The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish

January 30, 2008

Weekly Recipes: Vegetarian Split Pea Soup and Beet and Cabbage Borscht

I thought I’d start a new weekly recipe post here. I’m realizing that each week when I post my plastic tally, you get to see what foods I consumed that were packaged in plastic, but you don’t get to see all the delicious things I got to have that weren’t. So these posts will focus on the positive aspects of living without plastic and demonstrate that, aside from missing cheese and Haig’s spicy hummus, I’m not really living in deprivation here.

Disclaimer: I’m not a gourmet cook. I’m learning new techniques, but I wasn’t raised on homemade bread or home-canned preserves. I can follow basic recipes and sometimes will simplify them for my own skill level and sanity. In other words, don’t expect Martha Stewart or Crunchy Chicken. Just one person trying to eat basically well while avoiding as much plastic as possible. Here goes.

Last Saturday, I cooked up a big pot of Vegetarian Split Pea Soup based on this recipe. As a kid, I hated the watery, canned split pea soup my mom served us. I now believe my dislike had more to do with the strong smoked ham flavor than the split peas themselves. This (almost) veggie version is thick, hearty, and delicious, and I wish I’d thought to take a picture before we wolfed it all down. Here’s my recipe with notes on plastic:

Recipe 1: Vegetarian (almost) Split Pea Soup

    • 2 cups split peas, rinsed and sorted (purchased from bulk bin at Whole Foods w/ my own bag. Zero packaging.)
    • 1 cup brown rice, uncooked (purchased from bulk bin at Market Hall Produce w/ my own bag. Zero packaging.)
    • 8 ounces spinach, thawed (I did use a box of frozen spinach because it was what we had available. Not sure what the paper around the box is coated with.)


      Produce: (All purchased “naked” without packaging)


    • 2 celery ribs, sliced
    • 1 onion, diced
    • 2 carrots, sliced


  • 4 cups beef broth (This is why I changed the recipe name to “almost” vegetarian. I’m using up a glass jar of “Better Than Bouillon” broth concentrate at the moment. When it’s gone, I’ll probably switch to bulk broth mix. Not enough of a cook to make my own broth at this point.)
  • 4 cups water
  • salt and pepper, to taste (Cardboard box of salt. Bulk pepper corns from Whole Foods bulk jars.)

Place in a large stock pot and cook about an hour until the split peas are all cooked down.

Plastic: None that will go in my weekly tally. Only the small amount under the metal lid on the broth concentrate jar and whatever coats the paper wrapping on the frozen spinach box. This recipe could have been completely plastic-free using fresh spinach (which not everyone can get locally this time of year) and bulk broth mix.

The next recipe was inspired by a 22-year old jar of beets that my co-worker Jo Anne gave me. They were canned by her grandmother in September of 1985 and had been on Jo Anne’s shelf for years since she doesn’t like beets. They’ve been on my own shelf for at least a year, skeptical as I was that 22-year old beets would still be good. This week, cleaning out cupboards, Michael and I finally decided to open them, and what do you know? They smelled and tasted fine. So last night I cooked up a batch of beet and cabbage borscht, based on this recipe from It was delish.


      Produce: (All except beets purchased “naked” without packaging)

    • 1 onion, chopped
    • 1 garlic clove, minced
    • 2 cups chopped cabbage (about 1/2 pound)
    • a 6-ounce boiling potato, peeled and grated course


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil (glass bottle with metal lid)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin (purchased from bulk jar at Whole Foods w/ my own bag. Zero packaging.)
  • 2 cups beef broth (glass jar of “Better Than Bouillon” broth concentrate w/ metal lid. See above.)
  • a 16-ounce jar whole beets, drained, reserving the liquid, and shredded (glass mason jar w/ metal lid)
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar, or to taste (glass jar with metal cap)

In a large saucepan cook the onion in the oil over moderately low heat, stirring, until it is softened, add the garlic, the cumin, the cabbage, and the potato, and cook the mixture, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the broth, 1/2 cup water, the beets with the reserved liquid, the vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste, bring the liquid to a boil, and simmer the soup, covered partially, for 25 minutes.

We ate the soup last night with a couple of hard-boiled eggs (cardboard egg carton) for protein. I’ll finish it up for lunch today.

Plastic: Nothing to add to my tally this week. Only the small amounts of plastic coating under the metal lids of the bottles and jars, including the mason jar containing the beets.

I realize not everyone likes split peas or beets. Hopefully next week I’ll try some recipes with wider appeal. (That won’t happen tonight, as I’m currently looking up ways to combine turnips and leftover wasabi.)

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Radical Garbage Man

Thanks for the recipe links! I love both beets and peas, so these are great. I’m actually planning on making a navy bean soup from some dried beans I’ve been soaking. To second Crunchy Chicken — broth is not hard. Literally, you just boil bones in a pot until it tastes like broth. That’s it. No recipe. No magic. No skill. I always throw in at least one onion and/or some garlic for flavor. Another favorite method of mine (in the summer when the farmer’s market is causing me to buy more veggies than I can reasonably consume) is to… Read more »

Beth Terry

Actually, I don’t have a stomach of steel, and a strong constitution was not required. The beets were perfectly fine tasting and our stomachs are fine the day after. The seal on the mason jar was very, very strong. We had to run the jar under hot water and pry off the ring with a knife. It gave that nice vaccuum sucking sound as we popped the seal. Not even a metalic taste from the lid, as you would get from something that had been in a metal can for that many years. I was impressed.

Crunchy Chicken

One day, grasshopper, you too will be boiling your own chicken and turkey carcasses to make stock.

It’s actually super easy – I just tried it for the first time after Thanksgiving and I’m glad I did.

But all in due time…

I hated the smokey ham “flavoring” in canned soup as a kid too.

I’m impressed that you survived the 22-year-old beets. You must have a strong constitution.


Amazing! We were planning to make split pea soup this weekend…so we will give your recipe a try.

Another great source for soups…an inexpensive little cookbook…”Soups and Stews” a Better Homes and Gardens Cooking for Today book. We’ve never fixed a recipe from it we didn’t enjoy. An I guarantee there is no plastic in any of them! : )


I love beets! I’ve been in search of a borscht recipe like my grandma’s for years – I’ll give this one a try.

(I don’t like tomatos in borscht and most recipes use them. Plus, I also have a jar of beef bouillion to use up – when my parents sold their house my mom gave me a bunch of stuff from her pantry that we don’t normally eat.)

Thank you!


I love the idea of recipes. I am soaking anastazi beans today with some really brown rice. Have a great day!


Cool! I made borscht last week, too! I’ve never made it before either but it was yummy. I’m so curious about those old beets. How did they taste!? So neat. I’ll tell you, those canned beets saved you a lot of time. It took me almost 3hrs to make my borscht with fresh beets. I also used red wine vinegar in mine but when I asked my friend from Russia if her mother used vinegar she said no. Interesting. I sort of felt like vinegar really gave it that final bit of flavor it was missing.

har mar

this makes me happy. if you need any recipes to try…let me know. yay for veggies.