Life has been busy lately. I mean, my life is always somewhat busy. As I shift from one priority to the next, I can usually find an ebb and flow in the ceaseless bustle, but of late my schedule has been more of a constant swarm of activity, without much respite. Not necessarily complaining. I enjoy being occupied, and I get somewhat restless when life slows down too much. I itch with the desire to learn, grow, and experience with each passing day. And gratefully, much of my busyness these days has been super fun—visiting family, lots of outdoor activities, and loads of laughter.
But I’ve also been busy in a not-so-fun kind of way: tax time!
And boy, has this year been a doozy.
I can’t explain why, but I still do my own taxes. Possibly because I crave knowledge and skills, even when I don’t care for the subject matter. Or perhaps I’m just less organized than I’d prefer. Or maybe I’m a bit masochistic, engaging in often brutal experiences simply to feel what they’re like for myself. Or maybe all of the above.
When tax time rolls around, I curse the world. I swear it’ll be the last year. But every year, I forget to find a good accountant in preparation for the following year.
Anyways, there’s good news and bad news. Good news: I’m almost done. Bad news: I owe more money. But there’s best news too: through this ordeal, I’m still finding time to take care of myself with regular physical activity, fresh air and sunshine (as much as I can), sleep (sort of), and nutritious, wholesome food.
Soup is my saving grace when the goings get going. It’s simple to prepare and easy to adapt. Full of high-quality protein and vegetables floating in a rich, nourishing broth, soup is a bowl of love and comfort. I can make a big pot of soup and happily eat it multiple times a day. And that’s precisely what I do when I don’t have the time or inclination to think about what to eat—let alone cook a big dinner at the end of a busy day.
Simple, broth-based soups are my absolute favorite. They’re light enough for warm days but still hearty in cooler times, when I need a little more comfort. This classic soup appeals to any particular needs I may have; I keep it light and minimal in the warmer months, with lots of fresh veggies. When there’s a need for something a little more substantial, I’ll toss in some additional ingredients (potatoes, extra beans, or buttered croutons) and serve over steamed brown rice. This soup is also economical. You just need some inexpensive sausage, which seems to stretch much further than larger pieces of meat of equal weight. If you like, you can supplement the soup with low-cost, fiber-rich white beans, as I did here. Or if you’re not a bean person, you can eliminate them altogether.
The delicious broth and dark leafy greens are what really make this soup. The broth is liquid gold, chock-full with electrolytes and supremely accessible calcium, magnesium, potassium, and collagen. The greens (in this case kale, the king of dark leafys) are briefly cooked until just wilted and bright green, which captures the optimal amount of vitamins and minerals, not to mention incredible flavor and texture. The nutrients from both the kale and the broth are exactly what my body craves when I’m feeling a bit taxed. (Ha-ha, see what I did there?) Sometimes I add twice as much (or even more) of the greens, so it’s less a “soup” and more of a “braised greens with sausage and other stuff” type thing. Unlike other vegetables, greens soak up the flavorful, rich, meaty depths of the broth and sausage to an almost sinful amount.
Serve this simple rustic soup as is, or add one of the options I mention above. For a more rounded meal, crusty bread and a simple tossed salad would be welcome. And as with any soup or stew, this one only gets better the next day, so be sure to make enough for leftovers!
Now, back to my taxes.
Tuscan Sausage and Kale Soup
Makes about 3 quarts
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 30–40 minutes
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 ribs celery, sliced or diced in large bite-sized pieces
2 carrots, peeled and sliced, or diced in large bite-sized pieces
1 potato, diced (optional)
1 lb. bulk Italian sausage, mild or hot (uncased)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon dried thyme
1 bay leaf
1 pinch cayenne (optional)
1 (14.5 oz.) can diced tomatoes, with juice
2 quarts homemade or quality store-bought chicken broth
1 cup cooked white beans
2 big bunches kale, leaves removed from stem and roughly chopped
Salt and pepper
Shredded Parmesan, Asiago, or Romano cheese, to serve
- In a large pot, heat olive oil. Sauté onions, celery, carrot, and potato, if using, for about 3 minutes. Add sausage and cook until browned and cooked through. Season well with salt and pepper. Add garlic, herbs, and cayenne, if using. Cook for 1 minute.
- Add tomatoes and broth to pot. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook until vegetables are tender. Add beans and heat through. Add kale and cook until just wilted and bright green. Adjust seasonings to taste. Top with shredded cheese and serve.
Image from Briana Goodall.