Archive for January, 2010

Ahh, Sunday!  I started the day watching one of my favorite shows: CBS Sunday Morning.  If you watch this show, chances are you love it (per my highly unscientific survey method of talking to other fans). If you don’t know what I am talking about, check it out sometime.

When Bill Geist came on the air, I saw the frozen ice and snow surrounding him and said, “He’s in Minnesota.” I was right. It turns out he was reporting about the feud between Embarrass, Tower, and International Falls over which Minnesota town gets the coldest weather. They all get VERY cold – the official state record is -60 degrees F.!

Believe it or not, some of us Minnesotans wish this weekend would have been a little colder (but not record cold, please!) We are currently having a January thaw, complete with rain and freezing rain. Yesterday as I drove home from a neighboring town my car was pelted with slush balls falling from the sky. The roads were very icy. I would have much preferred colder temperatures and precipitation in the form of soft, lovely snow.

This is a round-about way of saying that this is perfect soup weather! I have vegetables on hand to help me eat healthy in 2010. Putting them together in soup is a delicious way to get a nice variety of flavors.

Today I cooked a Southwestern-style chicken and bean soup. When my husband ate it his eyes lit up and he told me to write it down. I did, and I’m sharing it with you (recipe below). One of the best things about a throw-together soup like that is, other than a few of the basic ingredients, you can put in whatever is on hand. I could have added corn or various other ingredients. But it turned out good just as it was.

In fact, I’m making soup again tonight. We’re having supper on TV trays as we watch the Vikings play (and hopefully beat) the Saints in the playoff game. This time I am adding leeks, tri-colored mini-peppers, and grated cheese to last night’s potato soup for a new take on it.  I’m baking bread, too; using one of the recipes from one of my favorite books Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. Is there such a thing as too much soup? I haven’t reached that point yet! Enjoy!

Southwest Chicken & Bean Soup


2 chicken breasts – cut into about 1” cubes

About 3-4 cups total fresh vegetables: chopped onion,  thinly sliced tri-colored mini-peppers, minced garlic, cut pieces of sugar snap pea pods

2 cans low-sodium chicken broth

1 small can tomato paste

1 can black beans

1 can kidney beans

Dehydrated chopped onion

1-2 packages taco seasoning

½ teaspoon crushed red pepper (hot; season to taste)

Fresh spinach (optional)

Sauté the chicken pieces in olive oil in a large pan for a few minutes, stirring occasionally, until chicken is opaque and nearly cooked through. Add the chopped vegetables and cook a few more minutes, until chicken is thoroughly cooked and vegetables soften. Add the rest of the ingredients and cook for about 15-20 more minutes, stirring occasionally.

Optional: While soup is cooking, wash & shake in a colander to dry: 2-3 handfuls fresh baby spinach. Break up coarsely into soup bowls. Spoon the hot soup mixture into the bowls over the spinach; let it set for a minute, then stir. This cooks the spinach without losing the nutrients. I learned to pour any kind of soup over spinach from a friend of mine who does it all the time.

Garnish soup with grated cheddar cheese. Serve with tortilla chips.

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I read “Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl” many times. I took the story to heart and hoped to someday visit the secret annex where Anne spent two years of her life before she perished in a Nazi concentration camp. A few years ago my wish came true when my husband and I visited the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam. As we stood in line to enter we spoke quietly with others from various countries; our lives had all been touched by Anne’s story.

Do young girls still read this book and feel the connection to her? Do teachers assign it and librarians recommend it? I hope so. Through this book, young people get a sense of what it was like to be persecuted for being Jewish in Europe during World War II.

Another person in the book who made a big impression on me was Miep Gies. She was one of a few people who brought food and sustenance to the group in hiding, choosing to risk their own lives by doing so. Miep was Anne’s friend and lifeline.  A few years ago, I was excited to see that an elderly woman being interviewed on television was Miep Gies, still alive and telling the story of what happened so many years ago.  Miep said she was not a hero, but I respectfully disagree. She helped to show the world what an individual could do; her life influenced young people who read about her actions and her kindness. She was a role model above and beyond the usual meaning of the term.

Sometimes we get reminders that the horrors of World War II are not that far away in time or place. Miep Gies passed away yesterday. Farewell to Anne’s extraordinary friend, a brave woman.


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The holidays are over, and I can feel the results of my indulgences. On New Year’s Eve I put on a favorite pair of slacks and realized the waistband felt snug. **Sigh**

I know what I need to do. First step is to break the sugar addiction. Yes, addiction – a physical and psychological craving for sweets. It doesn’t help that the holiday season is full of cookies! Treats that should be moderate and occasional have become too frequent. If I don’t make a break from too much sugar, the results can be dangerous. Time to bite the bullet, or at least the vegetables and whole grains! I love good food, so this shouldn’t be a hardship, just a change.

Getting back to my water aerobics class at the YMCA is also at the top of my list. I missed a few classes lately when life became too hectic, and boy, do I feel the difference in my body when regular exercise is missing! I love this activity, so I am looking forward to getting back on track.

Three years ago I made some changes in my life that helped me to lose some weight, which I wrote about earlier in this blog. Keeping off the pounds has been a struggle, but I have mostly managed to do it. My success is due to knowing what my motivation is (I never want my knees and feet to hurt again like they did before) and making good food and exercise choices I can live with and not feel deprived. Losing or keeping off weight truly is about thinking healthy. It is a mindset that can be cultivated; it is about feeling satisfied without over-indulgence.

It is time to revisit the action plan to lose weight that I devised a few years ago, and update it with a few tricks I’ve learned along the way. My body and spirit will thank me!

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