Recipe: White beans and greens soup

It’s not as if I’m totally rejecting French cuisine. But I have done something in the past three weeks that will likely irk my French chefs. I’ve shifted my diet to about 85% vegetarian and I’ve drop-kicked butter from my diet.

The one-two punch of constant traveling on book tour plus the holidays hit my scales hard. But as of today, I have lost eight pounds since early January. Keeping up with my New Year’s resolution to lose nearly 30 pounds. My body fat percentage is down. My BMI is now 25.9, as opposed to 27.3. As my husband notes, I’m an enthusiastic eater. I love wine. So how can I still have what I want and stay at a healthy weight? 

Key strategies:
– Exercise. I walk at least 10,000 steps a day and work out at the gym six days a week for at least 35 minutes. Weight train one day, cardio the next. A trainer suggested walking briskly on a steep (10 to 12%) incline on the treadmill. Most days I do that until it says that I’ve burned 250 calories, about 25 minutes. My butt physically hurts right now, but hey, no pain, no gain.

– I’m down on “white foods.” Minimal potatoes, white bread, bananas, white pasta and the like. My dairy consumption is down by almost nothing. I’ve replaced almond or coconut milk for cow’s milk and eschew heavy cheese. I still eat cottage cheese and yogurt occasionally, and use sparing amounts of freshly grated Parmesan into dishes.

– We’ve started to eat our biggest meal of the day by no later than 6 p.m. Both Mike and I are night owls, and we routinely ate dinner around 9 p.m., sometimes later. Now, we eat earlier and have a snack at night.

– Less meat, plenty of vegetables and lots of fiber. I eat something with beans almost every day, like this white bean and collard green soup.

White bean and great greens soup
Like most soups, this is a flexible way to use up leftover vegetables. Use kale, collard or other hearty greens. In my recent version, I included green beans from my mom’s garden, but you could use corn, sweet potatoes, zucchini, additional carrots or artichokes. I used canned beans for convenience, but you can obviously include dried beans in their place. To make this properly vegetarian, substitute vegetable stock for chicken.

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 quarts chicken stock
1 quart water
1 can great northern or cannelloni beans, drained, rinsed
2 cups or 1 14 oz. can chopped and seeded tomatoes
1 to 2 cups other vegetables
1 tablespoon dried mixed Italian herbs
1 teaspoon cayenne
1 cup dried whole wheat pasta
2 cups kale or collard greens, roughly chopped
Salt, ground pepper
Grated Parmesan cheese

In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and saute until soft, about three minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Add the chicken stock, water, beans, tomatoes, vegetables, herbs, cayenne and pepper and simmer for about 20 minutes. Add the pasta and greens simmer about 15 minutes, or until the pasta has softened. Add soft and pepper to taste. Ladle into bowls; sprinkle with grated Parmesan and a couple grinds of fresh pepper.

About katflinn

Kathleen Flinn is the author of "The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry," "The Kitchen Counter Cooking School" and "Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good." All are published by Viking/Penguin.

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