Archive for March, 2009

Quick and Easy Veggie Soup

This is a quick and easy recipe for veggie soup that is also inexpensive and very healthy. This recipe makes enough to feed a small army or a large family (10 to 12 hefty servings). You can serve it "as-is" or you can add 1/4 cup to 1/3 cup cooked, diced turkey or chicken to the finished bowl.

It takes an hour and 20 minutes to cook, and total preparation time is about 15 to 20 to minutes. You can set a timer and go off and do something else while it is cooking. This is a very delicious soup and is sure to be a hit with family and company.

Veggie Soup Ingredients:

  • 1 lb carrots
  • 1/2 lb celery
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 vegetable bouillon cubes
  • 10 cups water
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • *1 1/2 tsp salt (if using low sodium boillon)

Directions:

Add water to a 1 gallon pot and place on stove and turn up flame to get water boiling. In the meantime, chop the carrots, celery and onion. When the water starts to boil, add the bouillon cubes. The directions for bouillon cubes usually state 1 cube per cup of water but for this recipe we want a little less than half the concentration because the vegetables supply a lot of the flavor.

Allow water to boil until bouillon is completely dissolved. Use a wooden spoon to help break up the bouillon cubes, if necessary. Then add chopped vegetables, salt and pepper.

*Note: Be careful not to use too much salt. The amount of salt depends on whether you are using low sodium or regular bouillon cubes. Regular bouillon cubes are very salty. Taste first before adding any salt. In this example, I am using low sodium bouillon cubes. Adding 1-1/2 tsp of salt in this case will make it slightly under-salted, but not too bland.

Bring the mixture back to a boil, then reduce flame, cover and simmer for about 1 hour and 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve hot. Add cooked, diced chicken or turkey into the bowl to add protein and make more filling.

Shown below is a shot of all the ingredients. Very basic: carrots, celery and onion, bouillon cubes, salt and pepper.

Add water to a pot, then turn on the flame to bring water to a boil. While the water is heating, chop the veggies. I usually start with the celery, then the carrots and finally I chop the onion. Below is a shot of all the chopped vegetables, ready to go. By this time the water is starting to boil…

Add the bouillon cubes to the boiling water. Use a wooden spoon if necessary to help break them up. When the bouillon is completely dissolved, add the chopped veggies, salt and pepper (see note above regarding salt).

Bring the mixture back to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer. Cover and cook for about 1 hour and 20 minutes. You can set a timer and go off and do something else. Stir occasionally. If some of the water is lost during cooking, you can add it back at the end of the cooking time.

Use a soup ladle and serve hot. Optionally, add about 1/4 to 1/3 cup cooked, diced chicken or turkey to the bowl for a more filling meal. Store excess in 2 qt Mason jars in the refrigerator for later.

Avoid Hot Foods in Plastic Containers

Plastic containers should never be washed with hot water or in a dishwasher or used to cook or re-heat food in a microwave oven. Nor should hot food be stored in a plastic container without first allowing time for the hot food to cool down. Plastic food containers have been found to leach the toxic chemical BPA (Bisphenol A) among other harmful chemicals.

An article at the Scientific American website has the following to say about this:

“The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) found traces of BPA in nearly all of the urine samples it collected in 2004 as part of an effort to gauge the prevalence of various chemicals in the human body.”

The article goes on to say that BPA has been linked with “increased breast and prostate cancer occurrences, altered menstrual cycles and diabetes in lab mice.”

The article also states:

“If canned goods or clear plastic bottles are a must, such containers should never be microwaved, used to store heated liquids or foods, or washed in hot water (either by hand or in much hotter dishwashers).”

Plastics give off toxic chemicals whether heated or not. These chemicals will leach out into the contents of the plastic container. Heat only accelerates the process. The Scientific American article also states:

“When the polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins made from the chemical are exposed to hot liquids, BPA leaches out 55 times faster than it does under normal conditions”

Drinking bottled water is very popular nowadays. Try to avoid drinking water from plastic bottles and by all means, never drink from a plastic water bottle that has been sitting in the sun.

Canned Foods

Canned foods should be avoided wherever possible because the lining of the cans nowadays contains a toxic chemical called Bisphenol A (BPA). BPA has been linked to “birth defects of the male and female reproductive systems in over half of 97 cans of name-brand fruit, vegetables, soda, and other commonly eaten canned goods,” states the Environmental Working Group (the EWG). The EWG also states that “BPA is associated with a number of health problems and diseases that are on the rise in the U.S. population, including breast and prostate cancer and infertility.”

This is a big reason for cooking your own food. Always try to buy fresh fruit and vegetables and prepare them yourself on the spot. Fresh cooked foods will be at their peak of nutritional value and is one of the main working principles of my eating plan to lose weight. Sometimes it’s unavoidable, but please, for your own safety and health,  try to avoid canned foods as much as possible.

