My Sunday soup ritual.

Dear friends,

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I’ve gotten into a routine lately where I make a big pot of vegetable soup on Sundays. I had fallen into a bad habit of eating lunch out (which is both expensive and fattening), so about a month ago, I pulled out my favorite soup recipe from blogger Phoo-D and solved my problem.

Every week, I make my soup a little differently depending on what’s in my fridge. This week I had a beautiful red pepper, some broccoli that needed to be used, three not-quite-limp carrots, and a purple onion. I normally use celery but I was all out. I always have canned corn and green beans in my pantry, so I typically throw those in. Occasionally, I’ll use cabbage or potatoes, but this week I used a can of navy beans. (I was out of black beans, which is another favorite.) Sometimes I add a handful of barley, but this week I threw in some wild rice. My favorite is when I’ve got a couple of over-ripe tomatoes and/or zucchini setting around but, alas, I had none of those this week.

In addition to the soup, I always cook a whole grain — typically brown rice, but last week I made whole-wheat couscous. Then for the next five days, I pack a lunch that consists of 1/2 cup of grains topped with two cups of vegetable soup. It averages about 275 calories and is chock full of healthy nutrients and fiber. Best of all, it’s very filling and keeps me going without a thought of snacking until dinnertime.

In addition to varying the vegetables each week, I also vary the spices. I have a simple Italian version (fresh rosemary because I have a huge bush right outside my door, plus dried marjoram, oregano, parsley, basil, and occasionally some herbs de Provence). I have a Mexican version (cumin, chili powder, and cayenne). And I have an Indian version (turmeric and garam masala). While Phoo-D’s recipe doesn’t call for it, I usually also add about a half-cup of whatever wine I have on hand, as well as a cube or two of bouillon.

I find that when I eat my standard breakfast (a hard-boiled egg and piece of fruit) along with this lunch and a reasonable dinner, I feel so much better. I’m prone to heartburn and bloating if I eat too much dairy and processed wheat, so limiting those items to dinner (and then only in modest portions) helps me feel so much better and manage my weight.

By the way, if you’re at all tempted to skip the apple cider vinegar in this recipe, don’t. Because the recipe relies on water instead of broth and uses very little oil, the vinegar gives this soup a depth of flavor that it needs. Of course, I just mentioned that I often throw in a bouillon cube or two, but it doesn’t really need it. I do it because I find that if the soup has a hint of beef or chicken flavor, my kids are more likely to eat it.

This recipe makes a hearty amount of soup — enough for everyone in my family to eat it for lunch on Sunday and then for me to pack lunches with it all week. And it keeps well in the refrigerator for a full seven days. I’ve even frozen this soup after a week when I had leftovers I couldn’t bear to throw out.

Bon apetit!

With gratitude {for lunch alternatives that make life a little healthier and a lot more flavorful, as well as a mother-in-law who recently gave me a 7-quart cast iron Dutch Oven — perfect for big batches of Sunday soup — after hearing me lament the constraints of my 4-quart pot, which she also purchased},

Joan, who wishes to send love and hugs to her friend Phoo-D on the birth of her second daughter, Sarah Jane

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