First, I have not been known to eat a lot of veggies.  I made this up last year and fell in love with it.  Second, this freezes extremely well and this makes up a nice sized vat to last awhile.  Third, it’s pretty healthy, and with the new year now here, I know everyone is looking to trim down a little after the holidays.

In early 2015, I lost about 40 pounds in 2.5 months from exercise and eating a mostly vegan type of menu.  Eventually, I went back to some old ways with some life stresses beyond the scope of this – and gained the 40 pounds back over the last 8 months of the year.  I had spent New Years 2015 watching a lot of Netflix documentaries….and if I could, I’d do a “mostly” vegan lifestyle.  Not trying to convert anyone, but I felt amazing on it…but it has problems delivering you B12 as well as some other nutrients.  We weren’t meant to be plant eating only….but we also weren’t meant to be “cavemen” and eat meat only.  There’s balance here somewhere, I have yet to find it…but who doesn’t love a good filet?  A tasty BBQ chicken?

One of the first things I did was get good ingredients.  I found a store near me that sells a ton of organic and bulk ingredients in bins.

 

I was also buying mason jars to store items in for long durations.  I was surprised at how expensive wild rice was!  The place also had a lot of organic veggies and veggie broth to use.

The soup has some essential ingredients, which you can feel free to play with:

  1. Liquid – Organic veggie broth, about 4 cups and 28 oz jar of diced/crushed tomatoes.
  2. Veggies – carrots, celery, green/red/yellow peppers, onions, garlic, lima beans
  3. Grains – brown/wild rice, pearled barley OR lentils
Below you see the variety with diced tomatoes and lentils…I don’t think I used ANY rice in this.  This was one of my first efforts.

 

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Below image is lentils and diced tomatoes again, but note when some brown/wild rice is added.  The broth is more on the yellow-ish scale.

 

 

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Below is crushed tomatoes and pearled barley with more of the brown/wild rice.  I grew up with beef barley soup, and the pearled barley gives me a lot more satisfaction.  The lentils in the soup were really good, but I like the consistency of the pearled barley better.

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Methods:

  1. The wild rice/brown rice – this is still a work in progress for me because my recent readings have wild rice needing more water than brown rice to cook.  I have a rice cooker for this, and putting this on is usually my first step in cooking.  It takes roughly 90 minutes for this to cook, and it’s usually 1 cup of wild rice, 1 cup of brown rice and approximately 2-3 cups of liquid per cup of rice – follow your rice cooker instructions.  This provides some more fiber as well as a ridiculous amount of nutrients with the wild rice.
  2. Main pot – after I start up the rice (T-minus 90 about), I get out my veggie broth and tomato base and add some heat.  I also like to add some fresh Italian parsley at this point, it gives a little bit of a peppery flavor to it.
  3. Lima beans (T minus 60 mins) – this might be a touchy subject for many of you, but I love them!  At the bulk bin, the limas are dried out and white-ish in color.  In order to cook them, I put them in water and soak them overnight.  This releases a lot of stuff which can cause you gas, but it also reduces the cook times.  These have a nickname of “butter beans” and can be really, really tasty when you eat all by themselves.  I have to really keep myself from eating too much of them.  To cook these, it usually takes me about 45 minutes of simmering until they are tender.  The lima beans provide some good fiber and excellent protein.  I’d put this on about an hour before I’m ready to dish out, and at 45 minutes drain…then combine for the last 10 mins in the main pot.  One dry cup of these makes like 3 cooked cups.
  4. Veggies part un – lima beans and rice are cooking, main pot is ready for ingredients.  I’d start with dicing the onions and a green pepper and sauteeing and adding some minced garlic right at the end.  I’d use some olive oil to get the ball rolling.  Take this pan of vegging and dump in the main pot.
  5. Veggies part deux – While the onions/green pepper is cooking in the pan, I’d mince the garlic and chop up my carrots and celery.  Typicall I used baby carrots and halved them, but with my CSA I get a lot of carrots, so I might switch over to them.   I’d add these to the pot around T minus 30…it might happen around the same time the onions/green pepper is done.
  6. Pearled Barley – this isn’t exactly a “health food”, but isn’t exactly terrible either.  I put this on about T minus 30 before I’m ready to serve…it takes roughly 20-25 minutes to cook 1 cup of pearled barley with 3 cups of water in a small pot.  When it absorbs the water,  I add it to the soup…
  7. Around this point (T minus 10), your rice is done, your lima beans are done, and you just put your pearled barley into the main pot.  Drain the limas, add the rice to the main pot.

This is what it will roughly look like…

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Prep note:  One big obstacle I had with cooking was how LONG it would take me.  Would you cook 90 minutes for one meal on a Tuesday night?  Not really.  However, the above gives me 2 weeks worth of lunches, and these are BIG portions.  See below for the “after”….these are two different batches, with slightly different ingredients, so that’s why there’s some differences with appearance.

My two biggest issues I’ve had making this have to do with salt levels and too little amount of liquid.  I add salt to taste at the end simply because I don’t want to over salt it and then scramble for how to dial it down.  I also add salt to the diced onions in cooking.  The liquid issue used to be a function of adding too much rice.  The rice would just absorb the hell out of the water.

With cooking, the prep work for me used to take forever.  Why?  Well, when you watch enough cooking shows or youtube videos, you see them get through prepping veggies in maybe 1/5th the time you or I would.  Some things which can help with this:

  1. Knife skills.  I watched a video on 3 basic types of knife skills which helped me understand what exactly they were doing so fast.  This reduced my prep time considerably.
  2. Knife surface.  My wife 10 years ago had gotten me some cutting boards which were a rough plastic surface for like $1.  While it has served its purpose, I learned this is pretty much best for meats because the plastic is not porous and cleaning it from meat juices is relatively simple.  However….when you do the rocking method of cutting carrots, this is a SLOW surface and you can’t cut that fast at all.  It’s not you, maybe, it’s probably the surface.  The plastic adds friction (technically, coefficient of friction is higher for you physics geeks out there) and adds resistance.  Additionally, over the years it has slightly warped and slides when I try to cut a little faster.  I can’t feed the celery in right because the entire cutting board would move when I fed the veggies….go back and watch your favorite cooking shows again, and you will find all veggie prep is done on a wood surface.  So – I just got a new butcher block….and DAMN things like cutting celery literally takes seconds.  Do yourself a favor and get a decent chef’s knife and wood cutting board.  The butcher block below has to be treated with some sort of oil to keep the surface from drying out and cracking.

 

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