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Resolving to eat some Yellow Pea Soup

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It's clear the time for resolutions is here. As I lay on the couch recovering from the stomach flu just a couple of days after Christmas, I saw advertising for Jenny Craig, the South Beach diet and Weight Watchers within minutes of turning on the television. Puffy people carrying extra pounds from holiday indulgences are just the audience they target. For many, new year's resolutions involve health and fitness.

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I've been hearing a lot about GOMBS from my health-conscious friends. Dr. Joel Fuhrman MD, a board-certified family physician, New York Times best-selling author and widely published nutritional researcher, suggests eating plenty of nutrient-rich greens, onions, mushrooms, beans and berries, and seeds (GOMBS). Fuhrman believes these super foods are the most powerful disease-fighting foods on the planet.

In an effort to begin the New Year with a simple focus on GOMBS for good health, I pulled a bag of whole dried yellow peas from my pantry. I purchased the bag more than a year ago when my neighbors returned from their winter in Texas with a new way to lower cholesterol. A nurse friend of theirs from Canada was excited about the fact that popping three whole dried peas a day could help balance cholesterol levels. Of course, I bought a bag. I never did open it, though. My neighbor took the hard peas with her vitamins each morning for months. After a visit to her doctor, she discovered her cholesterol hadn't changed a bit. He told her there is no research that supports this three-peas-a-day method.

Dried peas, like other legumes, are rich in soluble fiber. Soluble fiber forms a gel-like substance in the digestive tract that binds bile (which contains cholesterol) and carries it out of the body. I decided to cook the bag of yellow peas in soup with lots of onions.

Whole peas need to be soaked overnight before cooking, unlike split peas which can be cooked without a soak. With the overnight bath, it still took the peas a couple of hours to split and become tender to the bite.

Once the soup has cooked, it can be thickened by pureeing half of it in a food processor or blender. I prefer some soups to be thick, rich and satisfying. If you like a thinner soup, skip the pureeing process or add more liquid.

Yellow Pea Soup is a great way to get some of the GOMBS. As the New Year begins, I've decided to continue to eat all foods in moderation. I learned many years ago that depriving myself of certain foods to lose weight or stay healthy only brings defeat. I'll say no to processed foods, artificial ingredients and foods that have an ingredient list a mile long. I'll focus on whole, real foods as my daily diet. I definitely prefer quality over quantity in the foods I choose. So although you many think some of my recipes use too much butter to be "healthful," I find that a small serving is very satisfying. Portion control is key when eating for good health.

May your new year be filled with good food and good health, well-balanced portions and plenty of GOMBS.

Yellow Pea Soup

1 pound dried whole yellow peas

6 slices bacon, chopped

2 cups chopped onion

1 cup diced carrots

1/2 cup diced celery

2 cloves garlic

1 dried bay leaf

1/2 teaspoon salt

6 cups vegetable or chicken broth

2 cups water

1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary

1/4 teaspoon dried sage

Black pepper and salt, to taste

Pour peas into a sieve to pick over and rinse thoroughly. Put rinsed peas in a large glass bowl and soak overnight in 5 cups of water or enough to cover the dried peas by about 2 inches.

Drain peas. Fry bacon in a soup pot until crisp. With a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to a paper towel-lined plate. Set aside to use as a garnish for the soup.

Add onions, carrots and celery to hot bacon fat in pot. Sauté until tender. Thread bay leaf onto a toothpick between 2 cloves of garlic. Add to pot with salt, broth and water. Cover and simmer 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until shells of peas split. Discard bay leaf. Put garlic into blender or food processor with half of the soup. Puree and return to pot. Taste for seasoning, adding salt and pepper to preference. Crumble reserved bacon and sprinkle over each serving. Makes 8 servings.

Tips from the cook

--If using split peas rather than whole peas, soaking before cooking is not necessary. The soup will taste the same, but it will be thicker as the split peas break down during cooking. You may not need to puree half of the soup to thicken it.

--If you prefer thinner soup, just add more broth or water.

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