Friday, November 30, 2012

Vegetarian Split Pea Soup

As a child, one of my favorite post-holiday traditions was when my mother would make split pea soup with the leftover ham and ham bone.  I loved the smoky, salty flavor that the ham would bring to the soup. Since ham is not something that I often cook for my small family of two, I was afraid I would never get the chance to relive my childhood memories in my own kitchen.  Then I came across a ham-free recipe for “Split Pea Soup with Rosemary” on  The recipe used soy sauce and tomato paste to bring the umami quality to the soup that is traditionally brought by the ham bone.  I added smoked paprika to bring about the smoky flavor that I loved so much in my mother’s soup.  This healthier version of the traditional split pea soup is surprisingly full of flavor, and hearty enough to serve as a winter meal.

Serves 4 

1 1/2 cups green split peas
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 large white onion, chopped
1 cup diced baby carrots
1 large bay leaf
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pinch dried rosemary
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
3 1/2 - 4 cups water
2 cups vegetable stock or broth
1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon salt

Sort and rinse peas; set aside.

Heat Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add olive oil to pot.  Once oil is heated, add onion. Sauté until onions begin to brown slightly.  Add carrots and bay leaf, sauté an additional 3 minutes. Add garlic and rosemary, stir for 30 seconds.  Add tomato paste, stir for an additional 30 seconds.  Add soy sauce; cook until liquid evaporates, scraping pan to loosen browned bits.

Add smoked paprika, pepper, peas, 3 1/2 cups water, vegetable stock, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low.  Simmer 1 hour, stirring often.  Add additional water to thin soup to desired consistency.  Remove bay leaf.  Add additional salt to taste.  

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Exercising with Conviction

At one point during my weight loss journey I felt like I had figured it all out.  I had removed my bad habits and replaced them with healthy ones. I exercised regularly, and was the queen of healthy eating.  My motivation level was high. I loved seeing the steady decline of the numbers on the scale, and enjoyed the compliments others would give me on my weight.   I was confident, perhaps too confident.  

I started to take the weight loss for granted.  Like it was guaranteed.  I continued to eat healthy and exercise, but my efforts became somewhat apathetic.  I, of course, stopped losing weight.

After some much needed self reflection, I found that exercising had become such a habit for me, so automatic, that I was not really putting any effort into it.  I was still attending my step aerobics classes, but I was just going through the motions.  I did not have the same “spring in my step” as I did in the past. I started observing others at the gym, and realized I was not the only one who had become an apathetic exerciser.  

The average person would get on the treadmill, dial in their standard settings, and then watch the news.  It seemed like the majority of people were using their daily exercise as their “space out” time. I think the unfortunate truth is that a lot of us are guilty of putting very little attention into our exercise program.  I know that I personally was putting in about $5 worth of work and expecting $20 in rewards.

When not prompted to do otherwise, our bodies will always travel in the path of least resistance.  It is our job, when exercising, to move away from that path.  When performing a bicep curl one’s arm is naturally not going to want to perform the full range of motion, because it is difficult.  That “difficult” part is the part of the exercise that is working our bodies the most.  What we need to do is to bring awareness to the exercise, and make sure that we are doing the exercise to the fullest extent.

This concept applies to all forms of exercise.  There is a difference between simply doing a jumping jack, and really doing a jumping jack with heart.  Seriously, try it.  Even if you are just on a walk, you can walk with more conviction.

When I brought awareness back into my exercise routine, I not only resumed my weight loss, but I became stronger and more fit overall.  As a side benefit, I found that exercise was actually more enjoyable when I was putting more into it.  Apparently the old cliche is true, you really do “get out as much as you put in”.