More than Just a Warming Winter Vegetable Minestrone
Photo: Liz Rueven

More than Just a Warming Winter Vegetable Minestrone

Just nine miles up the road from my home in CT there is a community of women living in a rambling group home on a tidy street of multi-family residences. There is an American flag fluttering in the stiff wind on a frigid January evening. Residents are veterans in need of support, shelter, services and nourishing soup.

The first time I visited their home to cook and share a healthy meal with them, I asked about their service. I don’t do that anymore. I’ve learned to take cues from them.

organic winter greens kosher like me
Photo: Liz Rueven

Conversation is mostly strained. Last week, one of the women sat quietly, grey streaked hair masking her face as she focused on her clasped hands. Did my perky banter about the value of dark leafy greens annoy her? I thought so.

I cook and dine with the women, a few times a year, through a program called Farms to Veterans to Community. I’m in a rotation with other volunteer cooks and area chefs in this community initiative. Along with the female residents, guest chefs prepare dinner with a demo followed by a shared meal together.

Our intention is to source as many locally grown ingredients from our farmers’ market to bring easy recipes for unprocessed foods to this group. Sparking ideas for accessible healthy meals and job opportunities available in local restaurants is equally important.

Will they ever make these recipes?

Not sure, but I believe the seeds are planted.I consider them conversation starters.

My menu last week included winter vegetable minestrone, whole wheat pasta with mushrooms and creamy spinach, crockpot applesauce and brownie bites.

organic winter vegetables Kosher Like Me
Photo: Liz Rueven

For the minestrone, I purchased onions, garlic, heirloom tomato puree and butternut squash from farmers at our winter market. Genee Habansky, chef/caterer at Herbaceous Catering, shared her simple recipe for this soup with me. My grandmother would have called it “a bowl of health”, an expression I shared with the women as we ate together.

“What kinds of soup did you love when you were a kid?” I asked. The dark haired woman, sipping soup silently next to me, suddenly spoke her first words of the evening. She shared that she grew up loving chicken soup with stars. I told her that my kids always wanted alphabets, which they called ABCD’s. She nodded with just the slightest curve of a smile, and retreated into her minestrone without another sound.

For more on Westport Farmers’ Market, community initiatives like Farms to Veterans to Community and how you can get involved, click here.


  1. I was inspired to make this soup out of respect for Liz and the work she is doing with the Farms to Veterans to Community program. It is a tribute to the chefs that participate, and just a beautiful endeavor. The soup was easy, which suits me fine, and I love that you can change it up and add what you feel like every time. For today’s group, I added charred corn. Next time maybe broccoli florets! Also a note—add more stock than called for here, especially if you add more veges. Thanks Liz for this inspiration that will be a keepsake!

    • So glad you liked the soup, Shelly. Our book club was indeed comforted by this “bowl of health” on a dreary day. The FVC initiative is a group effort that takes a village. I am only one of the villagers :)))

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