Food and Weight: An Ongoing Journey

Make-Do Cooking

Posted on: December 5, 2012

I do a lot of make-do cooking these days.  Make-do cooking is using what I have at hand to make something that I can eat, while staying on program.

Yesterday’s make-do project was soup.  Soup is a great thing for make-do cooking, because it’s pretty much infinitely adaptable.

Deb’s Make-Do 16 Bean Soup

(13 servings, @ 4 Points Plus per 1 cup serving, as written)


  • 1 bag Goya 16 bean soup mix
  • 1/4 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/4 cup wheat berries
  • 1/4 cup rye berries
  • leftover meat from 3 drumsticks (5.6 oz)
  • 1/2 cup Cousin Ira’s salsa (or any other salsa you might have around)
  • 1 can chicken broth
  • 6 cups water
  • salt, pepper, garlic, turmeric,  & thyme to taste


  • Prepare the beans for cooking according to the package (I boil them, drain, soak overnight, boil again, and drain) until beans are tender
  • Shred the chicken, removing the bones
  • Put all the ingredients into a large pot
  • Bring to a boil, then simmer for at least two hours
  • Portion into one-cup containers, so that you can freeze some and fridge the rest.
  • Optional:  When you reheat, you can add veggies to the individual portions according to taste or allergies

For example,  when I had some for lunch today, I bulked it up by adding some leftover butternut squash (about 1/2 cup) and some sliced up baby bella mushrooms (about a cup) before heating.

I noted in an earlier entry that I was planning to experiment with grains.  My friend J told me what she does for breakfast:  She puts about 1/4 cup of grain and 1 cup of water (and a pinch of salt) into her small low cooker before going to bed, and let it cook on low overnight.

I couldn’t try it for Monday morning, because I couldn’t eat before the dental surgery, so Monday night, I tried it with pearled barley.  The result was a nice, filling hot breakfast that wasn’t oatmeal or Wheatena, but still had an excellent, nutty taste.  I added a splash of non-fat half and half, although it didn’t really need anything.  It definitely kept me until lunchtime, too.  Tuesday night, I tried it with 1/4 cup farro and 1-1/2 cups water.  Had it this morning, with 1/4 cup of the leftover cranberries from Thanksgiving, and it was delicious, with the cranberries giving it a nice zing!  Points Plus values for these were:

  • Barley with non-fat half & half:  4 Points Plus (Remember, I only used a splash of the half & half — less than 1/8 teaspoon)
  • Farro with Cranberries:  4 Points Plus

I will be experimenting further with other grain for breakfast and as components of other dishes, but — so far — I am pleased.

So my question for you today is:  What are your make-do dishes?  What are your favorite foods to experiment with? What staples do you have, so that you can experiment with various dishes?



4 Responses to "Make-Do Cooking"

Glad you liked the barley. I’m switching to the oatmeal after an extended barley kick, but they’re all delicious. Have fun playing with the grains!

Trying kasha in the morning. And you might want to try adding grain to soup — today, I took the soup with grains and bulked it up for lunch by adding sliced mushrooms and chunk of butternut squash! Quite filling and hearty. If I have any of the soup left the next time you come over, we can play with adding veggies.

I never heard of farro. Is it a single grain or a blend, like muesli or granola? Soup is my winter make-do, salad is my summer one. I make my own stock to avoid extra sodium. I save giblets, bones and trimmings from washed cooking veggies in the freezer. When there’s enough, I fill the crock pot & cover them with water + several tbs of vinegar (I prefer cider) to leach calcium out of the bones. I cook that all day, strain out the solids, which I discard, & chill the liquid to solidify the fat on top to discard that, too.

Farro is a single-grain (emmer), although people often use the term to cover a number of different grains. According to’s article on Italian foods:

“Grano Farro has a long and glorious history: it is the original grain from which all others derive, and fed the Mediterranean and Near Eastern populations for thousands of years; somewhat more recently it was the standard ration of the Roman Legions that expanded throughout the Western World. Ground into a paste and cooked, it was also the primary ingredient in puls, the polenta eaten for centuries by the Roman poor.”

I quite enjoyed the taste when I tried it, and the consistency. According to an excellent article in the New York Times (“Farro, Italy’s Rustic Staple: The Little Grain That Could,” By Suzanne Hamlin, published: June 11, 1997):

“Because farro contains a starch similar to that found in Arborio rice, it behaves much like risotto, releasing a creamy, binding liquid when cooked. But unlike risotto, farro doesn’t become gummy; instead, it retains its tender, distinct bite, even if it sits awhile after cooking.”

I’m clearly going to have to try that, since I love risotto.

I get mine from the bulk bin at the local food co-op, where it is much less expensive than the fancy packaged farro at the health food store.

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