There was a period in my life – a very dark, seldom discussed period, where I avoided eating cheese. After college I used Weight Watchers to lose the beer-and-late-night pizza pounds that I had put on over the past four years and successfully dieted down to my goal weight.
A change I made in my diet included omitting cream based sauce and dressings – no Caesar salads, fettuccine alfredo or full-fat cheese. I got used to the lower-fat varieties of certain types and for sandwiches I leaned heavily on fat-free pre-wrapped slices from the supermarket’s dairy aisle.
I told, you, deep-dark and horrifying.
Once I’d lost weight and begun to introduce cheese back into my diet I realized that the cheese products I’d been eating before may have looked like cheese, tasted like cheese and might have been called cheese, but just between us: it isn’t really cheese.
During my fleeting embargo on all things cheddar, I learned how to order lighter from restaurants – turkey sandwiches with honey mustard or avocado instead of cheese and mayonnaise, pasta with fresh tomato sauce rather than baked, mozzarella-laden portions of baked ziti.
The one cuisine that often tripped me was Mexican, and largely because cheese is such a predominant item on the menu in many Americanized Mexican restaurants.
Yes, there are plenty of authentic Mexican restaurants in the city and throughout the country that use aromatic spices for flavor and plenty of meats and vegetables. However, the typical spots that 22 year old me and my friends could afford touted greasy quesadillas, taco salads with enough calories for one person for an entire day and more manchego cheese-sauce drenched enchiladas you can eat.
When you’re craving something spicy and want to keep things on the
lighter side making Mexican inspired meals at home is one of the
fastest ways that you can get dinner on the table without having to hit
the gym for an extra hour for the next few days weeks months. This took
me all of twenty minutes to throw together, including prep time.
Black & White Bean Soup
1 15 oz can black beans, rinsed
1 15 oz. can white beans, rinsed
1 15 oz can fire-roasted diced tomatoes (with chilies, optional)
3 cups chicken broth (you can use vegetable broth to make this vegetarian)
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 medium red bell pepper, diced
1 medium onion, diced
1 tsp. minced garlic
1 tbsp. chili powder
2 tbsp. cumin
1 tsp. cayenne pepper (optional)
1 ½ – 2 cups frozen yellow corn
1. In a medium saucepan, heat olive oil over medium high heat. Add onion, pepper and garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes, or until fragrant. Season with chili powder, cayenne pepper and cumin; cook for 3-5 minutes.
2. Add beans, tomatoes and broth. Cook over low heat for 20-25 minutes, or until mixture begins to simmer, stirring frequently. About five minutes before removing from heat, add corn and stir to combine.
3. Place about 2/3 of soup in a blender and puree until soup reaches desired consistency. Combine pureed soup with the rest of the batch; serve with crushed tortilla chips and Monterey jack cheese, if desired.
Serves 4-6 (as a main dish)