labor day weekend / vegetable soup that’s actually good

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This past Labor Day weekend was long and really comfortable. I spent a couple of days with my college girlfriends at the beach. We ate and drank and laid on the sand. There was a baby in our midst and two more on the way. I could almost feel the change in the air: new life, (literally) new people, jobs and careers and locations were all ending and starting between the 10 of us. Even our conversations felt different, we talked about politics and being pregnant and giving birth and buying houses, all kinds of heavy, adult themes that weren’t even considered almost a decade ago when we first met, when our conversations were filled with boys, food, clothes, occasionally school, and whatever else undergrads talk about. I forget, it was so long ago.

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After college when we all got married and transitioned into careers and churches and awkward, quarter life crises that some of us (or maybe just me) are still going through, we met new people and had new relationships that felt awkward and strained at best. Being back with the people who really know me, friends who need no explanation, who were at and in my wedding, and saw me really grow up, felt like a breath of fresh air. Which it literally was, since we were at the beach. Despite all of our personal changes, it was incredibly refreshing to be with people whose friendship with me hasn’t changed.

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I had the same comfortable feeling when I drove to my parents house after the beach. I got to spend 24 hours in my hometown, something I hadn’t done in a couple of months at least. It was my mom’s birthday. We had some lemon cupcakes, went on a couple of long walks, and she got a twitter account and was listening to Johnnyswim when I drove up. Hipster mom.
I’m not even kidding.

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I love the way my parent’s house feels. It was the only place I lived for the first 18 years of my life. It feels peaceful, like a deep breath after a long day. Its always clean, there never seems to be dust anywhere or dirt on the floors, a domestic skill I haven’t mastered yet. The back porch step is worn down smooth after almost 2 decades of feet stomping up to it. There is familiar art on the walls, prints or paintings by my brother, sketches and watercolors by my mom. Smiling faces of grandchildren and grandparents and weddings peering out from picture frames in bedrooms and on tabletops. The smell of hazelnut coffee, because my mom knows it my favorite. The long hallway that leads to all the bedrooms, where over 20 years of children and grandchildren have been running down it, squealing with glee, riding toddler-sized wheeled horses, throwing tennis balls, racing Hotwheels, and on one unfortunate occasion, shooting fireworks. Even in the midst of change, which is apparently a constant in this life, coming to my parents home with their love and the comfort of memories, feels like warmth, and I’m thankful.

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This soup is warm, comfortable, and when I make it, its feeds us for a week. We’ve had a lot of things demanding our after work attentions lately, so having something ready to eat when we get home that feels like comfort, happiness and not work has been essential. I first had something similar to this at my friend Sarah’s house, who adapted it from a recipe on this site. I combined my recipe inspiration with that soup and a recipe from the Oh She Glows cookbook, her Spiced Red Lentil, Tomato, and Kale soup. It’s is a vegetarian cookbook, however this soup is not. It can easily be made vegetarian, with vegetable broth instead of chicken, maybe adding some potatoes and torn bits of kale for more depth since there won’t be a meat component. We ate this a lot in the fall and winter months and took a break from it when the weather got warm. Since there is finally a whisper of fall in the air this weekend, this is what we’ll be eating.

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Just a fair warning: this recipe fills an 8 quart stock pot and it has a lot of spices in it. A LOT. It’s taken me a while to get the spices right, but most times I taste and add and taste and add. I usually end up adding more turmeric, salt and pepper towards the end than the recipe actually calls for. It’s hard for me to really put into words how good these flavors together make me feel- they just work. It’s spicy without being too hot, packed with vitamins and healthy fats and protein and fibers- it’s a complete meal in a bowl. We usually serve this with a handful of chips on top or a side of crusty bread. You can leave these out if you want it to be gluten free or Whole30 applicable.

Also: I hesitate to call this “vegetable soup” because in my mind, vegetable soup comes from a Campbell’s can and it’s watery and brown with limp vegetables and bits of wired somethings. This soup is that opposite of that. It’s soup that just happens to have vegetables in it, but its also delicious.

chicken and cabbage soup

Olive oil or coconut oil, enough to cover the bottom of your pot.
2-3 yellow onions, chopped
5-6 carrots, chopped small
5-6 celery stalks, chopped small
1 small red or green head of cabbage, roughly chopped
4 cloves of garlic, minced

6-8 cups of chicken stock or broth, (more or less, your preference)
1 (15oz) can of pumpkin or butternut squash
1 (6oz) can of tomato paste
2 tablespoons turmeric
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 tablespoon cumin
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
Splash of balsamic and red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
Grilled chicken, shredded
Crusty bread or tortilla chips, optional

 Add enough  oil to a large stock pot to cover the bottom, turn heat to medium. Cook the onions till desired doneness, at least until translucent, (I like them to be a little caramelized) then add the remaining vegetables as you chop them: carrots, celery, cabbage, garlic, and let them cook for another five minutes all together. Add the remaining ingredients and let the soup simmer for at least 30 minutes. I usually add grilled chicken to the soup pot, or you can add it to individual bowls when serving. I also recently made this with ground turkey instead of chicken and it was great. Or you could do both.  I finish this with crusty bread or a handful of tortilla chips!

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