Zero Food Waste, Week — I’ve totally lost track! Plus black bean soup.

zero food waste challenge 2015A little surprisingly, given how much else about my life has been out of control the last couple of months (again, mostly in good ways), I’m still on the zero (or rather very little) food waste track. The only things I can remember throwing away recently are half a bundle of mint that I didn’t get around to drying, and two chunks of feta cheese that went bad before I used them. I had some minor victories, too; I opened a can of pureed pumpkin to use for cupcakes a couple of weeks ago, but only needed half of it. I ended up using some of the leftover in lieu of apple butter in a scone recipe I made, and stirred the last of it into this week’s oatmeal — which is the first oatmeal of fall! I’ve been eating cereal or toast or fruit for breakfast all summer. But now that it’s chilly, I’m excited to make oatmeal again, now with the addition of blueberries I picked myself in June and froze.

I think a lot of the zero food waste thing for me has just been mental. I don’t let myself get away with being lazy as much as I used to — when I’d have perfectly good food in the fridge and call for takeout because it was easier than chopping kale. I try to help myself out by prepping ahead of time so I just have to pull something out and reheat, but even if I don’t do that, I mostly just suck it up and chop the kale, or, at worst, I have toast and peanut butter.

However, it’s more fun to not waste food when it’s as good as this soup I made this weekend (see below under the grocery list.) I did some stress-buying in September; I guess the best you can say for it is that instead of going for a $900 designer purse, I spent $80-something on dried beans and about $20 on four different kinds of fancy flour. The upside is that now I get to eat delicious stuff, so there’s that!


This is a little bit of a weird list because I was partly stocked up already, so my shopping didn’t include everything I needed for the week. Also, I’d planned to go to the farmer’s market for kale, apples, and onions, but a volunteer gig ended up superseding that, but the story has a happy ending: I was able to gather kale and onions from a friend’s garden for free instead 🙂

Storage tote, $7.99
Cilantro, $.79
Jalapeno pepper, $.05
24-oz can plum tomatoes, $2.29
Black tea, $3.29
Green tea, $3.29
Apple juice [to use for making apple butter], $3.99
Avocado, $1.00
Sponges, $1.69
Peanut butter, $2.49
Potatoes, $2.99
Garlic, $.25
Total after $5 off coupon: $25.71

Whole Foods
Milk, $2.39
Yogurt, $3.69
Orange [to use making apple butter], $.74
Slice pizza [it was dinnertime!], $3.00
…and something labeled ALL EARTHCRWB for $9.99. What on earth was this? It was only a few days ago; why can’t I remember what I spent $10 on?????? [UPDATE: It was a pound of coffee beans! Whew.]
Total: $19.92

Grand total: $45.63.

Black Bean Soup with Roasted Tomatoes and Garlic
adapted, barely, from the wonderful Heirloom Beans by Steve Sando
Makes six meal-sized servings; I doubled the recipe from the book, which claimed to serve four, but I think that would be as part of a larger meal. Eating soup and only soup for lunch, I found that the double batch worked out to six portions. YMMV.

1 lb black beans, cooked, and their cooking liquid (or substitute 4 15-oz cans of black beans, drained and rinsed, and use more stock)
2-4 cups vegetable or chicken broth (use less if you have the cooking liquid, more if you are using drained canned beans)
2 medium onions, diced
1-2 jalapeno peppers, diced (I used one and found it a pleasant heat, but I’m a wimp; people interested in more spice will want the second one)
1 24-oz can plum tomatoes with their juice
12 cloves garlic, unpeeled
3 tsp cumin seeds, toasted and ground
1/2-1 tsp cayenne pepper (see note above for the jalapeno!)
2 tsp Mexican oregano (or regular oregano)
Garnishes: sour cream or yogurt; cilantro; avocado slices

Warm the beans and their cooking liquid in a big soup pot. Meanwhile, saute onion and jalapeno in olive oil until brown and soft, 8-10 minutes. Then tip them into the bean pot along with the spices and extra broth and simmer.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Pour the tomatoes into a baking dish, sprinkle with salt, and drizzle with olive oil. Lay out a piece of aluminum foil, put the garlic cloves into it, and drizzle with oil. Fold the foil up into a packet. Put both into the oven and roast until brown and soft, about 20-30 minutes. Peel the garlic cloves and chop both garlic and tomatoes roughly; tip into the bean pot along with any remaining tomato juices. Simmer the soup for 15-20 minutes.

