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Let’s face it. Many of us let ourselves enjoy the holiday goodies a little too much. I try and watch it, but sometimes the holiday cakes, cookies and carbs just get the best of me. However, I don’t let it bother me. Come Jan. 2 — I do a Chili Fest on New Year’s Day — this veggie soup is bubbling away on top of my stove. I don’t feel deprived at all because it is so flavorful and satisfying.

Diced vegetables in a fragrant broth are always delicious, but another variation is to puree the soup and transform it into a creamy potage. Sometimes I will even divide the soup in half and serve the diced vegetables in one half of the bowl and the creamy puree in the other half for a pretty presentation.

The soup becomes an entirely new experience when pureed. You can completely puree it or partially puree it, leaving some texture and color in the soup if you like. This colorful vegetable soup is simple to prepare since you need only to peel the carrots and squash. To save even more time, look for pre-peeled and pre-cut butternut squash at your market.

To enrich the broth, I add a rind of Parmesan cheese to the soup while it is simmering. Leeks are my preference for their rich, oniony flavor.

The unusual ingredient here is the garbanzo bean that adds an underlying earthy flavor, as well as a natural thickener for the puree version. Fully cooked garbanzos are added just a few minutes before the soup is pureed to keep their flavor intact. To dress this up, consider adding a dollop of basil or sun-dried tomato pesto. Or, if you’re really being good, just garnish with fresh herbs and a light sprinkling of fresh Parmesan cheese.

Vegetable Soup

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 leeks, light green part and white parts only, cleaned and finely chopped

4 carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch dice

4 zucchini, cut into 1-inch dice

1 pound peeled and cut into 1-inch dice butternut squash

1 teaspoon favorite seasoning salt

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 1/2 cups diced tomatoes with juice

6 cups vegetable or chicken broth

Rind of Parmesan cheese

1 1/2 cups cooked garbanzo beans (chick peas), drained and rinsed

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley or basil

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese for serving

In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the leeks and saute for about 5 minutes, or until softened.

Add the carrots, zucchini, squash and seasoning salt. Saute for about 3 more minutes, or until mixed well and beginning to soften. Add the garlic and saute another minute.

Add the tomatoes, broth and Parmesan rind. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat. Partially cover and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender.

Add the garbanzo beans and cook another 3 minutes, or until heated through. Add the salt, pepper and parsley or basil. Taste and adjust the seasonings. Remove the Parmesan rind.

To serve, ladle the soup into shallow soup bowls and garnish with Parmesan cheese. Serves 6.

Variation

Puree the soup either completely or partially in the pot with a hand blender or in batches in a blender or food processor. Return the soup to the pot, if necessary. Taste and adjust the seasonings.

To serve: Ladle into shallow soup bowls and garnish with Parmesan cheese, sun-dried tomato pesto or basil pesto.

Advance preparation: The soup may be prepared, in either variation, up to five days ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Reheat gently.

Per serving: 257 calories; 8 g fat (2 g saturated fat; 28 percent calories from fat); 39 g carbohydrates; 12 g sugar; 6 mg cholesterol; 1,070 mg sodium; 9 g protein; 7 g fiber.

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