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Especially now that I have more time and energy to cook, I’ve been working on eating less processed foods and making more stuff from scratch.

Recently I read an article (which I can now no longer locate) about how MSG is often not listed on labels and appears in many surprising and popular foods — even stuff like Campbell’s Soup. This led me to look at the label of a can of Campbell’s tomato soup that I had in my kitchen — turns out they throw some high fructose corn syrup in there for good measure. It’s like nothing is safe from that stuff.

This led me on a mission to learn more about making my own soup. What did I learn? That making soup is as easy as throwing a bunch of fresh junk into some broth. It doesn’t take a genius or a soup scientist.
And while heating up a can of soup only takes a few minutes, making your own doesn’t take that many more. For example, today I made a show-stopping beans ‘n’ greens soup in 20 minutes. Not only was it cheap to make, but I can eat it all week and freeze the other half for later. Even better, I don’t get the MSG or sugar and I can add or leave out any ingredients that I don’t like or don’t happen to have.

In a large soup pot, throw in

  • one cup of chopped onions
  • a half cup of food processed celery (I like the taste of celery but hate the texture, so I food process the hell of out it)
  • four chopped slices of bacon
  • two chopped carrots
  • diced garlic to your liking (I like a lot)

Cook these things for about ten minutes, or until the bacon is cooked through and the onions are see-through. Then add:

  • A 15-ounce can of white beans
  • Six cups of chicken broth
  • A cup of uncooked whole wheat pasta (I like the spirals)
  • Whichever spices your into (rosemary, thyme, and red pepper for me)

Let this stuff simmer for about ten minutes, or until the pasta is al dente. Then turn off the heat and add in about 10 ounces of spinach (or your green of choice) until it wilts and turns bright green.

And for my veggie friends, this one is easy to turn vegan — just ditch the bacon and replace the chicken broth with vegetable broth.

kashi five cheese pizzaAlthough I usually couldn’t care less about labels and brands, when I get obsessed with something, it’s a deep and clinging obsession – one that affects my daily activities and alienates my loved ones. For example, I am a die-hard Apple Computer zombie. I can’t get through a day with out my lame Dannon Light & Fit yogurt fix. I love my cute, comfortable, and affordable dollhouse shoes and my Express Editor cut pants. I will swear on any book published by Farrar Straus & Giroux as if it were the Bible.

And now, over the last few months, I have a new brand in my life, one that is slowly eclipsing all else that I hold dear in my life. Kashi food products.

It started with their granola bars and perhaps a bowl or two of their delicious Cinnamon Harvest cereal. But soon I was doing it all – their frozen lunches, their snack crackers, their oatmeal cookies. A mouth-watering garlic chicken pizza with whole wheat and flax crust that I couldn’t take a bite of without making a mmmmm sound. It is like crack. Organic, hearty crack.

Their advertising is smart, but they really do have fantastic products to back it up. All whole grains, very little sugar (which, you should know is slipped into every processed food you can think of these days), all natural ingredients – and it still doesn’t taste like cardboard. I think whoever is coming up with their recipes has the right idea in that they know the healthy things that taste good: spices, garlic, nuts, dark chocolate, low-fat cheese. After eating their stuff for a while, I found it hard to go back to regular, overly-sweet, overly-processed foods – they just don’t have the substance of whole grains and natural tastes.

And, right now, they’re doing some great promotions to push their expanding line of products. You can go to their website to request a free sample. You can also buy a frozen entree (I recommend the Chicken Florentine — grilled chicken with spinach, sweet red peppers, and baby Portobello mushrooms served over whole grains with orzo pilaf and topped with a garlic white wine sauce and shredded parmesan cheese) and get a coupon for a frozen pizza. They seem to know they can hook you on one bag of crackers or discounted lime cilantro shrimp dish.

Not to mention that it is an easy way to eat healthier foods. I mean, sure, I have friends who slave away at their organic co-ops, all for weirdly-shaped watermelons and scraggly carrots, or friends who take the long ride to the only Trader Joe’s in the city, but I don’t care as much as they do. I mean, I care, but I’m also lazy and mostly thoughtless. It’s like Kashi was invented just for me – I want to be healthy, but I don’t want to go out of my way.

If there is a problem with Kashi, it’s that I might be doing too much of it – eating Kashi alone, chasing my original Kashi high, hiding Kashi around the house. Blogging about Kashi. Even eating a Kashi Peanut Peanut Butter granola bar instead of my Dannon Light & Fit yogurt. Even writing my grocery store a note about stocking their new frozen whole wheat waffles.

I haven’t been this excited about a food since I rediscovered eggs.