The Secret to Life is Soup

Soup is the secret to life because it’s simple, hearty, enjoyable, shareable, saveable, warming, nurturing. Nobody ever wrote Chicken Satay for the Soul and nobody ever will. The secret to life is something that is easy to make, something that can be done while you live your actual life, something that can bring people together and then when enjoyed later can bring them right back to that same place.

Soup is particularly great this time of year because it can be a breeze to make for a big crowd, then you save your left overs for when you’re too busy to cook one night (you know, like, every night until January). This soup is one of my favorites that I’ve been making for years because it is SO SO simple, low-cal/fat and stores really well. You could even make big batches, freeze, then thaw as needed.

So make this soup so you can stop standing over the stove, worrying about what you’re making/missing/buying/gifting/planning/doing and just go sit by the fire or the tree or someone you love and share some soup.

Stupid Simple Salsa and Black Bean Soup

black bean soup 1

Ingredients:

  • 1 can of black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup of salsa
  • 1 cup of vegetable or chicken broth
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • salt, pepper and cayenne pepper, to taste
  • Optional toppings: plain Greek yogurt, cilantro, chopped onions, sliced green onions or chives

Method:

  1. Combine the beans, salsa and broth in a blender and pulse until smooth, or put all the ingredients it a stock pot and blend with an immersion blender.
  2. Add the spices to taste and allow soup to warm to a simmer.
  3. Reduce heat and let warm on the stove top for 20-30 minutes to let the flavors combine.
  4. Serve warm with optional toppings.

black bean soup 2

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soul soup

“You don’t have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body.” ~ C. S. Lewis

Soul food is food cooked from the soul, for the soul, or both. Soul food nourishes us beyond a physical, nutritional need. Soul food heals things that medicines and treatments can’t touch.

This past week we lost a friend in a tragic car accident. It wasn’t her fault, she did nothing wrong. She was simply here one minute, gone the next.

When I heard the news, I went to my kitchen. I scrapped what I had planned for dinner and started working on something much more complicated. Something with a very hands-on sauce. I needed this time to whisk and whisk and whisk. Physically and mentally, I have been in the kitchen ever since. For me, cooking is therapy. The repetitive motions, the quiet time alone are healing in some way. And food. Nothing in this world works on the soul like food. So yesterday I began to make a soup, a soul soup. It couldn’t be from someone else’s recipe. It had to be from me, from my soul. It had to be a part of the grieving, and ultimately, a part of the healing.

For-and-From-the-Soul Soup

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbs vegetable oil
  • 1 large turnip, washed, peeled and diced 
  • 3 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 1 tbs dried parsley
  • 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp. pepper
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 6 cups of chicken broth (homemade or store-bought)
  • 3 boneless, skinless, chicken thighs
  • 5 lasagna noodles, broken up into pieces

Method:

  1. In a large stock pot, saute turnips for several minutes in oil over medium heat.  Add carrots, saute for several more minutes, then add celery and onions and finally garlic when the onions are softened. 
  2. Season vegetables with parsley, drop in rosemary, bay leaf, pepper and salt – stir well to combine and heat through until fragrant. You want all the vegetables to be softened.
  3. Add chicken broth and bring to boil. Drop in your chicken thighs and boil until chicken is done through – 10-15 minutes. Remove thighs from broth, place on cutting board and cut into chunks or shred. Whichever you prefer. Return to broth along with noodles and simmer until noodles are done.
  4. If the soup gets too thick, add in water, 1/2 cup at a time  (or broth, if you have extra) until it’s as soupy as you’d like. If the water cuts down on the flavor, add a 1 tsp. of bouillon per cup of water. Since the chicken cooks in the broth, your flavor should be pretty big, so adding water shouldn’t hurt it too much.
From and For the Soul Soup

From and For the Soul Soup

 

I’ve made chicken soups before, usually an Asian or Italian inspired “gourmet” type of recipe. But this was simple, down-home, soul food. I used ingredients I had on hand: left-over lasagna noodles, homemade broth from a crock pot chicken, turnips from my Uncle Joe’s garden. This soup was who and where I was in that moment. We sipped this soup out of mugs before and after the wake. We will eat it today as we prepare for the funeral. We will let the warmth of it sooth our souls. We will mourn. We will heal.

Andrea, your body may be gone, an empty tomb, but your soul, which doesn’t require such earthly boundaries, lives on forever. Fly free. See you on the other side.