I’m starting off this week wearing long pants and a long-sleeved shirt as the temperature starts to reflect the end of Summer and start of Fall.  Last week went by for me in a total whirlwind. I had a great Labor Day weekend visiting my best friend in Durham, NC, where I watched some minor league Durham Bulls baseball, walked around the campuses of Duke and UNC, and ate some amazing food. I was very impressed with the local food in Durham – it seemed that every restaurant I went to specifically named the farms that their meat and produce came from. Awesome! We officially said farewell to summer with a few rounds of sweet tea vodka mixed with lemonade.

I returned to Boston and dove right into my new graduate student life, with classes on Wednesday and Thursday nights. This is in addition to my full-time job. Whoa. I felt extremely overwhelmed right off the bat with the amount of reading and with the length of the classes – 4 hours on Weds. night! Which means I don’t get home until around 10:45 pm. Then I go to sleep, and leave my house at 7:30 am the next day for work. Repeat. Remember that “Back to School” enthusiasm I was feeling a few weeks ago? This is the reality check. I’m feeling daunted but hoping that I will adjust to the new routine. Managing my time and planning ahead for working out and eating healthy meals is going to be much more difficult now, but I’m hoping to find ways to make it work.

I’m starting off this week a little more prepared. I devoted some time on Sunday for planning out some meals, grocery shopping, and doing my cooking in advance. I now have a refrigerator full of salad supplies, healthy high-fiber homemade muffins, and the best secret weapon I have, a giant pot of black bean soup. Why is this soup my secret weapon? It’s cheap – probably costing $5-10 on ingredients; the recipe makes an enormous batch that will feed me and my boyfriend for at least a week and a half; it tastes great; and it’s full of healthy ingredients like the black beans that supply fiber, protein, and antioxidants. Perfect for a hot lunch or dinner on these cooler Fall days. The recipe is below. Do you have any secret weapons for staying healthy while you’re busy? I’d love to hear your input!

 Black Bean Soup

6 cups cooked black beans

2 tbsp olive oil 1 onion, chopped

1-2 red bell peppers, diced

1 jalapeno pepper, diced

2 carrots, peeled and chopped

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp chili powder

1 tsp sea salt

1 14 oz can diced tomatoes

1-2 cups frozen corn

1 tbsp apple cider vinegar (or white vinegar)

Sautee the onion and olive oil in a large soup pot for a few minutes, then add the spices and coat. Add peppers and carrots and sautee a few more minutes. Then add the black beans, about 3 cups of water, the tomatoes with their liquid, and the frozen corn. Simmer for about 25 minutes. Then add the vinegar. Also good with some chopped cilantro!

 – Jean