Weekend Meal Prep, plus Navy Bean and Potato Soup Recipe

As you may know, I’ve undertaken to eat healthier lately. To this end, since my latest show closed and I’ve found myself with more free time on the weekends, I’ve started prepping food for the week. I’ve found that it’s much easier to eat healthfully if I have easy, delicious, healthy options at hand, rather than having to wake up and spend time prepping a lunch in the morning. Bentos are adorable and delicious, but my patience with spending 20 minutes in the morning wears thin rapidly, particularly in the dead of winter, where we are now.

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Because the aforementioned winter has continued to be cold enough, I find that hot lunches are preferable, and what is more comforting than soup? The past few weeks, I’ve been prepping a big batch of a hearty soup and freezing it in jars. Then, I need only remember to take a jar out of the freezer the night before and pop it into my bag before heading to work.

I’ve also found that breakfasts happen more regularly, and with fewer croissants guiltily acquired from the cafe near the train station, if I prep a little ahead of time. This weekend, I made two berry-yogurt smoothies (I can make another two on my work-from-home day mid-week) and a batch of pumpkin muffins. The muffin will defrost quickly to eat as I get ready, and the smoothie will thaw slowly in my bag as I go to work, making an ideal second breakfast at my desk.

But back to the soup. This navy bean and potato soup was designed particularly to push iron and potassium into my diet, nutrients that I apparently lack, as I’ve discovered by charting some of my intake. Over the last week, I’ve made a concerted effort to increase both and have found a positive effect on my mood and energy levels. Of course, not being out until all hours at tech rehearsals and performances may also help. Whatever the case, the soup is delicious, filling, and relatively cheap to make.

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Navy Bean and Potato Soup
Makes 4 servings

Ingredients:

3 thick strips of bacon, chopped
1 sweet onion, diced
1 tsp garlic powder
1 Tbsp smoked hot paprika
1 can of navy beans, drained
3 cups of chicken broth (I used a long-simmered bone broth)
2 medium red potatoes, diced
1 10-oz package of frozen cut-leaf spinach
salt and pepper to taste

  1. Saute the bacon until the fat starts to render out. Add the onion, and saute until translucent and starting to brown.
  2. Add the spices, beans, and broth. Simmer for 15 minutes or so.
  3. Add the potatoes and simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 15-20 minutes.
  4. Add the spinach and cook through. Season to taste.
  5. To freeze, spoon into 16-oz jars or containers and seal tightly. Chill in the fridge and then freeze.

The Time for Warm Things

Winter is now almost upon us and the weather has started to take note. Unlike some parts of the country, we have not yet seen snow, but the weather has cooled and sharpened. This morning, the wind blew at my scarf and coat while I walked from the train station to work. And I found myself reaching for gloves and a hat to protect my extremities from the cold.

It is the time for warm things. For hot cocoa and shawls, the best friend of those curled up on a sofa for a lazy weekend day. The time for soups and stews and all manner of warm, cooked foods. No more salads, but instead bounteous medleys of roasted, steamed and simmered vegetables.

This weekend, a lovely friend of mine brought a thoughtful and unique gift to the opening performance of a play in which I’m performing. Instead of bringing a bouquet of flowers, she brought bouquet of homemade baguettes! So our dinner was a simple meal of roasted chicken, steamed kale, and fresh, warm baguette with butter.

Sadly, it is also the time of year when I am likely to spend my spare time curled up under a blanket rather than taking excursions through the park near our house. It leads to a somewhat more sedentary lifestyle, particularly with the days as short as they are. But I press on, bundle up, and take bracing walks in the cold. I do enjoy the feeling of cold air on my face, as much as I also enjoy being curled up in the warmth and comfort of home. It is time to haul out my tweeds and woolens, trade gauzy scarves for knit ones. No matter how cold it may be, if my neck, ears, and hands are covered, I’m relatively comfortable.

Boyfriend, it seems, has lost all of his warm hats, so when I am back at home from an excursion, I’ve been spending my time making him a new one, along with some warm gifts for friends. In the summer heat, my crochet is never quite as attractive as when I can cuddle up with a stash of wool in the cold.

Wishing all of my readers a joyous holiday season and lovely winter to come.

Weekend Crafting and Historical Exploration

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I had a lovely, relaxing weekend, this weekend. I started off on Friday evening by having some friends over to play board games and share a nice fall meal. I made my standby butternut squash pasta casserole, along with mini cheesecakes to celebrate a friend who had a birthday last week. It was simple, but delicious and certainly fortified us for an evening of fun games. It also served to soak up some of the cocktails we poured.

