that if you want it to be a thinner soup, you may need to add a substantial amount of additional water to the recipe- not that it was bad. It was actually great to dip the tortilla chips in, and the following night, my sister, her boyfriend, and my mom were over for dinner, and I served it to them as a dip.

All in all a pretty good recipe (with a few additions on my part, of course). And even though we did add in a few extra ingredients, turkey sausage has only about 1/4 of the fat in traditional pork sausage, and using just a sprinkling of shredded, low-fat cheese adds tons of flavor without doing too much damage. According to the book, the basic recipe (without the turkey sausage, corn, Mrs. Dash, barbeque sauce, and shredded cheese) has the following nutrition information:
Per serving: 374 calories, 4.5g total fat (0.7g saturated), 0mg cholesterol, 24g dietary fiber, 65g carbohydrate, 21g protein, 689mg sodium. Good source of: fiber, folate, magnesium, potassium, and thiamin.

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