Gettin' down with real food.

Simple Cream of Celery Soup

When the sky is all one color (grey) and you crave a bowl of something at once new and familiar, comforting and stirring to curl up with, look no further than this simple cream of celery soup.  You can be down to fairly little in the icebox and still have the necessities to pull this together: cream or half & half (or even whole milk), a head of celery, some sort of allium, stock or broth, butter, a potato or two, and some herbs and spices.

This soup is nothing more or less than it claims to be: it is thinly luscious while boldly bearing the essence of celery. Adorned with a sprinkle of coarse sea salt, a drizzle of olive oil and some thick cut whole grain toast, this is a peasant's lunch fit for a midwinter queen.

Simple Cream of Celery Soup |

Simple Cream of Celery Soup

Adapted from Bon Appetit
Makes about 6 servings


  • 1 head celery, roughly chopped 
  • 1-2 Yukon gold potatoes, scrubbed and chopped
  • 1 large leek (or onion, shallot, etc.), sliced
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt, or to taste 
  • cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 2 Tbsp dried dill
  • ½ cup half and half (or whole milk, heavy cream, etc.) 
  • Coarse sea salt, fresh black pepper, and pungent olive oil (for serving)


  1. Melt butter completely in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat.
  2. To the pot, add celery, potato, leek (or onion, etc.) and garlic. Season with a bit of salt to start, (don't add much until you taste the soup).
  3. Cook the vegetables, stirring occasionally, until your allium is tender, about 8–10 minutes. Add broth to the pot and simmer until the potatoes and celery are tender, 8–10 more minutes. Stir in the dill.
  4. Purée using an immersion or standard blender.
  5. Wistfully stir in cream until combined. Taste and season accordingly.
  6. Serve soup topped with sea salt, pepper and olive oil, plunked with homemade croutons or accompanied by your favorite rustic bread.
Simple Cream of Celery Soup

In other news, I'm now a snow shoer.  I ventured out into the grey mist yesterday with Chetney and listened to the waves crash against icicle-covered peers, rocking giant shards of ice and bobbing gulls in their wake.

Simple Cream of Celery Soup |
Simple Cream of Celery Soup |

Tomorrow I'm beginning a 30-day Minimalism Challenge from the blog Into Mind (found by way of Shutterbean's I Love Lists Friday).  In 30 days I will complete 30 simple yet poignant tasks to pare down the stuff of life and in turn hopefully find more space in the every day. You can do the tasks in any order, and tomorrow I will begin with challenge number 2: "meditate for fifteen minutes." I plan to share my experiences with the 30 day challenge here regularly, if the "stuff of life" does not place itself too densely in my path. I'll be in touch. Stay warm friends.

Smoky Bacon Apple Parsnip Soup

My house smells of bacon and wood fire. It's Monday and I've just washed the last dish from a family supper we hosted last night that ended with our loved ones sitting fireside enjoying bowls of homemade pistachio ice cream and talking about snow-shoeing. Stack that on top of an epic Packers victory and an amazing first week of dietetic internship and you've got the recipe for a happy Ashleigh sundae.

For last night's eats, Brandon and I worked together to make a pretty damn good meal: classic Caesar salad, homemade fresh ricotta ravioli and fat yellow semolina fettuccine (thanks to the pasta roller he bought me for Christmas) topped with Nigel Slater's Really Good Bolognese sauce, and this soup I just got to share with you...

smoky bacon apple parsnip soup |

Vegetal, sweet, creamy, and smoky, this soup is a snuggie in a bowl folks.  Slow-simmering the vegetables for an hour lends what the French call a certain "I don't know what" to the flavor profile.  Well, that and starting by sautéing onions in bacon fat.  Allspice and nutmeg warm things up while apple lends brightness and potato helps with rib-stickiness.  Enjoy a bowl fireside or whilst standing by the microwave in your work cafeteria. Either way this soup will be a proverbial lumberjack foot massage atop fleece sheets in a sauna for your soul.

