Such is the Month of December…

A time to eat lightly during these dark days that bring us lots of delicious sweets and treats during the daylight hours. Once Thanksgiving rolls around, I try to eat more rounded meals during the month of December, because exercise isn’t a regular after work activity, people around you are getting colds and I tend to get run down due to the lack of light and sleep, and sugar is to the maximum. This to not in any way say I am above eating a package of homemade cookies–there are just some holiday treats I can’t–and don’t want–to say no to. I won’t say you will never see any sweet holiday recipe this month, stay tuned, there will be plenty! But for lunches and dinners, I try to load up on healthy vegetables and fruits, and create meals based around these.

So this past weekend, in an effort to start the month off right, I decided to make yet another soup (are you tired of soup recipes yet?) for the week’s lunches. In perusing the fridge, I came across some leeks and potatoes in the vegetable bin and thought about a potato leek soup, warm and yummy. But then I found tucked away some sad-looking carrots and some broccoli stems. I’m always ashamed to throw away these away, it seems like such a waste. So I save them and usually do a quick pickle that is tasty and crispy. I defrosted some leftover chicken stock from the freezer and created a delicious yet filling and warm soup full of veggies. You can of course leave out the carrots and broccoli stems and add extra potatoes for a more traditional meal!

Vegetable and Potato Leek Soup
You can definitely omit the milk or cream out if you prefer a dairy-free soup. I would just up the chicken stock to make it a bit more creamy.

2 teaspoons olive oil
2 large leeks, cleaned and sliced
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 carrots, peeled and diced
2 broccoli stems, diced
4 small to medium potatoes
3 cups liquid, either chicken or vegetable broth or water
½ cup milk, cream or additional broth if dairy free
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in a soup pot of Dutch oven. Add leeks and garlic and sauté until soft. Add carrots and broccoli stems, sauté until soft, about 5 minutes. Add potatoes, stir and cook for an additional 5 minutes or so or until soft. Add broth and bring to a boil. Cover, turn to low, and cook until all the vegetables are extra soft. This is the best part, you can virtually forget about this for at least half an hour, no damage will be done by overcooking! With a potato masher, mash the vegetables together, and in batches, place in a blender and puree until smooth and repeat. (*Note: You may need to add a bit more liquid, mine was too thick to blend. I also found once it sat and I took some out to eat, it had thickened. Warming it will make it thinner, and you can always add a little bit of water.) Add milk, or additional broth, stir and add salt and pepper to taste.

Food For Thought
For more than 20 years, every Sunday evening I watch “60 Minutes.” Rarely is there a segment devoted to anything food-related, but I thought I would share a story that was on this week’s show, about “flavorists,” or scientists who create artificial flavors to mimic the real thing. To me, this takes food creation to a whole new level. Interesting and scary all at the same time; a variety of specific raspberry flavors (jammy, sweet, floral) or chicken (crusty fatty chicken anyone?). Michael Pollan is famous for saying “don’t eat anything your great-great-grandmother wouldn’t as food.” I wonder what  my great-grandmother, who was a home cook and lived to be 100, would think about buying flavor in a bottle that you could pick from a bush?

“60 Minutes” November 27, 2012

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