Put Down That Ham: A Rich, Vegetarian Soup Recipe

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To try Regina's recipe for split pea soup with oven-smoked tomatoes, click here.

The new year often begins with those oh so hard to keep promises of the new weight loss plan—this year is not so different. To me the most difficult challenge to being true to those January promises is that the cold weather is calling out to me and begging that I cook hearty soups and stews and asking me to fill my kitchen with the smell of yeast breads. Another aspect of the new year is the cleaning and organizing—it often begins with my freezer, which produced several ham bones with ample meat attached.

I lost the battle, with my conscience telling me "waste not, want not." The stock began, then a quick trip to the store for dried beans and peas, and by early afternoon I had large pots of ham and white beans and the beginning of split pea soup. I had dinner in mind, but I felt I would have nice square containers of the finished product stacked in the now clean, organized, half-empty freezer. With the smell of ham stock permeating my toasty warm home, and as I was feeling "oh so domestic" and had a few visions of "mother of the year" dancing around my head, the smell lured my son Martin into the kitchen. Then he stopped me in my tracks. "You do remember that I don't eat red meat anymore."

In my domestic goddess bliss, I offered it up to my son, only to hear, "Mom, you know I don't like soup."

Oh s—, I forgot his new resolution for 2011. I was not too rattled. I can still please everyone, I still feel the domestic goddess aura around me, and I was not yet defeated.

Earlier in the day, while cleaning and organizing, Janet, my right-hand helper, had quartered the six pounds of Roma tomatoes left from over-purchasing during the holidays. We seasoned them with salt and cracked pepper, drizzled them with liquid smoke, and oven-smoked them on low heat for a couple of hours. It was too cold outside to use the smoker and it was a better fix for the tomatoes then to let them go to waste. Smoked tomatoes are great for pasta sauces, coulis, or a winter salad. They can go into the freezer and be taken out to add flavor to a sauce.

Now I had an idea for how to add flavor to split pea soup without resorting to my favorite ham bone. I knew by the end of this I would have a split pea soup not only flavored by the tomatoes, but what a lovely sight: the tomatoes in the center of this pea-green soup. I made the smoky split pea soup with tomatoes and was content with the finished product. In my domestic goddess bliss, I offered it up to my son, only to hear, "Mom, you know I don't like soup."

I am happy to say I have a broader audience to cook for which keeps me satisfied, although I also have my family to cook for and they keep me humble. I hope you enjoy this simple recipe and that it provides some winter warmth.

Recipe: Regina's Split Pea Soup with Oven-Smoked Tomatoes

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Regina Charboneau is the owner of Twin Oaks Bed & Breakfast in Natchez, Mississippi. She is the author of Regina's Table at Twin Oaks. More

Regina Charboneau is the owner of Twin Oaks Bed & Breakfast in Natchez, Mississippi. She is the author of two cookbooks: A Collection of Seasonal Menus & Recipes from Regina's Kitchen and Regina's Table at Twin Oaks.

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