Slow Down, Relax, Start Fresh

After the glitz and rush of the holidays, I welcome the simple, quiet pace of January.

New Year’s resolutions aside, I regard these first weeks of the New Year as a gift – a time to slow down, relax, and then make a fresh, healthy start.

Surrounding myself with a restful atmosphere helps me make the most of these quiet days. In the living room and den, early nightfall is dispelled by the soft glow of candlelight and tiny white lights woven into greenery atop my china cabinet and bookcases. Books and magazines I didn’t have time for during prior busy months are stacked in a convenient spot so I can indulge myself with hours of quiet reading.

On a cold winter day, nothing compares to the satisfaction of stirring a pot of homemade soup as it simmers on the stove, while windows fog from the steam that rises from the pot and tantalizing aromas fill our home.

Mindful that holiday overindulgence was deliciously exciting, but not necessarily the best dietary choice, my goal is to provide you a soup recipe that’s hearty and good for the heart. It has to be incredibly tasty, sourced mainly from pantry and refrigerator staples, and easy to prepare.

My vegetarian Winter White Bean Soup meets every criterion. Canned beans and prepared vegetable broth ensure this delicious soup is ready whenever you crave a steaming bowl to chase away winter’s chill. It’s so satisfying and flavorful, you’ll want to go back for seconds.


Winter White Bean Soup

Ingredients:

• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• 2 cups carrots, rinsed, peeled, and sliced to ¼-inch thickness
• 1 ½ cups sweet onion, chopped
• 1 ½ cups celery, rinsed and sliced to ¼-inch thickness
• 3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped finely
• 4 cups prepared vegetable broth
• 2 cups water
• 2 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves and stems
• 1 bay leaf
• Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
• 2 15-ounce cans cannellini or Great Northern beans, rinsed and drained
• 1 bunch fresh spinach, rinsed and dried

Heat a soup pot over medium heat, add oil, and swirl to coat the bottom. Add carrots, onion, and celery, and sauté 10 minutes or until the vegetables begin to soften. Stir in garlic and sauté one minute more.

Add vegetable broth, water, thyme, bay leaf and black pepper, stir, cover the pot, and raise the heat to high. When it comes to a boil, reduce heat and simmer gently one hour, or until vegetables are knife-tender. Stir in beans and heat until cooked through.

Place a small handful of fresh spinach in the bottom of each bowl, ladle in hot soup, and serve.

Cook’s Note: For richer flavor, simmer the soup (minus the beans) for several hours, stirring occasionally. Shortly before serving, add beans, and heat until they are cooked.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings