Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!

Glad to be back -- I have been out of commission for the past week due to a gallbladder infection...ick.  December has been a riot thus far, first bronchitis then the gallbladder infection -- thankfully the new year is only a few days away so I will be leaving all bad ju-ju behind. :)

I reviewed my resolutions from last year and realized that I have again only achieved a little less than half of my goals so this year opposed to making long-term goals (Running a 10K) I've made short-term, easier to reach goals (Run 1 mile/day for 5x a week).  One of my main goals for this year is to lead a healthier lifestyle, through exercise, a proper diet, and a peaceful spirit.  Seeing that I am only in my twenties and I frequently deal with malfunctions with my immune system, the only logical response would be to keep my body in better condition --Your body is your temple...

What are some of your New Year's Resolutions? I had a wonderful Christmas -- I redecorated my kitchen so now it feels more like a real kitchen opposed to a small cramped horrible mess. I've been having a BLAST with my favorite present of all -- my new Sony alpha 550 dSLR camera, all thanks to my one and only of course :)!! One of the upsides of being sick was being able to spend plenty of time with Collin's family and grandparents (Hi Pearl!).  We spent time playing cards, watching movies, playing video games and of course, eating.

I did not have much time to cook but I did make this delicious soup from a leftover ham bone that Collin's dad gave me!  Perfect for the weather we're having here in Dallas, can you believe that it's actually snowing? Anyways, the trick to making this soup delectable is making a stock out of the ham bone first -- this is easily done by placing the ham bone and scraps in a large pot of water and simmering at a medium low heat for 1 1/2 to 2 hours with some onion, a bay leaf and for this stock I used turnips and carrots as well.

I always love using leftover bones, especially ham bones and chicken carcasses -- they always make such a savory broth.  By keeping your broth at a low medium heat (the soup should be at a very slight boil), it slowly draws out the proteins (flavor) from the bones, thus ending in a rich decadent broth.  Because I am using mostly root vegetables in this soup, I simply used the scraps and remains of turnips, carrots, rutabagas and onions and later strained them out of the soup -- this will add body and character to your broth as well. After straining your broth, don't forget to reserve the ham meat for the soup!

Ingredients for Winter Vegetable Soup:

(serves 8-10)

  • 8 cups ham broth (see directions above)
  • 1/2 cup cauliflower, cut into small florets
  • 1/2 cup carrots (I used baby carrots), diced
  • 1 cup cabbage, thinly shredded
  • 1 medium rutabaga, peeled and diced 1"
  • 2 turnips, peeled and diced 1"
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon cream
  • 1 tablespoon parsley, minced
  • 1 tsp white pepper
  • salt and pepper to taste

In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil at medium heat.  Place the onions in the pan once oil is heated and begin the "caramelization" process.  It is important to cook the onions at the prefect heat, do not burn them, it will ruin the flavor completely!  The key to caramelization is gradually cooking the onions down so that the sugar slowly begins to oxidize, producing a nutty and sweet flavor.  The onions will slowly turn a pale yellow, then eventually a rich brownish yellow or caramel color.  Once it reaches this state, remove from heat and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat your ham stock at medium heat in a large deep bottomed pot.  Add the cabbage and rutabagas and turnips and cook for 30 minutes, or until very soft.  Next add the carrots and cauliflower and cook for an additional 20 minutes.  By adding vegetables in at different times, it will give your soup a range of texture opposed to soft goopey vegetables at the end.  Since cabbage, turnips and rutabagas tend to taste better when cooked very soft I chose to add them first, then kept a slight firmness and crunch through the carrots and cauliflower.

Add the cream and white pepper along with the caramelized onions, and cook for an additional ten minutes -- season with salt and pepper to taste.  I cannot stress this enough, always add salt at the end of cooking soups, this helps keep the delicacy of the broth as well as avoiding the common sin of "over-salting" food.  I like to add salt literally pinches at a time, and taste after each addition until I achieve what I feel is the best flavor.  I always say its better to undersalt food than oversalt it! Garnish with some fresh parsley and you are ready to go :)

Aaaah, nothing hits the spot like a good hearty vegetable soup -- many thanks to my neighbor Michael for the beautiful cauliflower, it was by far the best one I've had all year.  The best part about soup is that it tastes even better after sitting in the fridge for a couple days, all the flavors marinate and develop into full and rich broth.  For once, leftovers taste better than they did initially!

This will probably be my last post for this year, I am looking forward to the New Year -- I have good feelings about 2010 :)  I hope everyone has a very safe and Happy New Year, see you next year yall!!!!!