I’m no mega-chef  or health guru, but I’ve been noticing a trend. Now that the holidays are a couple of weeks behind us, it seems everyone and their mother is doing some sort of January cleanse to get rid of those pounds of holiday excess “detoxify” and “refresh.” Correct me if I’m wrong, but I can’t help wondering if a cleanse isn’t just a regimented crash diet under the guise of good health.

In general, I am opposed to cleanses. While some of my friends totally swear by them, most cleanses seem to rarely be supervised by a health professional or nutritionist. In fact, it seems most cleanses are either pulled from the internet or from fad diet books (you know, like the ones that told people to eat only pasta in the ’80s and only meat in the ’90s).

The second reason I am opposed to cleanses is because I’m another one of those girls who suffered from some food and body image issues as a teenager, and I know for a fact that highly regimented and restrictive eating patterns are detrimental to my emotional and psychological well being–and probably aren’t great for others, either. Oh, and another thing? Those special diets get expensive and, after the holidays, who isn’t already broke as a joke?

Now, I’m not pretending that I know of every cleanse method or its intended uses, and I’m sure there are some good ones out there, but from those I’ve seen, these have been my observations. That being said, I do however have my own version of a cleanse. It’s called…
eating vegetables!

I know, I know. I’m so mean. But, seriously, a lot of our holiday weight gain (and winter weight gain in general) can be blamed on the temptation to eat heavier and more processed foods, and less fresh vegetables and fruits. Subsequently, our fiber intake drops (among other things) and we lose a lot of metabolic efficiency. We become hungrier and more sluggish.

Unfortunately, during the peak winter months, there isn’t quite the bounty of cheap, freshly-picked produce that we have in the warmer months; as a result eating local AND seasonal while still eating healthfully can be a real challenge. Luckily, we still have root vegetables and hearty kale at our disposal, and I can happily report that these ingredients combine delightfully.

This wholesome, super high-fiber vegan soup recipe is inspired by the Portugese Kale Soup featured in Devra Gartenstein‘s fantastic  Local Bounty: Seasonal Vegan Recipes cookbook, which I picked up at last September’s Vegetarian Food Fair in Toronto. Though I added a few ingredients, like all the recipes I print here, this dish cost well under $10 to make.

Photo from farm4.static.flickr.com (better than what my camera can do, but soup looks the same)

Winter Kale Soup:

  • 1 bunch kale, finely chopped
  • 5 cups vegetable stock
  • 2 cups white beans
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 medium onion, minced
  • 1/2 cup white wine (optional)
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tbsp nutritional yeast flakes
  • 1 large carrot, chopped
  • 1/4 cup walnuts, chopped (optional)
  • salt to taste
  1. Saute the onions and garlic until they begin to reduce. Add the kale and carrots; mix everything together.
  2. Add the stock, wine, nutritional yeast flakes, cumin powder, and salt. If your stock is salted (or if you’re using bouillon), don’t add salt–unless you’re going for that “salt lick” effect, that is. Bring everything to a boil, then cover the pot and reduce the heat to a simmer. Go entertain yourself for 30 minutes.
  3. Come back to your pot and add the beans. Then cover, and entertain yourself for 10 more minutes. Once finished, serve the soup with walnuts on top (if you so desire).
  4. Eat!