Diet Soda

Diet soda is not only ineffective for permanent weight loss it can actually make it more difficult for you to lose weight. Diet soda contains artificial sweeteners and other artificial ingredients. The body will only have to cope with artificial ingredients because they are not of natural origin. This will result in a loss of energy and will usually backfire, causing you to consume more diet soda, which results in more reduction of energy, etc., etc. into a dwindling spiral. Anytime the body is forced to cope with unnatural ingredients the resulting loss of energy will cause an increase in appetite. More calories will have to be consumed to beat down hunger.

Diet soda is addictive like sugar. It is not unusual for one to become so addicted to diet soda that it is consumed by the litre every day. As more and more diet soda is consumed, the body will demand more and more calories in an effort to obtain the energy it needs to dispose of the artificial ingredients.

It doesn’t sound like a very good deal, does it?

Ground Beef with Mushrooms and Onions

This is a very simple recipe with a lot of possibilities. It can be prepared fairly quickly and easily (about 10 – 15 minutes). This dish can given a completely different character by using the various seasoning options.

I like the basic garlic and oregano version, but the other two seasoning options are equally good. One of the unusual ways to season this dish is to use toasted onions. Toasted onions used to be available in most stores in the spice section, but lately I haven’t seen them. You will have to find them either at a store that offers imported foods or you will have to obtain them online. You can add them dry after cooking or you can add them during cooking. I prefer to add them during cooking.

The third seasoning option is to use a little toasted sesame oil during cooking. Toasted sesame oil is available at most health food stores.

Ground Beef with Mushrooms and Onions

  • 1 lb Ground beef
  • 10 oz Sliced mushrooms
  • 1 Medium onion
  • Seasoning

Divide the ground beef into 4 parts and make 4 patties. Grill the patties until done. Chop the onion and add to a frying pan. Add the mushrooms to the pan and cook for about 10 minutes over a medium flame. Add seasoning while cooking. Top each patty with a portion of the cooked mushrooms and onions.

Seasoning Options (choose one from the following):

  1. Salt, pepper, garlic powder (or granulated garlic) and oregano
  2. Salt plus toasted onions (chopped/minced)
  3. Salt, pepper and toasted sesame oil

First, divide the pound of ground beef into 4 patties, then grill them.

While the meat is cooking, chop the onion and add the chopped onions to a frying pan. Add the mushrooms to the pan and cook for about 10 minutes or until done. Season the vegetables while they are cooking using one of the seasoning options.

Top each beef patty with the cooked and seasoned vegetables. Serve hot.

How the Stars Stay Slim

Here’s a great post I found by Amy Spencer at Health.com called “How the Stars Get And Stay Slim: Private Chefs Dish Up the Goods“. It illustrates my points about the importance of eating natural foods and cooking to lose weight.

In the article Amy Spencer points out these facts:

  • Stars hire private chefs
  • They buy and cook natural foods

“Stars pay to eat right. And they pay big”, says the writer, who also points out,
“A full-time private celebrity chef earns an annual salary of up to $150,000 plus health benefits; the average rate for such chefs in Los Angeles not on salary is about $350 to $500 per day”

The Importance of Natural Foods for Weight Loss

The writer also quotes Suyai Steinhauer former contestant on “Top Chef” and Bethenny Frankel, a finalist on “The Apprentice: Martha Stewart” in 2005. Suyai Steinhauer states, “The higher famous people are on the food chain, the more they spend on the ingredients they eat.” I have found this to be true with our household food bills, but the average person doesn’t require a star’s salary to eat well. We shop at Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s. It is true that food is generally more expensive at Whole Foods, but if you plan your meals and shop accordingly it is not out of reach for the average person.

In the article Bethenny Frankel points out: “When losing weight can make or break a shot at a role for a client, Frankel steers the star toward a healthy diet rather than a quick-fix fast.” This backs up my point that it is more important to lose weight slowly than quickly. There is always the danger that if you lose weight too fast you stand a greater chance of re-gaining it.

The Importance of Cooking to Lose Weight

My eating plan stresses the importance of cooking. This has always been a missing fact in my earlier attempts to lose weight. In fact, this is one of the secrets to permanent weight loss. In the article, Amy Spencer points out: “Celebrities already have one thing going for them when it comes to making their diets better and healthier: ‘Just having a chef do the cooking makes things seem better tasting than they are,’ Frankel says. ‘At home, I don’t steam greens and make brown rice plates. It wouldn’t taste as good if I made it myself.'”

Well, that might be true for a celebrity, but believe me, your cooking can taste good. Cooking is not difficult and does not have to be time consuming, either.

Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen on Staying Young

I found a good video of Dr. Mehmet Oz and Dr. Michael Roizen on YouTube about staying young. They explain that genes are not as important as what you do personally to slow down the aging process. Emphasis is placed on stress and why it is important to keep stress out of your life. They also tell about some recent discoveries about how the organs of the body regenerate themselves. Due to structures called telomeres on the chromosomes, keeping stress out of your life actually keeps the telomeres healthy which helps regenerate the organs.

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