Smoky Bacon Apple Parsnip Soup

recipe adapted from Foodess blog
Makes 4 meal-sized servings; 8 starter-sized servings


  • 4 tbsp bacon fat (alternatively, butter or olive oil)
  • 1 large sweet onion, chopped
  • 2 medium Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 2 medium apples, peeled, cored, and chopped
  • 1 lb parsnips (2 large), peeled and chopped
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1/4 tsp allspice
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup half and half
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 4 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled, for topping


  1. Melt bacon fat in a large pot (such as a Dutch oven) over medium heat. Add onions and saute until softened and slightly browned, about 10 minutes. Add nutmeg and allspice and sauté a minute more.
  2. Add potato, apples and parsnips; stir in vegetable broth and increase the heat to bring soup to a boil, then reduce heat to maintain a slow simmer, keeping the soup covered, until vegetables and apples are very soft, about an hour ( you can get away with 30 minutes if you're in a time crunch).
  3. Puree using an immersion blender or in batches using a standard blender. Wistfully stir in the half and half and add salt and pepper, tasting as you go.
  4. Top with crumbled bacon and enjoy emphatically.
smoky bacon apple parsnip soup |

Roasted Baby Beets and Tempeh with Garlicky Beet Greens and Brown Rice

Sometime an ingredient just speaks to me.  I’m not sure whether I was born with this gift or if I’ve watched too many food shows and browsed too many cookbooks.  Like seashells on the surf, ideas for meals surface in my mind and evolve throughout the day until evening, when they’re realized into dinner. 

This particular CSA-inspired dish was especially fun to concoct. In the produce box last week, we received a bunch of beet greens, with adorable tiny beets attached.  The farmer’s newsletter shared that a single beet seed can contain anywhere from one to eight embryos, each of which will grow into a beet plant.  And when there are many little beet plants sprouting in one small hole, they have to compete for nutrients and you wind up with baby beets!  These darlings were totally tender and delicious, which is great since they were way too small to peel.  And while beet roots are definitely getting a lot of culinary play right now, fresh beet greens are super tasty as well: earthy and faintly sweet with a similar flavor profile and texture to Swiss chard, but with slightly less bitterness. 


So here’s the basic formula: I threw short grain brown rice in the rice cooker an hour before dinner, then marinated ¼ inch thin strips of tempeh in a mixture of ketchup, sesame oil, tamari (gluten free soy sauce), lime juice, powered ginger and garlic, coriander, and cumin. While the rice cooked and the tempeh marinated, I washed and trimmed the baby beets and their greens. I set the oven to 450°F and pulled the tempeh from the fridge, laying it on a foiled lined baking sheet next to the oil slathered beets, which went into the oven for about 20 minutes, getting flipped and turned halfway through.  Meanwhile, I sautéed the beet greens in garlic and olive oil until just tender and bright green.

This dish is a feast for the eyes as well as the stomach: for each diner, layer salted brown rice in the bottom of a shallow bowl and top with sautéed beet greens.  Next lay down 4-5 strips of golden brown tempeh and nestle 4-5 baby beets (or chopped large beets) atop it all.  Finish with a hefty dollop of pesto, made with any herbs or greens you have around the house.  I try to make a big jar of pesto right when I pick up our produce and then use it all week long for eggs, pasta salad, sandwiches and of course, to add flavor and color to pretty dishes like this one. 


There you have it: a whole foods based meal with color, flavor, and an array of nutrients.  This basic idea can be interpreted in so many different varieties, changing up the beet greens for spinach, kale or chard, and the tempeh for tofu, chicken, eggs, or fish.  The beets of course could be any seasonal veggie that lends itself well to roasting.  Play around and have fun with your dinners! Look for inspiration and begin brainstorming throughout the day and by the time you’re getting asked “what’s for dinner?” you may find you already have a pretty solid plan.