Well, the first week of the New Year has come and gone. Chances are, those resolutions of eating healthier are starting to feel less bright and shiny than they did on January 2nd. Hmm? Is your New Year’s cleanse struggling?
I’m not one for dieting. I’m pretty bad with self-restraint, and as a general rule of thumb, I’m not a believer in hard and fast rules. But, I’ll admit, I maybe had one (dozen) too many Christmas cookies this holiday season because my wardrobe has consisted of leggings and flowy tops for a few weeks running now, and my skinny jeans haven’t seen the light of day in who knows how long.
My game plan for Mission Fit-into-Jeans is pretty basic: up my fruit and veggie intake, eat out less, and skimp on the dairy. To help execute this plan, I’ve been scouring the internet for healthy recipes (if you have any favorites, please share!). Some sound like they’re recipes for various preparations of cardboard. Others, however, like this Black Bean Soup I found in Bon Appetit are quite appetizing. I adapted it to items I had in my pantry and created a flavorful Cilantro-Lime Yogurt Crema to garnish it. The result was a hearty, satisfying soup, chock-full of vegetables and not an ounce of guilt.
Incidentally, this soup is also a breeze to make, and cheap to boot. (There, you can give yourself a star for being more fiscally responsible in 2011 as well.) The base of the soup is of course, black beans. You can use canned beans to save time, but dried beans are super cheap, and work well as long as you give yourself time to soak them. I soaked my beans overnight.
Sweet red and green peppers, red onion, and garlic are the aromatics of this soup. Colorful, delicious, and full of vitamins. Simply chop them all up and saute in your soup pot with some olive oil until they begin to caramelize and deepen in flavor. Cumin and chili powder add a smoky heat to the mix.
The beans are then added, along with water and a few bay leaves. Then the whole thing just needs to simmer for an hour and a half or so, until the beans are tender. Half of the soup is removed and placed in a blender (or use an immersion blender if you have one), and then added back into the pot. The pureed beans create a lusciously creamy consistency that makes you forget this is a healthy meal.
And, finally, some lime juice is added to the soup to brighten up all the flavors. A drizzle of crema, made with plain yogurt, cilantro, lime, and a spike of cumin is the finishing touch. The Yogurt Crema is cool and tart, a great contrast to the richness of the beans, and also brings out the lime and cumin notes in the soup.
I served the Black Bean Soup with whole wheat quesadillas stuffed with sautéed spinach, mushrooms, and grilled chicken. Some salsa and more of that yogurt crema made great dipping condiments and distracted me from the fact that my quesadilla was sans cheese.
New Year’s diet crash and burn averted.
Black Bean Soup + Cilantro-Lime Yogurt Adapted from Bon Appetit.
This healthy and hearty Black Bean Soup is perfect for wintry days. Garnish with Cilantro-Lime Yogurt, and perhaps some avocado slices and sprigs of cilantro for a bright finish. This soup is even better the next day, and freezes well.
1 pound dried black beans (approximately 2 cups) 6 cups water 2 bay leaves 1 tablespoon olive oil 2 medium-size red onions, chopped 1 medium-size red bell pepper, chopped 1 medium-size green bell pepper, chopped 4 garlic cloves, minced 4 teaspoons ground cumin 1/2 teaspoon chili powder (add more if you want it spicy) Juice of 1 lime (reserve 1 tablespoon for yogurt topping) 2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1. Soak beans in water overnight. Drain and set aside.
2. Heat olive oil in a large, thick-bottomed pot over medium-high heat until the oil is hot, but not smoking. Add onions and both bell peppers and sauté until beginning to brown, about 15-20 minutes. Add garlic, cumin, chili powder, and salt; stir a few more minutes.
3. Add 6 cups water, beans, and bay leaves. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a low simmer. Cover and let cook for about 1 hour 30 minutes, until beans are tender.
4. Transfer 4 cups of the soup (about half of it) to a blender. Purée until smooth and return to the pot of soup. (You may need to purée the soup in smaller batches — don’t fill the blender more than half way at a time and hold the lid while blending so that it doesn’t splatter up and burn you.) Stir in lime juice, and salt & pepper to taste.
5. Ladle soup into bowls and top with a dollop of Cilantro-Lime Yogurt.
Ingredients: 1/2 cup plain yogurt 2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice Zest of 1 lime ½ teaspoon cumin Dash of salt and pepper
Preparation: Mix together all the ingredients and let chill until soup is ready to serve.