by Denise Albert, Registered Dietitian
While living in the south has lessened my accent a little, I still hear, “Where are you from?” Well, I’m from Iowa, and this time of year I can say I’m proud to be living in the south for so many reasons, especially reasons that have to do with the kitchen.
Up there, we had to plan ahead for our fresh veggies. Grow them and preserve them for winter use. When I first moved to Little Rock eight years ago, 40 degrees felt like an early spring day. Arkansas is perfect for year-round vegetable gardening. Seriously, many plants will grow in winter because, while it might feel “freezing” to us, it’s still warm and cozy in the ground.
Children love to dig in the dirt year-round and being outside can increase their sense of wellbeing. According to Harvard researchers, getting outdoors and in the sunshine increases Vitamin D production which is essential for many body processes such has bone development and increased immune system. Harvard also notes that children who who get outside have better cognitive function and this can aide symptoms of ADHD.
One of the best ways to use garden fresh produce, and leftovers for that matter, on a cold wintery day is to make a big pot of vegetable soup. The smells of a wonderful soup cooking on the stove are memory makers, so involve the whole family in the prep process.
Herb Vegetable Soup
My Herb Vegetable Soup is one of my family's favorites.
32 oz or 1 carton of organic or homemade chicken stock
1 medium onion finely chopped
1 large bay leaf
2 whole sprigs of fresh thyme
1 heaping tablespoon garlic
1 cup diced carrots
1 bundle dino kale, cleaned and chopped, stalks and all
2 cans Cannellini beans, no need to drain
Olive oil (or oil of your choice)
Water (filtered preferred)
NOTE: Vegetable Soups are the most delicious way to use leftovers in the refrigerator so take a look at what you have when picking out veggies for this recipe, for example, leftover spinach could substitute for the kale.
Start with a nice soup pot or Dutch Oven and add 1 tablespoon olive oil. On high heat, add chopped onion, carrot, and garlic. Sautéed until onion is translucent and carrots are slightly soft. Reduce heat to medium.
Add 32 oz of stock and 2 cups filtered water. Add in fresh thyme.
Next, add bay leaf and Cannellini beans noting that the starchy liquid in the beans will add a nice thickener to the stock.
Cook on medium heat for 30 minutes. This is the kind of soup that can linger on the stove until everyone is home to enjoy, just turn the heat to a low.
About 30 minutes before serving, add the chopped kale until a soft texture. This will ensure that the leafy greens are not over cooked and it should keep a nice bright green color.
Served with a nice toasted bread and you have the perfect way to warm everyone up on a cold day.