At this point, either pour half the soup into a blender, puree, and put it back in, or use an immersion blender to puree to the level of smoothness you desire (I left it fairly chunky.) Serve with sour cream or yogurt, chopped cilantro, and/or avocado slices.

12 thoughts on “Zero Food Waste, Week — I’ve totally lost track! Plus black bean soup.

  1. ARBM says:

    That is great that even with your busy schedule these days you have been able to keep up on the zero food waste. Congrats on that! This bean soup sounds quite delicious… May have to give it a try next time I am home long enough to do some more cooking.

    1. thesingledollar says:

      It’s super good! You should definitely give it a shot. It’s not actually all that much work; you can simmer the beans and roast the tomatoes/garlic while you do other stuff. I’d say the amount of time spent actually working on the soup (chopping, stirring, etc) is less than 30 minutes all together.

  2. Hannah says:

    I love black bean soup, and this one looks amazing! The weather is getting a bit cool this weekend, so I’m baking bread and making this soup (and adding chorizo because the men think that food without meat is not food- sigh).

    1. thesingledollar says:

      Adding chorizo should work great! Just, uh, wait until after the immersion blender step 🙂 One of my favorite things about the change of seasons is getting to break out favorite foods again. I loved cooking with fresh fruit and canning jam all summer, but now that it’s fall I’m all “oatmeal!” “bread!” “soup!” again.

  3. Katelynne says:

    The soup sounds delicious. Ridiculous question: 1lb of dried beans? I always get this mixed up with butter too haha!

    1. thesingledollar says:

      Not ridiculous at all! Yes, 1 lb of dried beans. Enjoy it!

  4. Yum – black bean soup! Soup is one of my favorite cold weather foods – right after warm pie or apple crisp. 🙂

    1. thesingledollar says:

      If I didn’t care about my waistline at all, I could eat apple crisp about three times a day 🙂

  5. I also try to waste as little food as possible, and it makes such a difference! And forces you to be creative when cooking, which is such an important skill to learn!

    1. thesingledollar says:

      Yes, this project is definitely boosting my creativity!

  6. Sorry for the power catch-up on your posts and the flurry of comments. 🙂 That soup looks super yummy! I’m a fan of buying dried chipotle peppers and using them in black bean soup. A quarter or half a pepper will give a whole pot of soup plenty of flavor, so that little bag of chipotles will last a long time. (And they don’t spoil — good for the food waste!)

    And LOL — I’ve definitely had that flour and bean buying experience. 🙂 I eat gluten-free for medical reasons, and when I was first diagnosed, I think I bought every non-wheat flour available. Pretty sure there’s still some old coconut flour and teff flour in the back of my pantry… At least the beans will keep for a long time, though!

    For your apple butter, do you find that you get better flavor adding the apple juice and (I’m assuming) orange juice? I’ve only ever made it from just apples, but would love to know if I can improve upon it.

    Hope you’re doing well! 🙂

    1. thesingledollar says:

      Oh, don’t apologize, I love getting comments whenever 🙂 Good hint on the dried chipotles — that’s an awesome idea and I’ll definitely give it a go.

      I really like baking with different flours, so I think I’ll get through everything, but my pantry is kind of comical at the moment….I should take a picture.

      Apple butter: you’re in luck, I’m experimenting on that very question right now. Answer in about a week and a half, after I make another test batch next weekend. 🙂

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