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February, the Coldest Month

What's on my mind? Surviving February...

Let's see, there's Chinese New Year on the 8th -- take-out and good drinks by the fire with family or friends, predictions about what the year will hold.

Then Valentine's Day and its obvious prospects for staying warm -- chocolate and coffee. (What did you think I was talking about??)

Pick the right day, and a February hike can be a glorious thing, bright, crisp. Plump buds on bare branches are tiny portraits of hope.

I was reminded recently that February is a great month for root vegetables, so here is my family's recipe for vegetable soup. It may not sound great, but trust me, it's comfort food paired with some great bread and a red wine (if you drink that sort of thing.) It's a lot of chopping, so make it with a friend, a brother or a sister, and enjoy the company. Good, and good for you. Hang in there, the groundhog said spring isn't far away.

Ingredients: ginger root, fresh garlic, red onion, carrots, turnip, zucchini or yellow squash, mushrooms, red and yellow pepper, red cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, cilantro, kale or swiss chard, lemon, fresh salsa, butter or butter alternative, salt and pepper, parmesan cheese (if you do dairy).

Fill a big pot about halfway with water, get the water gently boiling, start cutting up veges and adding to the pot, garlic and ginger first (lots) and then the veges, the ones that take longer to cook first and ending with kale or swiss chard. When the swiss chard is cooked but not mushy, it should be ready to eat. Pour it in a bowl, add 1-2 T of butter or butter alternative,1 T of salsa (if desired), the juice of a couple lemon quarters, salt and pepper and the parmesan cheese, to taste.

The main things that make this taste good (as opposed to tasting like dirt) are the ginger, garlic, cilantro (if you like it), butter, lemon, salt and pepper. So don't skimp on those. (And the vitamin c in the lemon is crucial for helping your body absorb the calcium in the green veges). The other veges you can vary and play around with, depending on what your favorites are. Try adding other root veges—parsnip, celery root, etc.

Have fun and stay warm!

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