Winter Vegetable Soup

20140127-083909.jpgWhen I was much younger and just beginning to cook for myself, I tried making soup several times and completely failed. My strategy was to dump some vegetables and meat in a pot, add water and cook. The soup was flavorless and often not very attractive. I gave up for a while and relied on canned soups to satisfy my craving for warm, comfort food. There are some decent prepared soups out there, but I don’t think any of them come in a can, and most of them rely on sodium to boost their flavor, making them questionable as a healthy food. It wasn’t until I started making my own chicken stock that I realized much of what I was doing wrong. Rather than layering flavors and preparing vegetables to bring out their best, I was just boiling the life out of everything.

This soup started with Ina Garten’s Winter Minestrone recipe, but I altered it to make use of what I had on hand. It is very easy and although it takes more time than the “dump and stir” method of my past, the time is infinitely worth it. You can change this up yourself to make use of what you have in your refrigerator or pantry. If you froze some pesto from the summer, this is a great time to use it!

This recipe makes quite a lot, so either prepare to freeze some or invite some friends over!

Winter Vegetable Soup (makes about 10-12 servings)

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 ounces pancetta, diced
  • 1 large, yellow onion, peeled and diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 2 cups of diced carrots
  • 2 cups of diced celery
  • 1 cup peeled and diced butternut squash
  • 1 cup peeled and diced sweet potato
  • 2 cups fresh broccoli, chopped into small florets
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 26 ounces of canned or boxed chopped tomatoes
  • 8 cups chicken or beef stock, preferably homemade or low sodium
  • 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
  • 1 (15 ounce) can organic cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup brown rice pasta (I used a spiral pasta)
  • 3 cups fresh baby kale or Swiss chard, stemmed and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon pesto
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a Dutch oven or stock pot. Add the pancetta and cook about 5 minutes or until nicely browned. Stir frequently to keep the pancetta from sticking.
  2. Add the onion, garlic, carrot, celery, squash, sweet potato, broccoli and thyme to the pot. Stir well and cook about 10 minutes or until the vegetables begin to soften.
  3. Add all the remaining ingredients and simmer, covered for 30 minutes. Check seasonings and correct if necessary with salt and pepper.
  4. Uncover, stir well and add more liquid (either stock or water) if the soup is too thick. Simmer uncovered for another 30 minutes.
  5. Remove the rosemary sprigs. Serve immediately with a nice, hearty bread or green salad.
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Chicken, Rice and Acorn Squash Soup

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This soup is total comfort food. Think of it as your favorite sweatshirt in food form–simple, but soothing. It is easy to make, delicious, and is the perfect food for a rainy, fall day. I used the last of our homemade turkey broth from last year’s Thanksgiving feast and wow, that made a huge difference. If you have some homemade stock, it will make a great soup superior. If not, use a good quality chicken or vegetable stock.

Chicken, Rice and Acorn Squash Soup (makes 6 servings)

  • 1 quart homemade chicken, turkey or vegetable sauce
  • 2 tablespoons olive or grapeseed oil
  • 2 acorn squash
  • 1 large, sweet onion, peeled and chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 3-4 cups cooked chicken, chopped
  • 1 cup organic rice
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil.
  2. Wash the acorn squash, cut in half widthwise and remove seeds.
  3. Brush cut sides of squash with 1 tablespoon of the cooking oil, and put squash halves cut side down on the lined baking sheet.
  4. Roast squash for 45 minutes or until squash is soft. Remove from heat and let cool.
  5. In a small sauté pan, heat the remaining olive oil and saute the onion and garlic for 2-3 minutes.
  6. In a large stockpot, add stock, thyme, onion and garlic, and warm over medium heat.
  7. Scoop pulp from the squash halves and add that to the stock. Blend with an immersion blender.
  8. Add rice and chopped chicken, stir and simmer for about 45 minutes.
  9. Correct the seasoning with salt and pepper.
  10. Serve hot with a green salad.

Split Pea Soup with Ham

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If the Snuggie could be duplicated in food form, it would be this soup. Warm, comforting and nourishing, this soup makes the most of some very humble ingredients.

Split Pea Soup with Ham (4-6 servings)

  • 1 pckg. dried, green split peas
  • 1 organic yellow onion, peeled and diced
  • 2 cloves organic garlic, peeled and minced
  • 3 organic carrots, peeled and cut into small, half rounds
  • 6 cups homemade chicken stock or low sodium store bought
  • 1 pasture-raised cured ham steak
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • Kosher salt and ground pepper, to taste
  1. In a stock pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and carrots and cook until onions are soft and translucent, about 3-4 minutes.
  2. Add garlic and cook 1 minute.
  3. Chop ham steak into 1/2″ cubes and add to pot. Stir well and cook 1-2 minutes. Remove about 1/2 of the ham and set aside.
  4. Add chicken stock and split peas. Stir well.
  5. Reduce heat and simmer for one hour or until peas are soft. Check for seasoning and add salt and pepper as needed.
  6. Use an immersion blender (CAUTION: soup is hot!!!) and blend the soup to a creamy consistency.
  7. Add reserved ham to pot and cook on medium/low heat until soup is thick and creamy (another 20-40 minutes).
  8. Serve immediately. Garnish with a dollop of Greek yogurt.
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