And then on Saturday, I went to my aerials class, and then just relaxed. I puttered around in the kitchen with some crafts. I recently ordered all the butters and oils and beeswax I need to make lip balms and lotion bars for holiday gifts, but I receive a small sample of cocoa butter in the order. I also recently bought some babassu oil for soaping, but discovered it could be a lovely balm ingredient as well. So I mixed up a couple of experimental batches. The cocoa butter was just enough to make one tube of lip balm. I mixed it with beeswax and some hazelnut oil to make a chocolate-hazelnut lip balm, although it smells only lightly of cocoa butter.

Then, I mixed up a slightly larger batch of babassu oil, mango butter, and beeswax to try out as both a lip balm and a lotion bar. I poured most out into an empty deodorant container (clean, of course) to use as a body butter, and then also was able to fill five lip balm tubes. The babassu oil melts at just below body temperature so it rolls on smoothly, but soaks in rapidly, so the skin is not left feeling greasy. I used some of it after shaving last evening, and found it left my skin feeling velvety, not oily. Boyfriend especially appreciated it, as when I use a soft balm in a jar, I tend to apply too much and my lovely smooth legs get a little greasy.

From there, I decided to make another batch of soap. This one used tallow, coconut oil, and olive oil to make a lovely, simple bar. I increased my super fat just a tad, as I’ve found my recently-tested first batch to be a touch drying. And I added oatmeal and calendula to the soap batter for an extra skin-soothing touch. They rested in my craft room for a couple days and I unmolded them this morning. My crafting room shelves are certainly filling up with soaps and balms!

I also used Saturday to just rest and relax and make a big batch of butternut squash and sweet potato soup for my lunches this week. The soup comes together quickly, simmers for a while, and blitzes up in the blender with very little effort. And soup and a cheese sandwich will be a nice early-fall lunch.

After such a relaxing Saturday, I went out on Sunday. I went downtown and spent the day at the National Museum of American History, where I browsed their new Innovation wing. There, I learned about all the inventions we take for granted that really changed the world. I was fascinated that they chose to include things like alarm clocks and deodorant along side exhibits about televisions and computers. And they had an entire exhibit about how ready-to-wear clothing changed the way people dressed and how the poor could move upwards in society. A truly neat look at how the early 20th century changed our social structure.

But the day spent on my feet meant I was particularly glad to come home to Boyfriend’s vegetarian chili and a nice hot bath for my Sunday evening beauty ritual!

A Simple, Healthy Meal

This is not perhaps a summery post. This is perhaps a recipe I will revisit when the weather chills a bit and a drizzle of rain greys the sky, rather than the sudden, violent storms of late spring and summer. But for now, it served well as a light supper on a day with a late, hearty lunch. I based it on a cleansing recipe from the blog Deliciously Ella, but made it my own with some simple tweaks.
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Rather than focusing on detox or cleansing, I focused on the vibrant flavors in the fresh veggies. I added a leek to enrich the flavor, as I love the taste of leeks, and I augmented the water with some rich beef broth, despite the fact that this would no longer be considered vegetarian. But you are certainly welcome to keep this soup vegetarian. I imagine it would be delicious if you used the rich leftover liquid from soaking dried wild mushrooms.
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Green Leek Soup
(adapted from here)

1 bunch of broccoli, washed and broken into florets
1 leek, sliced and washed
1/2 bunch of kale, washed and torn
1 can of canellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 handful of parsley, washed
2-1/2 cups of liquid (water, broth, etc.)
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 cup olive oil, plus more for sauteing
2-3 tsp. lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste

Heat some olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the leek and saute until it starts to soften, add the broccoli and a splash of water. Cover and steam for a few minutes, until the broccoli turns bright green and begins to become tender. Add the kale and wilt. Turn off the heat. In a blender, puree the beans, parsley, and 1/3 of the broth. Pour out into a large pot. Then, puree, half the vegetables with 1/3 of the liquid and add to the pot. Finally, puree the remaining vegetables with the remaining liquid, plus the garlic, 1/4 cup olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Add to the pot. Bring to a simmer, taste and adjust seasoning. Turn off the heat and add lemon juice to brighten the flavor. Serves three, with crackers or bread for dipping.