White Bean and Ham Soup
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What a perfectly dark and rainy day here in Los Angeles. Perfect for my moodiness, my anxiety to accomplish much in the New Year, and for the bowl of warmth sitting in front of me.

So first of all, Happy New Year! I truly hope anyone reading this enjoyed a happy and healthy 2015. It came, it went, and now it's time to move forward. The first work week of the year seems to be dragging, along the three-foot-deep flooding stream down Laurel Canyon near our home. Dragging toward lofty yet attainable goals, a restructure of commitments and desires.

What is it about a new year that gets everyone up and running a few days a week? What is it other than just, in this year's case, a Thursday come Friday? Even Oprah, the Oprah, is finally joining the Weight Watchers team (granted she also bought 10% of the company) with her tag "if not now, when?"

And I kind of love it.

Heavenly leftovers
Heavenly leftovers

More easily said than done, but to me, we should always feel pushed toward greatness, toward our goals, our dreams. I know it sounds stereotypical (even hokey), but when did I somehow forget to listen to the dreams I have at night, or truly acknowledge the ambitions and wonderment of ideas that come to me regularly? Maybe it was having kids, or listening to other people's opinions before my own, or even a complete fear of success. Of course now, all that matters is this very day. I can worry about tomorrow, tomorrow.

Prettiest Parsley
Prettiest Parsley

Don't get me wrong, I'm a planner. All I do is plan. Plan the family schedule with school and playdates and classes, plan parties, plan what to feed four people at least five times a week, plan our social life, plan our vacations (if we can ever take one), plan how to get my career up and running again.

Plan. Plan. Plan.

I remember in my early twenties all I had to worry about was me and my dog, and getting to work on time. And that was enough. And it was great. I was broke but happy. I was happy but very curious. I was curious but afraid. Afraid, but not too scared to try.

Mirepoix
Mirepoix

So dammit, 2016 is the year of pretending I'm still that 22-year-old, who thought she would be Taylor Swift by now. Of course, at this point, I'd much rather be Sia. Or more suitable, Nigella Lawson. So that's my plan.

What's your plan? Float down Laurel Canyon or run up Runyon Canyon?

A collection of beauty
A collection of beauty

I've been thinking on this post since New Year's day. And like some of you, I'm swearing off bad food and drink, welcoming health and wealth into my circle of energy... committed to it. I must gloat, last night I have never slept better. Maybe that's because after watching episodes 5-7 of the insanely riveting Making a Murderer, I'm feelingblessed to not be Steven Avery.

But that's besides an enormous point.

But seriously, I won't go pointing fingers on how you should embrace your new year. Just sharing my personal goals. And feeling damn lucky with what I do have, not focused on what I don't. Sure, I'm not on a yacht floating in the French West Indies, but I'm not under a cardboard box either.

White Bean and Ham Soup

adapted from Simply Recipes

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb of white beans—Cannellini or Great Northern—about 2 cups
  • 2-3 (I used 2 1/2) quarts of water
  • 2-3 lbs of smoked ham hocks or shanks
  • 2 teaspoons Herbes de Provence - or a nice dash each of dried oregano, parsley, marjoram, thyme, rosemary, and sage
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup of diced onions
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 cup chopped carrots
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • Tabasco sauce
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • Fresh Italian parsley

Directions:

I like to quick soak dried beans if I haven't soaked them overnight. After picking through and rinsing the beans, fill a pot large enough to hold the beans and cover with water. Bring to a boil. Boil for 2 minutes, then remove from heat, cover for about 1 hour. Drain the beans.

Make the ham broth while the beans are soaking. Put the ham shanks or hocks in a separate large pot and cover them with 2 quarts of water (I actually added 2 1/2 quarts of water or 10 cups). Add the Herbes de Provence or other herb mixture. Heat on high until the water comes to a simmer, then lower the heat, partially cover and maintain the simmer for about an hour.

Heat olive oil in a small sauté pan on medium high heat. Add the chopped onions and cook until translucent, about 5 to 6 minutes. Add the minced garlic and cook a minute more. I actually add the carrots and celery in this step as well, and cook all four ingredients together, but you can choose to add the carrots and celery to the broth along with the beans.

Once the ham shanks or hocks have been simmering for an hour, add the drained soaked beans, the onions, garlic, celery and carrots. Cook for another 40 minutes or so, uncovered, until the vegetables are soft and the ham meat easily pulls away from the bone. Remove the ham bones from the soup and pull off any meat and return it to the soup. Discard the bones.

In this case, I actually had tons of extra ham on the bone before making the broth, so I removed it first and chopped into small cubes. I then added that chopped ham when I added the beans and vegetables. Your call... but my version turned out perfectly.

Add several drops of Tabasco. Add pepper to taste. This soup never needs salt!

Serve with a nice large pinch of chopped fresh parsley.

Get up, get ready, and go!
Get up, get ready, and go!