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What do you do with vegetables that are ready for any exit? You know the ones at the back of your refrigerator whose coloring has turned like fall leaves, they’re less crisp,and your kids would only eat them if blindfolded. A few weeks ago I might have tossed them because I had subscribed to a philosophy a friend of mine told me about as nature’s Ten Percent Rule: expect to lose ten percent of your perishables and ten percent of your garden plants. That idea kept me comfortable with the cost of replacing plants and with tossing out edible foods that didn’t look quite appetizing and we were all happy, my garbage can and I, until I heard Jonathan Bloom on an NPR podcast. He’s author of American Wasteland. Can you guess of all the food produced in this country (the country that produces the most food in the world) how much we waste?

40 Percent


The part that really stuck out to me from what Bloom said was that he first became aware of food waste while working in the produce department of a grocery store where he was told to remove any fruit or vegetable that didn’t look picture perfect and, as you can imagine, that edible but not pretty food was thrown away. I realized that I did the very same thing in my refrigerator. Food perished because either I didn’t feel like eating it, I didn’t want to prepare it, or it didn’t look picture perfect.

Bloom also mentioned that one of the best things food consumers can do to begin to remedy the situation is to buy less at the grocery store. Guilty. I go to Whole Foods, a farmer’s market, a supermarket, hell a 7/11, and get giddy with possibilities and hunger, forgetting that I will have to add a effort to making those purchases into edible food. Do you do this?

Now I’m doing my best to not waste food in my house and frankly, I’m spending less time shopping and preparing meals. It was in that vein that this broccoli celery soup came to be. Not the a likeliest of soup duos, but a head of broccoli and a half a package of celery were the vegetables in my refrigerator that were on death’s doorstep. BTW – do you like the cooking gallery above?


Souper easy with two spice saviors (cumin seeds & crushed red pepper flakes), my vegetables were resurrected into a shockingly delicious and fresh soup for summer. Cumin seeds might seem like the last thing you’d have in your pantry, but I urge you to give them a try because once you toast these guys they make any soup, salad, savory concoction layered with a pleasantly surprising taste. And to me, spicy heat can mask any pungency or not so fresh taste.

Let me know if you have any vegetable soup secrets. We all need to stick together in our quest to waste less food and less time.



any old vegetable soup

preptime 10 minutes 4 servings

cooktime 20 minutes

3 cups chopped raw vegetables (either onion, carrots, and or celery should make up at least 1/2 cup)

1 T olive oil

1 quart chicken stock

1 T toasted cumin seeds

1/2 t crushed red pepper flakes

2 T cream

S&P to taste

  1. Heat olive oil.
  2. Add chopped onion, celery and/or carrots.
  3. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Add chicken stock and remaining vegetables.
  5. Bring to boil and turn down to simmer for 10-15 minutes until vegetables softer, but not mushy.
  6. Ladle entire mixture into blender. Starting on a low speed and building blend on high for one minute. Add cream about halfway through blending.
  7. Serve.
crunchtimewarp (faster version)
  • Use cooked vegetables. Add to chicken stock and just heat through. Every other step remains the same.


  1. Penny says Aug 21st 2011 3:34 am

    Sherri, this is a good reminder to practice that old saying: waste not, want not. I think we are all guilty. Soup will save the world. I wish I’d kept a journal of all the soup combinations I’ve made or enjoyed elsewhere. My tricks are to use bouillion, any kind, for extra flavor, and lots of herbs. Adding a potato or two, grated or finely chopped, gives soup extra body. I also save the cooking water from potatoes, asparagus, broccoli, spinach, etc. for the soup base. Think of the vitamins in that water. (Use this water only if you’ve washed the veggies well.)
    Thanks for all the good ideas and for your efforts to educate and present new eating possibilities. Great photos, too!

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