5 Tips for Fabulous Homemade Soups

You know the feeling. This time of year, you’re simply dying for a bowl of something warm, comforting, and full of vitality. But as painful experiences may have shown you, good intentions and a throw-whatever-vegetables-you-have-into-the-pot approach doesn’t always work so well.

For a simple, clean-out-the-fridge soup, I will point you to my Everything Soup. It’s the ultimate guide to soup improv that you can tweak to your heart and fridge’s content, with recommendations for optimizing flavor profile, plus must-haves and must-nots.

Once you have these basics down, here are some more tips for fabulous homemade soups, which will turn any pot you make into a seductive winter dish that will have your spoon quivering with excitement.

Stay in season

It’s not just about the carbon footprint, the mood of the weather, or the tradition, though of course these things count. It’s also that in-season vegetables taste significantly better, and if you want a soup that shines with flavor, you gotta have good vegetables to begin with.

And as luck would have it, winter vegetables are perfect candidates, with their starchy textures and sweet, earthy notes. Can’t remember what’s in season? I have a free seasonal produce guide for you.

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What To Do Instead of a Detox: A Gentler Way to Start The Year

We’re just a few days into January, and already you are being assailed by messages of diet this and detox that.

And certainly, you will feel the pull. Who wouldn’t? It’s everywhere, and you feel a little food-ed out from the holiday celebrations. But. There is more than one way to handle this feeling, and I’d like to offer an alternative to self-punishment.

Instead of diving head first into group guilt, self-loathing, shame, restrictive eating, imaginative cleanses, and the inevitable backlash they breed, consider directing these vast (VAST!) amounts of time and energy and brain juice toward making peace with food and with your body.

It’s revolutionary.

I don’t believe anyone passionate enough about food to read cooking blogs — or, um, write one — has a perfectly carefree relationship to food and body image. In fact, I’ve long surmised that many of us food bloggers start their blog in part to make sense of that relationship; I know I did.

And it’s no wonder, friends. We live in profoundly body-obsessed societies that hold up impossible standards for us to beat ourselves up over. And French women, with their worldwide reputation of slim figure and effortless elegance, are in no way immune to this. I don’t remember a time, past the age of nine or ten, when I was a-okay with the way my body looked. Do you?

The obsession and its implications come in different flavors depending on the culture, but it is so profound, so internalized that few even question it.

Over the past couple of years, I have become more keenly aware of this: in the way I inhabit my own body, and in my environment, both online and offline. Body positivity and unconditional self-love* are radical ideas, and I am fully on board.

Only recently, I watched my friend Elena Rossini’s new documentary The Illusionists about the global marketing of unattainable beauty. It carries such an important, enlightening, liberating message that I wanted to share it with you, and I have five copies of it to give away (details at the bottom of this post).

The Illusionists: A documentary about the marketing of unattainable beauty around the world.

The Illusionists: A documentary about the marketing of unattainable beauty around the world.

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10 Kitchen Resolutions for a Happy, Delicious Year

Happy new year! I’ve always loved the blank-slate feel of early January: while it’s a great time to reflect on everything you’re already doing right (you rock!), it’s also an invitation to form new and better habits to shape the year ahead and improve our lives.

So I offer you 10 kitchen resolutions, inspiring but approachable, to make you a better cook and eater this year. Please add yours in the comments below, or share on social media with the hashtag #cnzresolutions, and I will retweet and repost my favorites.

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Best of December

How are your holidays coming along? Any fun plans for New Year’s Eve? Be sure to check my post on French Holiday Meals, and my 12 Best Food Gifts!

We had such a lovely, quiet Christmas celebration this year. Now that my children are respectively 4 1/2 and almost 2, we are really getting into the magic of it.

In addition to the big-boy bike for Milan (training wheels? who needs them!) and the adorable crochet vegetables and mini dining set for Mika, Maxence and I had a blast hunting for vintage toys from our own childhoods, such as “real” Lego blocks (not the hyper-specialized, imagination-thwarting crap they put out now) and Smurf figurines (I mean Schtroumpfs) with an actual! mushroom! house!.

A Family of Shoes

Currently loving

  1. As part of my Monthly Museum Challenge, I went to the Grand Palais to see the Hergé exhibition all about the creator of Tintin, joining a private guided tour led by the amazing Catherine Rosane of Fred & Kate. I loved the exhibition and Catherine’s insightful take on it, and doodled along gleefully (see below). I am now engrossed in Benoît Peeters’ biography of Hergé, Hergé fils de Tintin.
  2. How to Throw a Dinner Party Like a Parisian, with some of my thoughts thrown in.
  3. In addition to my Monthly Museum Challenge, I’m enriching my life further with a Monthly Poem Challenge: I’ll be choosing a new poem to memorize each month. For years and years I’ve known just two (Mon Rêve familier and Le Dormeur du val), and I’ve just memorized this new one, which jumped up at me in a copy of Les Fleurs du Mal lying around at Aloha Café. I love the idea that by the end of 2017, if all goes well, I’ll know twelve more. Are you in?
  4. Meals at La Mascotte, a wonderful Belle Époque brasserie in Montmartre where the food is excellent and the waiters are genuinely nice.
  5. Our new hand-crafted clay mugs in moss green and yellow, which I found at Amami in Paris. I plan to spend all winter with my hands wrapped around their smooth, soft sides.
My sketch of Hergé's 2CV

My sketch of Hergé’s 2CV

Find my top Paris spots on this map of favorites, and follow me on Instagram to see many more food shots and Paris recommendations throughout the month!

French Holiday Recipes

Gorgeous stove photo courtesy of La Cornue.

Christmas is just a few days away (not to stress you out or anything) and I was shocked to realize that, in thirteen years of Chocolate & Zucchini, I have never offered an actual post outlining how to host a French holiday meal.

So whether you’re seeking to add a little Frenchness to your holiday celebrations, attending your first bona fide French holiday meal this year, or even hosting one (gah!), let me break things down for you, and suggest some winning French holiday recipes.

Christmas and the New Year

French families get together for a Christmas Eve dinner (le réveillon de Noël), and often there’s a second meal for Christmas Day lunch (not breakfast or brunch), either with the same cast or with a different part of the family.

Christmas is largely celebrated in the home; most restaurants are closed that night for staff members to celebrate with their own family. It is considered an intimate occasion reserved for family members and close family friends, so if you are a guest from outside the family, it’s a big deal. Presents are opened either after dinner on Christmas Eve, or in the morning on Christmas Day.

The French New Year’s Eve (le réveillon du Nouvel An) is often celebrated with friends rather than with family, and it is more of a grown-up occasion. If there are small children, they will be tucked into bed early or allowed to collapse on some couch, but the party is not about them. (Sorry kids.)

Some people go out to dinner on New Year’s Eve, but I don’t know who they are and I wouldn’t want to go with them. In my circle, we are more likely to have a special dinner at someone’s house, and possibly go out later, or just push the furniture and party at home*.

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