A recipe for Magic Soup

I’m elated to finally have left the territory on the BMI chart labeled “obese.” I feel fantastic. I eat wholesome food; I crave wholesome food, vegetables even. I feel my taste buds have embraced their new identity in belonging to a healthier person as well. It is a joy to know that when I sit down with my patients to talk about their weight loss needs, I speak from experience and can share the keys to success with them. Not only as a doctor, but as someone who has overcome obesity.

I have a lot to say about motivation, and I’ll probably post on that soon. I’ve realized one of the keys to lasting behavior change, when living in the toxic food culture of the South, is having significant motivation to tap into which provides a concrete battle plan when a pile of fried onions or a slow-cooked bar-b-cue buffet is staring you in the face. I have learned to resist, and it has gotten easier.

For now, I’m going to pass along a recipe that has become a staple in my January kitchen. It’s delicious, packed with vegetables, and easy to cook. It helped me reach the 55 pound mark of weight loss this month, and I’ll continue to enjoy it all winter. This, like many of my recipes, is a recipe-less recipe. I enjoy cooking when I don’t have to look at instructions. So here is how I do it:


Magic Disappearing Cabbage Soup (it disappears fast and so does the fat)


Large soup pot

Olive oil, a few tablespoons

Minced garlic

An Onion or two, roughly chopped, or leeks, if you are feeling fancy

A cabbage, or even just half of one (I use a single small one from my garden), chopped thinly

Any other veggies you would like to use or have on hand: green beans, carrots (chopped), celery, cauliflower, chopped spinach. I aim for a total of around 5 cups of these veggies when I have cabbage, or 8 cups if I don’t have cabbage.

Chicken broth (enough to cover the pile of veggies you have and fill the soup pot)

Box of chopped tomatoes.

Salt, pepper, and dried Italian seasoning to taste

Optional: Nitrate-free, reduced-fat Italian sausage, just a small amount chopped up and thrown in to simmer with the onions for added flavor.


First, heat the olive oil until it runs easily around the base of the pot. Add the chopped onion (or fancy leek), garlic, and sauté for a minute. If you are using sausage for added flavor add it now. After a minute or so, add carrots and celery if you have them, and cabbage. Shake in a bunch of Italian seasoning, maybe a tablespoon at this point. Stir the veggies for a few minutes over the heat, searing them a bit, till there is a golden color you notice emerging here and there. Then add the chicken broth, enough to cover the veggies in the pot.

Add the tomato (I use one box of diced tomatoes—and I recommend boxed rather than canned as the box is BPA free, and tomatoes will leach a lot of BPA from cans since they are so acidic). Throw in the rest of the chopped veggies you have on hand, and let the pot come to a boil, then reduce the heat to a low simmer and let the soup go for an hour or so. Once the vegetables are tender, taste the soup for seasoning. Add salt carefully, and Italian seasoning liberally.


For those of you type “A”s who love numbers and actual measurements in your recipes, you can use this recipe, which I started with when I still read numbers in the kitchen while making this soup.

The great thing is that you can customize this to whatever veggies you have on hand, to your tastes, or up the protein content by adding beans or lean chicken, or even add some whole wheat pasta if you want.

I make a massive pot of this at least once a week and eat it for lunch, and sometimes also with dinner. As much as I want. I’ve served it to my family a few nights here and there for dinner with cornbread, and the kids have grown to like it. Talk about packed with nutrition! I know there are raw foodists out there who think every veggie is better raw, but did you know that the lycopene in tomatoes is increased with cooking? I need to start throwing mushrooms in every pot, as cooked mushrooms may have a protective effect against breast cancer!


{ 13 comments… add one }

  • Ruth February 5, 2013, 9:53 PM

    This sounds very yummy. I love soup through out the winter. Can’t to try this one.

  • laura February 13, 2013, 11:24 AM

    Sarah- tried this yesterday for lunch. Awesome! This will now become a staple of our home education lunch meal plan, at least until spring when we back off the soups a bit because we get so warm cleaning out animal shelters, moving hay bales, tilling soil – you get it!
    We’ve been super ill for better than a week- fevers for 5+ days. So, I added a bunch of garlic, seeing as how it’s supposed to cure what ails ‘ya, and it added a super nice savory component. Plus, a quart of homemade chicken stock rounded this all out. We’re sure to get well now, right?
    Blessings to you today.
    (P.S. the nursing of many sick ones has definitely slowed me down yet again in my pursuit of the final lines of The Aeneid. Plato was super hard for me and this one is testing me too…I think that might be why I’m doing it!)

    • Sarah February 13, 2013, 4:33 PM

      I’m so glad you liked it too. We have had sickness in our house also and soups are so very comforting. as far as the aeneid, I have had to read a summary of each book within it on the cliffnotes website before diving into the corresponding book in the aeneid, and that has been helpful in getting me oriented. There are so many characters!

  • laura February 13, 2013, 12:07 PM

    And, this – wish I’d said this first because it is perhaps the most significant thing that you wrote – you are no longer obese!
    Big hugs and congratulations.
    It required so much of you to be able to write those words – JOY!

    • Sarah February 13, 2013, 4:31 PM

      thanks so much!

  • Haley August 20, 2013, 1:09 PM

    Have you tried portioning this out and freezing it?

    • Sarah August 20, 2013, 8:15 PM

      Yes! It freezes great : ) I’m actually planning to stockpile some in my freezer for after my baby arrives.

  • Ashley November 12, 2013, 12:10 AM

    This sounds great. So do you just replace this with one meal or how does it work exactly?

    • Jacalyn September 1, 2014, 10:00 PM

      Too many conlipmemts too little space, thanks!

  • sunny December 12, 2013, 2:07 AM

    hello! i was wondering if there Is a serving size. i have been struggling with weight my whole life. i got down to my goal weight this past July and over the last few months i have managed to gain back 20. hoping this soup will get me back on track. thank u!

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  • susie October 1, 2014, 10:22 AM

    I make something like this but add some ground beef or elk! I think it adds a lot to have a pound of meat in there. Yea for soup season!

  • Hunting.Targ December 3, 2014, 3:28 PM

    congratulations, and thank you for the recipe. We will probably alter it to suit our palates and guts (cabbage in any form makes some people very gassy). I would like to say two things:
    Firstly; Don’t let the BMI be your measuring rod, and don’t let health professionals use it to judge you. A buoyancy test and measurements are the only scientific way to measure how ‘fatty’ your body is. The BMI is a stastical tool, and doesn’t take into account bone density and water retention/dehydration ( which can alter your standing weight by 5-10%!)
    Second: The traditional Southern diet is not toxic, not compared to modern processed food. It started as a farmer’s diet, and turned into two courses of fare; one for the slave and working classes, heavy on boiled meats and vegetables, and one for the affluent, including baked or roasted meats, lots of butter, refined sugar and confections, and spices and alcohols. Neither extreme is balaced in itself, but taken together and adjusted for proper portion control, it can be a modestly healthy diet, especially when using fresh and unprocessed ingedients. A lot of the refined sugars can go, but fatty meats, roots and legumes, and baked fruits, are excellent fare. Also real butter, while fattening, is also a brain food. All things in moderation, i.e. in appropriate proportions.
    Congratulations, and may you continue in good health and good spirits!


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