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Warming Winter Vegetable Soup

December 30, 2008

Warming Winter Vegetable Soup

I know I’m not the only person who starts thinking about vegetables this time of year. Preferably NOT cooked in heavy cream. With salads. Yes, the after-holiday desire to diet is almost a Pavlovian instinct in us crazy humans. And I have to admit, for me, the butter-cream-cheese-heavy meals have not just been a holiday indulgence. Alas for my waistline.

But I don’t believe in diets. Drastically cutting calories in an attempt to lose 10 pounds in a month is just plain unhealthy, and everyone knows that deprivation only increases cravings and decreases willpower. So what’s a girl with a heavy cream addiction to do?

I’m sure it will come to no surprise to most of you that I think about food A LOT. And I read about food a lot. I read about food history and food production and I read a lot about health and food, and I have to conclude that I can be a bit of a hypocrite. I espouse a diet that, well, I don’t really adhere to myself, what with the aforementioned heavy cream addiction.

Most of my ideas about how to eat healthily come from Mr. Michael Pollan (shocker), whose article Unhappy Meals was a major eye opener for me. The opening line runs through my head often: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” Such simple directions for eating well, and yet sometimes so hard to follow. Our bodies did not evolve to eat a lot of meat, and they certainly didn’t evolve to eat Doritos and french fries. So when I talk about eating well, I talk about staying away from processed foods, limiting intake of meats and animal products, and being conscious of how much and how often we eat. And then I go make myself a big pot of macaroni and cheese. Oh, it’s a vicious circle.

Well, it’s New Years resolution time, again, and while I’m not generally very good at keeping those things (who is?), I think this year it might behoove me to try to be less of a hypocrite about all my “how to eat healthy” declarations. I know I will never be able to forsake the heavy cream completely, and why would I even want to? As I said before, deprivation is a fast track to badness, my friends. And I have no desire to become a vegetarian, much less a vegan. I like sausage. A lot. But there is something to be said for eating like a vegetarian, and even like a vegan, some of the time. And there is A LOT to be said for this soup.

I started dreaming of a big pot of vegetable soup over the weekend, when I was recovering from Christmas dinner and Domino’s pizza. Something I could make to eat for lunch all week, something warm and healthy. And boy howdy does this soup fit the bill. I threw it together without a recipe, with ingredients I’d never used before, and I could not be more pleased with how it turned out. Hearty, but not heavy, with just a little bit of spice to warm you up inside when it’s 32 degrees outside (or whatever feels cold to you where you are). And chock full of seasonal vegetables! Ok, the green pepper isn’t really seasonal, but it adds great flavor, so I couldn’t leave it out. This is great New Years resolution soup.

I used whatever aromatics I had on hand, which meant just a tiny scrap of red onion, a shallot, and a few green-in-the-center garlic cloves. I’m sure you could change that up to use whatever you have on hand.

Warming Winter Vegetable Soup

  • 1 T. canola oil (or olive oil)
  • about 1/2 c. chopped red onion
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 2 or 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3 small stalks of celery, sliced
  • 3 small carrots, sliced
  • 1 large green pepper, chopped into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 medium turnip, cubed
  • 1 heaping tsp. harissa (you might be able to find harissa in the ethnic food section of your supermarket. If not, you can order it online from iGourmet or um, Amazon, or you can easily find recipes online to make your own)
  • heaping 1/2 tsp. coriander
  • scant 1/2 tsp. turmeric
  • 1 14-ounce can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 32-ounce container of vegetable stock
  • salt to taste

Heat the oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion, shallots, and garlic, and cook for about 30 seconds or so.

Red onion

Add the celery and cook, stirring, for another 30 seconds or so.


Add the carrots and cook, stirring, for about a minute.


Add the green onion and cook for another minute or so.

Green pepper

Add the turnips, stir everything together, and cook for another minute.

Cubed turnips

Add the harissa, coriander, turmeric, and perhaps a bit of salt, and stir so the spices coat everything well. Then add the chickpeas and the stock, and stir again. Cover the pot and bring to a boil, then lower and cook for at least 30 minutes.

Soup on the stove

I like my soup to be more chunky than broth-y, and the broth does reduce a little bit in this recipe, so if you like more broth, go ahead and add more. You want to cook the soup at least until the turnips are soft, but it can’t hurt to cook it a little longer. This recipe made about 5 servings, enough for lunch for a week. Perfect.

Warming Winter Vegetable Soup

If you are, like me, thinking about more vegetables and healthier eating in 2009, this soup is not a bad place to start. And if I manage to tame my heavy cream addiction a little bit, you’ll be seeing more vegetables here on this blog, too. My new motto: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

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