Conscious Cook: A slow cooked soup offers calm and comfort in chaotic times

“Remember the entrance to the sanctuary is inside you.” — Rumi

With the world in chaos and our own nation in complete unrest, conscious cooks must look for sanity and safety in their own kitchens. Restoring balance and calming the system becomes of paramount importance during extremely stressful times.

There is something so satisfying and so soothing about slow-cooked meals. When the world seems gray and gloomy, bitingly cold or filled with worry, a simmering pot of soup or stew will help revive the spirit and warm the soul.

The steady rhythms of slow cooking bring wonderful warmth and luscious light to dark, frigid days. There are few pleasures greater than filling a Dutch oven or slow cooker with delicious ingredients and enjoying the fragrant scents of your meal gently melding into a pot of pleasure.

Whether it be a long-simmering tomato sauce, a bubbling pot of beef bourguignon, a beautiful butternut squash bisque, a steamy and spicy chili or a multi- vegetable stew, slow-cooked dishes can add deep, wonderful color and highly nuanced flavor to winter meals.

Preparing soups, sauces and stews is also an excellent way to incorporate nutritious ingredients such as garlic, onions, greens, grains and other bits of this and that from the refrigerator.

In fact, garlic and onions should be used liberally, as they are suffused with anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory benefits.

Those errant stalks of celery, few remaining carrots, spinach and kale leaves, that half can of white beans, can all add luscious appeal to a gently cooking soup or stew.

Adding greens to your soup or stew will provide calcium, iron and other strengthening nutrients. Any color of bean will lend smooth, satisfying, texture and a nice boost of protein.

Soups and stews prepared with plenty of vegetables can be a rich source of antioxidants and may provide some resistance to cold germs.

Warm your inner self with the healing beauty of slow cooking as you prepare a delicious life.

Slow-Cooked Comfort Soup

3 medium carrots, peeled and thinly sliced

3/4 cup chopped celery

1 large sweet onion, chopped

1 tbsp. butter

1 tbsp. olive oil

2 large garlic cloves, minced

7 cups chicken broth or vegetable broth (homemade or your favorite brand)

3 cups cubed peeled Yukon Gold potatoes

2 cups cubed peeled butternut squash

2 large tart apples, peeled and chopped

2 medium turnips, peeled and chopped

2 parsnips, peeled and sliced

1 bay leaf

1/2 tsp. dried basil

1/4 tsp. dried thyme

1/4 tsp. pepper

1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice

In a Dutch oven or heavy stockpot over medium heat, cook and stir the carrots, celery and onions in butter and oil until tender. Add garlic and cook until garlic is just starting to become golden.

Add the broth, potatoes, squash, apples, turnips, parsnips and bay leaf. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes.

Stir in the basil, thyme and pepper; simmer 15 minutes longer or until vegetables are tender. Discard bay leaf before serving.

Variation 1: Add a can of red or white beans during the last 15 minutes of cooking time, cooked ground beef, cooked and sliced sweet sausage, or a cup or two of cooked farro, rice, barley or pasta.

Variation 2: You can serve this soup as is, or if you prefer a smooth version, let cool, puree, then gently reheat before serving. The pureed version would be nice served with a dollop of sour cream or plain yogurt and a sprinkle of cinnamon.

Robin Glowa, HHC, AADP, “The Conscious Cook” writes about all aspects of preparing a delicious life. She is a professional cook, organic gardener and a graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and Columbia University Teachers College.