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Provencal Vegetable Soup

It is so good to be back in the kitchen cooking new recipes!

This recipe pulled me out of a food funk that's lasted for several weeks. I've had zero interest in cooking much more than eggs and toast for breakfast. 

My food funks usually happen when I'm overly busy and using all my energy elsewhere, and that's almost always my career. Over the last month or so, I've started a new job, traveled to Maine for the first Fat Loss Cooking School workshop, survived my first real Les Mills launch week since moving to North Carolina, traveled to Charlotte and Myrtle Beach for Les Mills instructor trainings, and started a new website. As a result of all this go-go-go, I've done maybe a handful of my own workouts outside of the classes I teach and like I said, the cooking? 

Yeah - it just hasn't happened.

It's Good Enough

When work picks up and I need to produce and create, my nutrition goes on autopilot - not out the window. I rely more on convenience foods and eating out, and yes, that usually means a couple pounds of weight gain even though I'm still following my usual template (lean protein, lots of veggies and low-sugar fruits, clean carbs, healthy fats, etc.) It's not my favorite place to be, but I've been living a fat loss lifestyle long enough to realize that everything is cyclical and that I always have the ability to tighten things back up with my nutrition.

Sometimes you just have to put your head down and focus on the big task at hand, and trust that you'll make everything else up once you get to the other side.

That doesn't mean you throw in the towel on your nutrition or training, but you do enough to get by and let good enough be good enough. 

France Calling

Whenever I'm in a food funk and ready to get out of it, I go straight to my cookbooks, especially the French ones. I cracked open Dorie Greenspan's "Around My French Table" and within minutes, was marking recipes left and right - including this one for Provencal Vegetable Soup. It's a classic French vegetable soup, and it could change the way you feel about vegetable soup. I've always found it lackluster and hard to get excited over (all those mushy vegetables!?), which is why I never bothered making my own from scratch.

After making this recipe, I stand corrected. 

Modify the ingredients based on what you have in your kitchen. I omitted the pasta that Dorie includes because I didn't see the need for it given the other starches in the soup like potato and chickpeas. Whatever you do, don't skip the fresh herbs. They give the broth so much flavor and take this soup to the next level. 

This French vegetable soup signaled a return to the kitchen, an end to my food funk, AND a return to a more aggressive training schedule - but that's another blog post entirely. More on that soon!  

Happy Cooking!

- Leslie Ann


INGREDIENTS

1-2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, split, germ removed, and finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
6 c. reduced-sodium chicken stock
3 Italian (flat leaf) parsley sprigs
2 thyme sprigs
1 rosemary sprig
2 carrots, trimmed, peeled, halved lengthwise, and cut into 1/4" half-moons
1 Yukon Gold potato, peeled and cut into 1/2" cubes
1/4 pound green beans, trimmed and cut into 1 1/2" pieces
1 c. rinsed canned chickpeas
1 c. canned corn, drained
1 medium zucchini, trimmed, halved lengthwise, and cut into 1/2" half-moons
2 medium tomatoes, seeded, and cut into small cubes, or a handful of cherry tomatoes, cut into halves (no need to peel or seed)

For garnish: grated Parmesan cheese

DIRECTIONS

1. Pour the olive oil into a large stockpot or a Dutch oven that holds at least 5 quarts and warm it over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic, and season fairly generously with salt (about 1/4 teaspoon), and pepper (about 1/4 teaspoon). Lower the heat, and cook, stirring, until the onion is soft, about 10 minutes. 

2. Add the fresh herbs and chicken stock broth and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes.

3. Add the chopped carrots and potato and cook for 10 minutes. Then, add the canned chickpeas, green beans, and zucchini. Cook for 10 minutes more. (This is not a soup in which any of the vegetables should be crunchy.) Lastly, add the chopped tomatoes and corn kernels and cook for about 3-5 more minutes.

4. Before serving, remove any large pieces of fresh herbs (the stems from the rosemary, parsley and thyme.) Ladle hot soup into mugs or bowls and finish with some grated Parmesan.