Are you, like me, spending a lot of time in your kitchen these days, as we all ‘shelter in place’ and follow social distancing mandates during this very difficult time?

My kitchen has become my sanctuary. It is providing me with much needed activity and purpose and is forcing me to exercise creativity daily as my pantry becomes more and more empty.

While beans, lentils, rice, barley, and pasta have become staples for many of us, I am also trying to stock up somewhat on root vegetables, which have a longer fridge and shelf life than many of their fresh counterparts.

Keep It Simple

It’s my belief that always having a few basic ingredients on hand will ensure that meals never become bland or boring.

For me, the list includes extra virgin olive oil, garlic, onions, carrots, sweet potatoes, and a variety of fresh or dried herbs and spices. Any soup or stew that starts with sautéed onions and garlic as its base is sure to be flavourful.

Root vegetables, also known as tubers or vegetables that grow underground, have been a staple in many South American and Asian diets for thousands of years.

In addition to providing essential nutrients like vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium, magnesium, and dietary fiber, root vegetables are usually inexpensive and easy to prepare.

Studies suggest that including these vegetables in our diet, with their numerous antioxidant properties, may help to fight cancer, diabetes, obesity as well as inflammatory-based disorders like heart disease and arthritis.

Examples of common root vegetables are: potatoes, beets, parsnips, carrots, celeriac, sweet potatoes, fennel, Jerusalem artichokes, jicama, yams, radishes, and turnips. Turmeric, garlic, and ginger are also root veggies, even though we think of them more as spices.

The Potato in My Bed

I love roasted vegetables – so easy to prepare, so flavourful, and so nutritious. Nothing is easier than using leftover roasted vegetables and pureeing them into a soup.

Soup has always been the ultimate comfort food for me, especially in winter. My TCM acupuncturist, who was a medical doctor in China, strongly advocates including numerous root vegetables in our diets, especially in winter, as they are ‘warming’ foods.

Because I suffer from rheumatoid arthritis and low thyroid hormone, I am always cold. She has even encouraged me to take a potato to bed with me, emphasizing that the earth’s warmth of this tuber would be released in my bed. I can’t say that I have tried this yet!

Below is one of my favorite go-to recipes for immune-boosting, vegan, gluten-free, yummy roasted vegetable soup. I used butternut squash, but you can also use parsnips, sweet potatoes, yams, Yukon potatoes, or any other root vegetable that you fancy. Change up the ingredients and make it often!

Roasted Vegetables

In a large roasting pan, add:

  • One butternut squash, halved and with the seeds scooped out (or any combination of parsnips, sweet potatoes, Yukon potatoes, yams)
  • 3 large carrots, peeled and quartered
  • 3 medium onions, peeled and quartered
  • Many cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed

Drizzle the veggies liberally with olive oil and add your favourite herbs and spices – smoked paprika, lemon and pepper seasoning, garlic powder, rosemary and sea salt, etc. Add ¼ inch of water to your roasting pan. Cover and roast the vegetables in a 375-degree F oven for 75 to 90 minutes.

The aromas that fill your kitchen are going to make you salivate! So, have a plateful of these veggies when they are done, before you puree them into a soup.

The soup

After the veggies have cooled scoop out the flesh of the butternut squash into a large stock pot. Add the other veggies, mash them manually, and then add at least 2/3 litre of low sodium vegetable broth.

With an immersion blender, puree the veggies into a soup. Now is the time to add your favourite spices – ground ginger, a little cumin and mild curry powder, turmeric, salt, and pepper. I also added some ginger lemon sriracha spice blend – to give it a little ‘kick’.

The sweetness of the squash combined with the savoury spices will leave a lingering taste sensation on your palate!

Bittersweet

I made this soup again yesterday, and when I finally sat down to savour and enjoy it, my only regret was that I couldn’t share it with friends around my dinner table, given our current social distancing recommendations.

Instead, I solemnly enjoyed this meal alone and before eating it, gave thanks to God and prayed that this daunting global pandemic would soon come to an end. Stay well and stay safe, everyone.

How have mealtimes changed for you during this unprecedented time of self-isolation and social distancing? Are you enjoying cooking, or do you see it as a simple necessity? What suggestions do you have to keep meals simple yet nutritious? Please share a recipe in the comments

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