Thursday, April 16, 2015

Tuscan Vegetable Soup

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Anther vegan recipe on the blog...who am I with this fake detox where I still get to drink wine and eat Girl Guide Cookies?!

This soup is great on its own, but its also great as a base recipe that you can play around with.  So, sure - get trendy and use kale instead of spinach!  Substitute chicken broth for the beef broth if it makes you feel like a free-wheelin' babe!  YOLO it with chickpeas instead of canellini beans!  You can do what you want, and the main idea would be similar and delicious.

Look at the rainbow of beautiful vegetables in mine!



On a completely different topic, it's been a year since I became a runner and I've never really mentioned it on this blog because I guess I was scared it wouldn't stick.  But, it has stuck and I guess I'm a runner now, and here are a few of my thoughts on it.

I was never a runner.  I was the girl in high school that got winded and nauseous and felt like I was going to keel over in Physical Education class when we had to run a lap of the track.  But back then I didn't really have to have any physical activity in my life and could eat whatever the heck I wanted and still be twig-like.  I still think that Nutrition should be a semester-long class taught in today's high schools.  Nowadays, in the words of my childhood orthodontist, Mother Nature's goal is to "turn a pretty girl ugly."  I found out the hard way that if you don't wear your bottom retainer every night your teeth will go crooked again, and also that as it turns out metabolism becoming slower with age is a thing.  And here we are.

It all started for me because the location of my office building in downtown Vancouver is right on the most gorgeous stretch of seawall in North America, and right beside the 2014 Best Park In The World (according to Trip Advisor).  From my office window I can see hundreds of runners every day just running all the time - before work, on their lunch breaks, and as the sun is going down.  Seeing this every day (even on Vancouver's rainiest days) was enough to make me feel like I should be doing something like that too.  After all, it can't get any easier than throwing on your runners (Canadian word for sneakers; I've been told it's not used in other countries?!) and walking a block.  The only problem was that, just like when I was back in high school, I 'could not' run.

So, back in May 2014 I downloaded the '5K Runner' iPhone app by ClearSky Apps.  In 8 weeks it promised to take me from the couch to a 5K race.  I was doubtful, but decided to give it a try.  The app gets you doing a combination of run/walk intervals three times a week, until eventually on the last day of the eighth week, you can magically run for 35 minutes without stopping.  I couldn't believe that it worked, but it did.  From there, I wanted to keep going with their program and so I downloaded their '5K Forever' app, which helped to improve my time with walk/run speed intervals over the next eight weeks.  I was on a roll at that point, so I downloaded the '10K Runner' app, and six weeks later I was able to run for an hour without stopping.  After that I participated in our local 10K Terry Fox Run in September 2014 (with my mom, who is my role model in many things, including running), the 10K Turkey Trot for Thanksgiving 2014 (with my friend Ashley and a horrible head cold), and coming up this weekend I'm participating on my office team in Canada's biggest 10K run, the Vancouver Sun Run.

There were a few things to overcome along the way, namely the following:  the wobbly feeling of my butt always running a few steps behind me (catch up, butt!), the commitment to run three times a week in rain or shine or snow (and when it rains and snows, that promise to myself that I can't break totally sucks), Netflix, the amazing smell of popcorn being sold along the Stanley Park Seawall as I run past and can't eat it, knee issues resulting in multiple trips to the physiotherapist, and an Imposter Syndrome that I've been harbouring since my youth.  But I did it.

Nowadays I trail run with my mom, I run the Vancouver Seawall with friends, and I run on my treadmill at home.  I'm proud (yes, proud!) to say that it's now a very healthy part of my life.  Some wonderful side effects have been a 20 pound weight loss over 12 months, finding strength and feeling good, muscle definition in my legs for the first time in my life, and an amazing feeling of self accomplishment.  I run for these things, but I also run for wine and cheese and pasta and health and vanity and better fitting jeans. But the best side effect of running so far has been the ability to completely silence my mind to almost everything else and just concentrate on the matter at hand - running.  Some people think when they run; for me it's the only time in my life when my head is totally clear, and I have found that I crave that.  There is a wonderful piece from The Oatmeal that totally speaks to me on this topic, with my favourite line being, "I run very fast because I desperately want to stand very still."  It's not about the butt, it's about the brain.  If you are a runner and have some time, click on the link and have a look...it's worth the read.

I recently went back to my high school track, and ran around it 28 times without stopping, just to prove to myself that I could.  The high school version of me would have been impressed.


OK, back to the soup...

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One Year Ago:  Classic Spinach Dip in Bread Bowl
Two Years Ago:  Chicken and Broccoli Casserole in Creamy Curry Sauce
Three Years Ago:  8-Layered Greek Dip

Tuscan Vegetable Soup

Serves: 4

Ingredients
  • 1 (15 to 19-ounce) can canellini beans (white kidney beans), drained and rinsed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 large red onion, diced (about 1 cup)
  • 2 carrots, diced (about 1/2 cup)
  • 2 stalks celery, diced (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1 small zucchini, diced (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme (or use 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried sage leaves (or use 2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage leaves)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 cups low-sodium broth (beef or chicken or vegetable broth is fine)
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 2 cups baby spinach leaves

Directions
In a small bowl, mash 1/2 of the canellini beans with a potato masher, and set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium-high heat.  Add the onion, carrots, celery, zucchini, garlic, thyme, sage, salt, and pepper.  Cook, stirring occasionally until the vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes.

Add the broth and tomatoes with their juice, then bring to a boil over high heat.  Add the beans (whole beans and mashed beans), and the spinach leaves, then cook until the spinach is wilted, about 3 minutes.

Enjoy!

Recipe Source: Tuscan Vegetable Soup Recipe - Food Network

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