“When love and skill work together, expect a masterpiece.” — John Ruskin

Your kitchen is a central location for preparing a delicious life. Gathering with friends and family, especially during the holiday season, allows for the preparation of great pleasure, for mind, body and spirit. I think that perhaps there is no other place in the home, that offers a more warming, cozy and loving atmosphere.

During the colder months when days darken early, preparing fresh, hearty dishes from ripe and ready ingredients is a significant way to share gustatory goodness while re-establishing healthy habits. Cheerfully bubbling pots of stew or soup fight off the chilly temperatures and restore good humor to our spirits.

Simple meals will soothe stomachs that are overexposed to rich and decadent holiday ingredients. Choosing high quality ingredients such as organic meats, poultry, fruit and vegetables sustain the system and offer sensational sweetness and concentrated flavor, while imbuing recipes with restorative benefits.

To fight off the effects of holiday hangovers, belly bloat and seasonal sluggishness, make effective use of luscious local ingredients such as squash, pumpkin, parsnips, carrots, onions and especially garlic. To refresh and restore a tired system and arm the body against the onslaught of cold and flu season, add extra doses of garlic to your daily menus. Garlic’s natural chemicals provide powerful healthy boosting benefits. A miraculous medicinal food, garlic works as an antiseptic, disinfectant and germicide. Flush with vitamins B and C, as well as protein, calcium, potassium and phosphorous, garlic may be quite effective at warding off nasty viruses. Root vegetables will also boost the body’s defenses with their enormous vitamin content, while providing exquisite flavor.

This simple soup will be a great way to use up leftover Thanksgiving vegetables, try a cup with your turkey sandwiches and enjoy preparing a delicious life in the comfort of your kitchen.

Comforting Garlic Vegetable Soup

Makes 8 servings

¼ cup olive oil

1 whole leek, trimmed, washed, chopped (or 1-2 cups chopped onion)

½ fennel bulb, trimmed and chopped

3-4 cloves minced garlic

1 potato, peeled and roughly chopped

1 sweet potato, peeled and roughly chopped

1 large carrot, peeled and chopped

4 cups chicken or vegetable broth

½ cup whole milk, half and half or heavy cream

salt

freshly ground black pepper

Heat the olive oil in a pot over medium high heat. Cook the leek, fennel, potato, sweet potato, and carrot until leeks or onion start turning golden and vegetables soften. Add the garlic and cook a few minutes more. Do not let garlic turn color.

Add the broth and milk or cream. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Cook until all vegetables are extremely soft and tender, at least 20 minutes. Transfer the soup to a blender or food processor and process until very smooth. Return to the pot and season with salt and pepper. Taste, adjust seasoning if necessary. Serve with a drizzle of cream or dollop of sour cream if desired and another good grinding of black pepper.

You can sub in or add leftover mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, or really any vegetable you like to this soup. If too thick after pureeing, add a bit more broth until desired consistency is reached.

For more on Robin Glowa, “the Conscious Cook,” HHC, AADP, go to www.theconsciouscook.net