The Tell Tale Hearty Stew... (Guest Author - 4oz At A Time)

Hello all. I'm super excited to be here and would like to introduce myself: I am a SF Bay Area girl who had a VSG back in March 2015. For the past (almost) four years, my Polar Bear (my personal pet name for my husband) and I have been adjusting our life to bariatric living. This has actually been fun for us as it has renewed our love of cooking. Turns out we both loved cooking back in college, but we really fell out of it as life got in the way. I am sure this has never happened to any of you. Right?

This surgery has caused profound changes to my life, both physical and beyond. The physical changes include 175 pounds lost, my sleep apnea being reduced from level 15 to level 5*, my baseline lung capacity (an outcome from having COPD) increased from 65% without steroids to 92 % with steroids. And the best news of all, my autoimmune disorder has gone into “remission”. Please join me in my happy dance.

My two favorite non-physical changes? The first one is that I love exercise... Now, please say it with me, “WHAT the F**K???” I cannot believe how much I enjoy doing fitness events and being part of the fitness community in general. If I am being honest, I love the women only events the best. So far my favorites have been the Mermaid Triathlon in Capitola, California and the Cinderella Bike Event in Livermore, CA. To date, I have completed 5 triathlons, the NorCal AIDScycle (300 miles over 4 days), two 50+ mile bike events and I am currently training for an Ironman relay in June 2019 in Idaho. I will be doing the Cycling leg. Again, say it with me, “WHAT the F**K???”

The second non-physical change comes down to how I deal with life and my emotions. I suffer from anxiety and I did not realize how much I relied on food to help get me through every anxious situation in my life. And what you need to know – I always have anxiety. Always. Prior to surgery, when times were good and I was anxious, I ate. When I was dealing with an emotionally driven situation, I ate. When times were stressful from work, family, the government, the news, my car (you know... life...), I ate. I have been working with my support network to learn how I can deal with my anxiety without the use of food. This has been an amazing journey. I would love to share some of my tactics. If you are interested in finding out more, check out my blog posts about my life post-op.

I feel so lucky to be on this journey and my goal is to help others who might also be suffering like I was (and continue to).

Now onto the good stuff: The recipe I am sharing with you all today is a modified beef and bean soup recipe that I turned into more of a stew. This is a great meal for the cold winter days, or a dinner that you can make ahead of time if you'd rather be enjoying the family and you do not want to spend longs hours cooking. At my house, we had this for Christmas eve dinner this year. I do this in my slow cooker and any leftovers freeze great (Amelia: meal planning anyone?). When I make it, I use the 2 cup sized Tupperware to separate and store any leftovers in the freezer. A 2 cup portion is the perfect amount to feed Polar Bear and I for one to two meals each.

Slow Cooker Beef and Bean Soup


Servings – 10
Serving size – 1 cup

  • 1 pound lean ground beef (I use 90-10 ground beef)
  • 1 1 oz package taco seasoning mix
  • 1 16 oz can pinto beans, drained, rinsed
  • 1 16 oz can red beans, drained, rinsed
  • 1 15 oz can crushed tomatoes, un-drained
  • 2 4.5 oz cans chopped green chiles
  • 1 cup chunky salsa (heat level of choice)
  • 1½ cups chicken broth**
  • 1½ cups frozen corn
  • ¾ cup diced yellow onion
  • 1 tsp dried minced garlic
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp pepper

  1. In a 10-inch skillet, cook beef over medium-high heat 6 to 8 minutes, breaking the pieces up as your go and stirring occasionally, until thoroughly cooked; drain.
  2. Prep slow cooker by spraying the inside of the ceramic insert with cooking spray (I use a 3 ½ to 4 quart capacity slow cooker). In your cooker, place beef and all remaining ingredients, except toppings.
  3. Cover; cook on Low heat setting 7 to 9 hours or high heat setting for 4 to 6 hours. Garnish each serving with chosen toppings.


Optional Toppings: tortilla chips, sour cream, Cheddar cheese, chopped avocado
  • Amelia: note that any additions or substitutions will obviously change the nutritional values

Because most of the ingredients in this are prepackaged, the sodium will be quite high. When you can, substitute with fresh or low sodium versions.

  1. If you are a vegetarian, omit the beef and substitute vegetable broth for chicken broth.
    1. Amelia: For a texture similar to the original as well as added protein and heft, try adding a meat substitute, diced mushrooms, lentils or any other preferred vegetables, diced. Mushrooms and lentils combined provide a more “meaty” texture and flavor if you so desire. If going for the meat-like flavor, you can also add 1 tsp of low sodium soy sauce and ½ tsp of liquid smoke (or use 1 to 2 tsp of liquid aminos instead.) If you choose to use dried TVP (textured vegetable protein), add during the last hour of cooking. Adding before this time will cause the piece of TVP to become somewhat gooey and less “meaty” in texture.
  2. Substitute black beans, red kidney beans or chick peas for the red beans or pinto beans.
  3. I also add in diced peppers (red, yellow, green and orange) to increase fiber.

**I omit this if I'm going for a “stew-like” texture

I hope you all love it like I do on a nice cold winter day. Plus, it’s a great alternative to the holiday starch. I find that just ½ cup portion of this hearty stew fills me up and keep me full for around 4 hours.


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