Friday, April 25, 2014

No Soda and Other Stuff...

So this past Monday, I gave up all least while I'm withdrawing. I make no promises that when my monthly aunt visit comes around, that I will not break down and have a real coca cola, but I need to get off of as much sugar as I can... and all the artificial stuff if possible. I feel like the little engine that could: " I think I can, I think I can..." Let me say after 5 days, I know I can!   Here's how the week progressed for me soda free.

Day 1:   No soda (no coca cola or diet soda of any kind)...I have drunk more water today than I've had in a long time. It’s evening now and I was pretty busy today so I didn't miss it too much during the daytime hours. Now, however, its wind down from the day time, and while I’m not “jonesing” for a diet soda, I am missing it a little bit. I also have a slight headache. Today I have only had water and unsweetened iced tea with lemon and lime. I almost got some sugar free hard candies, but then realized those were sweetened with artificial sweeteners as well so I decided against it.
I’m mostly concerned about artificial sweeteners because they are not real food, and I hear they play heck with your insulin levels. As someone who worries about diabetes, getting off the stuff just makes sense. I also am concerned about tummy bloating which is also said to be a byproduct of artificial sweeteners. I don’t know that they make me crave more sweet stuff, but they do make me crave more soda. I read an article about the sodium in soda causing you to retain water as well. I have never thought of that before, but I can totally see that. This is hard.
Day 2 and 3:  Oh my lord, my head hurts! still staying strong though. really missing the soda flavor.
Day 4:   Went through  Mickey D's to get husband a coffee,  and I did not get a coke or diet coke. I thought about it briefly, but did not do it. Not having the sugary sweetening taste in my mouth feels good. Still have a slight headache although it's better.
Day 5:  Keeping a Vitamin Water 0 in the fridge to take sips of periodically as a “helper” (Thanks for the tip Jennie Mulhall). One of them lasts me several days. I don’t drink them all at once because they still taste sweet to me, and even if Stevia is the sweetener, I want to avoid all if possible.Only a slight headache today...wanting a soda less. I am feeling cleaner. Not sure how to explain that.
Stay tuned for more about kicking the soda habit.

On Maple Syrup:  The big Costco Maple Syrup is by far the best syrup value I have found. Between the kids using it for breakfast and me cooking with it, maple syrup doesn't seem to last too long in our house. One thing you have noticed if you use maple syrup is that the openings are large. In our house this causes waste when the kids use too much because they forget how fast it comes out. To solve this, I have started using a Wilton cake decorating bottle (really cheap at Michael's) to control the flow. So far, this is working perfectly. I can't believe I didn't think of it sooner.

On homemade, no bake granola bars:  I made some very delicious granola bars this week. The flavor was great, and they looked yummy too. The only problem is that they didn't hold together very well. I'm not sure if I need to press them down more or if I need to adjust my ingredients. I'm going to try them again next week and once they are perfected, I'll post the stay tuned. 

Have a wonderful weekend everyone!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Almost Emeril's Split Pea Soup

I found a basic recipe for Emeril's Split Pea Soup that I wanted to try Here is the original recipe.  I,  of course, decided to change it up just a bit by omitting the salt,adding diced carrots and ham, and using a lot less oil. I also kept some texture to my soup and did not puree it all the way like Emeril did. I don't care for pureed soups. Instead, I need more texture. I also used less onion and garlic.

Almost Emeril's Split Pea Soup

1 cup diced onion 
Spritz of olive oil (I use a misto)
A few generous pepper shakes of black pepper
3/4 c diced carrot
1 good shake crushed red pepper
3/4 Tbsp minced garlic
1 bay leaf 
1 1/4 pounds dried spit peas*
8 c low sodium chicken broth 
A leftover hunk of ham
1 c skim milk

Rinse and drain peas. Pick through them to weed out any bad ones.
 In a large soup pot over medium-high heat, add the onion carrot, and hunk of ham if using. (I normally wouldn't have thought to use this ingredient, but I still had a little ham frozen from leftovers at Christmas.) Then add a little bit of water to your pot for sweat sauteing. Next, spritz the top of the veggies with an olive oil misto if you have one. (Using the misto is great because it allows me to use only a fine olive oil mist making it easier for me to actually control my oil better. If you don't have one, that's okay, but a misto makes adding the oil so easy.) Season the veggie mixture with black pepper and a little crushed red pepper. Saute for a few minutes. Next add garlic, bay leaf, and split peas. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the broth and bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat to medium and simmer 45 minutes to 1 hour. The peas should be tender and breaking apart.  Let the soup cool slightly, and then add the milk and stir to combine.  Remove bay leaf and ham hunk if using. Put about half of the pea and carrot mixture and some juice in a blender and blend till smooth.  Add the pureed pea mixture back into the pot and stir to combine. Serve hot or cool a little while longer before storing in the fridge.  Serve with crusty bread and a little garnish of salt and hot sauce if desired.

This recipe gets 5 spoons. Both DH and I LOVED it and he said it was the best split peas soup he's ever had.(That's high praise)  Thanks, Emeril, for a basic recipe I could work with to make it more of my own. Check out all of Emeril's recipes because he really does rock!

*I used 1 # of split peas, however, because I didn't plan to puree the entire pot of soup, it didn't seem like I had enough peas to make it thick enough for me. Because I thought it was too thin,  I ended up using about 2 Tbsp of whole wheat pastry flour blended with some of the juice to thicken the soup base, and it worked really well. Next time, I will use 1 1/4 # of split peas for a little more bulk.

I think this soup could be made vegan by using vegetable broth instead of chicken, omitting the ham altogether, and using a nondairy milk substitute.