How did you become the designated chef of your household? I was raised by my stepmother, Donalene Wright, the home economics teacher at our school in Pleasant Hill. She always said her boys would know how to cook in case their wives didn’t, which instilled in me a love of cooking.
Fortunately, my wife, Christina, is also a great cook, and we’re passing those skills on to our kids. I run the kitchen since we recently started a new business, and my wife needs that time to handle office work.
So your business seems to approach fitness in a very comprehensive and accessible way. It all started when my brother asked me to be best man at his wedding. I was 60 pounds overweight, and I literally took it to heart; I wanted to become the best man I could be for my brother, my wife and my children.
At the time, I worked in finance and sat behind a desk all day, and I didn’t feel there was time to go to the gym. So I started combining my past training in yoga, martial arts and strength training into 1-minute exercises that I would do at the top of every hour. Anyone can do it — it just takes commitment and discipline.
Last year, I took part in the Spark Lab KC Business Accelerator Program, and it’s been very gratifying to launch this business and help people meet their fitness goals.
Fitness isn’t just about getting moving, it’s also about the food you eat, too, isn’t it? What I’ve found is when you commit to moving more — no matter how you do it — you start to feel better, have more energy and cultivate discipline, which extends to the foods you eat. Often an emotional component is attached to food, so the key is to slow down and really think about what you’re consuming.
Sometimes, people eat for comfort without being hungry. Sometimes, people are dehydrated, and they just need to drink a glass of water instead of eating something. When hunger does hit you, have whole foods available like fruits, vegetables and nuts. Don’t bring processed foods into your house, and you won’t be tempted to eat junk food.
Do you make this Hoppin’ John Soup through the winter to extend the good luck it’s supposed to bestow when eaten on New Year’s Day? Everyone in my family loves this staple. It’s quick and easy, so even the kids can make it. In the southern United States, eating Hoppin’ John on New Year’s Day is thought to bring a prosperous year filled with luck, because it’s a frugal dish, and the (black-eyed) peas are symbolic of coins. It’s become part of our recipe repertoire.
Because of our busy schedules, I make simple meals, use the slow cooker and with any protein, always make a vegetable and big salad. The most important thing, however, is at the end of a day eating together as a family. Life is about drinking in and reveling in these moments together and being fully aware that every minute is precious. It’s what you do in this moment that matters most.
Mary G. Pepitone is a freelance writer who lives in Leawood. E-mail her at email@example.com to nominate a cook.
Occupation: Developer and co-owner of Minute Movement (MinuteMovement.com)
Family: Wife Christina; children Zak, 17, and Morgan, 13
Special cooking interest: Making mealtime memories
Hoppin’ John Soup
Serves 4 to 6
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, minced
1 pound Kielbasa, cut into 1-inch coin-sized pieces or 2 boiled boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 (15-ounce) cans black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed
1 (15-ounce) can navy beans, drained and rinsed
3 cups cooked brown rice
4 cups unsalted chicken stock
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground thyme
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
In a Dutch oven, warm olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and sauté until translucent. Add Kielbasa or chicken and stir until slightly browned.
Turn heat down to medium and add black-eyed peas, navy beans, the cooked rice (1 cup uncooked brown rice yields 3 cups cooked), and chicken stock to pot. Season with garlic powder, cayenne pepper, thyme, salt and pepper; stir until well combined.
Simmer for at least 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Using a potato masher, break up some of the beans to thicken the soup. Ladle into bowls and serve hot with cornbread.
Per serving, based on 4, with Kielbasa: 733 calories (23 percent from fat), 20 grams total fat (5 grams saturated), 41 milligrams cholesterol, 100 grams carbohydrates, 5 grams protein, 1,707 milligrams sodium, 14 grams dietary fiber.
Per serving, based on 4, with chicken breast: 654 calories (13 percent from fat), 10 grams total fat (2 grams saturated), 66 milligrams cholesterol, 92 grams carbohydrates, 59 grams protein, 962 milligrams sodium, 14 grams dietary fiber.