We just finished taping an episode of “Freaky Eaters” in Ohio. Part of the episode filmed in large warehouse-style buildings with no heat.

Worse, I had to remove my coat for the taping, and being from Southern California, this proved pure torture.

A salad just wasn’t going to cut it for lunch.

Even though I didn’t have many cooking supplies, I opted for various versions of “stoup,” or a soup/ stew hybrid. I love it, because you can make a delicious, healthy, easy meal without many cooking supplies.

Even if your cookware consists of an old Farberware set from your college days, you can make “stoup.” Because you’re literally using one – or two, if you want to get all gourmet – pots, prepping, cooking, cleaning up is a breeze.

Stop wasting money on the Whole Foods hot bar and gourmet Chinese. In about the time you’ll spend standing in line during rush hour, you can have a hot, nutritious, affordable meal:

  1. Start with a great base. I use organic lentil and roasted red pepper soup. You might also opt for black bean soup or plain old organic chicken broth as your base.
  2. Add lean protein. Organic chicken or turkey makes a perfect choice. You might also have protein from last night’s Italian restaurant doggie bag to toss in.
  3. Load up on non-starchy veggies. I love mushrooms, peppers, onions, and zucchini.  If you’re feeling incredibly lazy, buy frozen pre-cut veggies and toss them in. I use Trader Joe’s roasted peppers and onions.
  4. Go gourmet. Make your stoup a little fancy with sundried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, or whatever fresh produce your local farmer’s market carries.
  5. Don’t over-carb it. Choose fiber-rich starchy carbs, like lentils or quinoa. Next in line would be legumes. But keep the main stage for those non-starchy veggies.
  6. Spice it up. Herbs and spices kick it up a notch with Italian flair or Mexican sizzle.
  7. Supercharge your stoup. Make it creamy, for instance, with coconut milk. You might also add turmeric, which packs a powerful anti-inflammatory punch and a curry flavor.

You can experiment with endless variations of stoup. In fact, stoup practically invites experimentation. Who knows, you might eventually create a signature recipe that will make you the talk of your cousin’s holiday potluck party!

If you’re not feeling particularly creative, however, here are a few of my favorite versions.

Black Bean Stoup

  • Black Bean Soup as base
  • Add green chilies, onions, peppers, mushrooms and carrots
  • Toss in diced chicken
  • Serve with a little salsa and guacamole on top

Love My Lentils

  • Lentil Soup as base
  • Add diced turkey
  • Chopped onions, celery, zucchini and cauliflower – I like to quickly sauté in olive oil before adding
  • Rosemary and sea salt

Italian Quinoa

  • Cook quinoa in chicken or veggie broth and then add extra broth
  • Add diced chicken
  • Asparagus, baby bellas (buy the Monterey Mushroom brand), red peppers, sun dried tomatoes
  • Italian seasoning

© 2011 JJ Virgin & Associates, Inc. Celebrity Nutrition & Fitness Expert JJ Virgin helps clients lose weight fast by breaking free from food allergies.  She is the bestselling author of Six Weeks to Sleeveless and Sexy, a Huffington Post blogger, creator of the 4X4 Burst Training Workout & co-star of TLC’s Freaky Eaters. Visit her at to take the quiz & find out if Your “Healthy” Habits are Making You Tired, Bloated & Age Faster?