NJAPP-Guest Contributor: Lauren "The Good Cooker"

Lauren (AKA The Good Cooker) was kind enough to step away from the stove to spend a heart-2-heart moment with NJAPP.

NJAPP:  Have you ever turned an insecurity into a strength? If so, how did you do it?

The Good Cooker: As far as turning an insecurity into a strength, I went through a very traumatic event when I was 24: my significant other passed away suddenly.  We had just bought our first house and we were about to move in when he died.  I was with him for six years and I really didn't know how to be alone. I was very depressed during this time and really thought I would never find true love again.  When I started dating again I was very insecure about how I looked. I felt pathetic most of the time and I wasn't good to myself.  It took me a long time to gain back my sense of independence and self-worth, but once I made the decision to leave the town where this tragedy happened and be closer to my family, I began to recognize myself again.  Today I am happily married to the love of my life, we have three beautiful children and I'm just so thankful that I took the steps I needed to take to get out of that black hole.  Now when I have a bad day, I can reflect back on that devastating time in my life and see how far I've come...life is such a gift. I can have a bad day but I won't waste any time dwelling on the bad when there's so much good to cherish.

NJAPP: Thank you for putting your burners on simmer to inspire and show us that broken hearts can heal if you are willing to take the first step towards healing. Your hopeful words have strengthened my heart, and your recipe for “Magic Soup” will most definitely warm our bellies this weekend.

The magic of soup…

The Good Cook: My husband and I are huge vegetable lovers… my kids?  Not so much.  But one day I discovered that when I pureed veggies into a velvety soup, all of the sudden they became HUGE fans.  It was like magic.  I’m not sure why this works but I’m just content knowing that it does.  Here is a list of vegetables that my kids won’t touch on a plate but will devour if unrecognizable in a bowl.

• Broccoli
• Cauliflower
• Peas
• Carrots
• Parsnips
• Fennel
• Onions
• Leeks
I am always on the quest for healthy meals that are delicious AND kid approved…pureed soups definitely fit the bill.  The only required vegetable for this recipe is the peas, you can add any combination of the other vegetables listed above and the soup will turn out great, I promise!  I picked out a few to share with you today…

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 2 hrs 30 minutes
Equipment needed: Immersion Blender

• 1 head cauliflower (coarsely chopped)
• 1 – 16 oz. bag dry split peas
• 1 onion (coarsely chopped)
• 1 leek (cleaned and coarsely chopped)
• 32 oz. chicken or vegetable stock
• 32 oz. water
• 1 tbsp dried thyme
• Extra Virgin Olive Oil
• Salt and pepper to taste

1. In a large stock pot or dutch oven, sauté the onion in a drizzle of olive oil.  Once the onion begins to soften, add the leak (or any other vegetables you choose) and continue to cook.  

2. Add the liquid, peas, and thyme.  Cover loosely with a lid and cook over medium low heat for about 2 hours, stirring the mixture every 20 minutes.

3. Once the peas have softened completely, add the cauliflower and continue to cook until soft.  You can always add more liquid to the soup if needed.

4. Use an immersion blender to puree the soup until all of the clumps are gone.

5. Season with a tsp of salt and ½ tsp of pepper to start.  Add more if desired.

This is so filling and packed with nutrients, my husband and I get to enjoy a satisfying and healthy meal and the kids are happy too, total win/win.  These soups also refrigerate and freeze very well, I’m always taking leftovers to work.

A tip for enticing kids to try this out is to set up a soup “toppings bar”.  Just put out bowls of homemade croutons, cubed ham, cheese, etc.  They love the idea of customizing their own soup. It gives them some decision making power and let’s face it, everyone loves a good bar!  

I hope you try this soup recipe with your family…you just might make some magic happen.