The Effect of Soup by Elizabeth Brown, MS, RD

Italian Marriage Proposal Soup

Published on pg. 10 of the SMDP newspaper April 19-20, 2008, click link for original article


After all these years it finally happened. I got my first marriage proposal.


The secret, ladies, is in the soup. I made a soup so good that it caused a man to propose marriage. Who knew it was that easy?


You’ve heard of Italian Wedding Soup, right? Well, I can’t promise a wedding but a proposal of marriage is certainly a possibility.


I have been trying to decide how to best put my skills to use; as a clinical dietitian who can help people with medical conditions, as a holistic chef who can cook disease-fighting, energy-enhancing food for people or teach them how to do it themselves, as a personal trainer which is how this whole profession got started more than 20 years ago, or as a writer, like I am doing now and have done when I worked in publishing.


For some reason, people keep trying to steer me in the direction of being a personal chef. I tried it a few months ago. I was hired by a wealthy client in Malibu. It was nice, sometimes, but also sometimes stressful, often times humbling, to be someone’s “servant.” To cook for a man and his children, a family that was not mine.


I tried to look at it as having the opportunity to put love into my food for my client and his family, but I felt unappreciated. I wasn’t sure this was something I wanted to do long-term but I had signed on for a three month commitment.


I was there exactly once month when I fell in his house and broke my foot. I remember feeling rundown that day, as if I were coming down with something. I know I wasn’t being totally mindful to my surroundings. Perhaps if I was, I would not have bumped into the dog and twisted my foot, breaking it I three places as I fell to the floor.


Well, that was it. The gig was over. I knew in my heart that this was not meant to be. I got a “break” from this situation and a chance to re-evaluate my life.


Life works that way, sometimes what seems like an unfortunate situation turns out to be a blessing in disguise.


One afternoon, a few months later, I received a call from an actress who was being trained by Frankie, one of the “trainer’s to the stars” from Gold’s gym, where I train.


It seems that the chef they had been using for their clients, who was also named Elizabeth, also broke her foot and could not cook. I know what you’re thinking, the coincidence is uncanny!


Desperate to keep his clients in “lean mode” Frankie thought that perhaps I could jump in. He had one client in particular who was in the midst of shooting a movie and had to maintain her weight. He asked me to help her out.


I talked to the actress, Sophie, about her dietary needs. She had to maintain a low body weight for her role as a cancer patient in the now released movie “My Sister’s Keeper.” She was very sweet. She wanted to follow a vegetarian diet so we talked about what foods she eats on a regular basis.I thought this would be a great experience but in the end I had to decline the job. The studio would pay for my services, but they were not willing to pay very much. I would also have to deliver the food to Sophie everyday and I didn’t have a car. In the end, I passed the job on to another chef friend of mine named Frankie. He too agreed that the fee was too low and I think he passed as well.


Frankie the Trainer had some recipes written on notebook paper which he photocopied and gave to his clients or to their personal chefs. I felt bad about not being able to cook for Sophie, especially since I really respected Frankie. So I typed up his recipes in a nice format for photocopying. I also thought it would be fun to try one of Frankie’s recipes. One is called “Champion Stew.”


I made Frankie’s stew but added some of my own special touches. Then I left some at the gym for Frankie to try. The next day as I was working out, Frankie walked over to me and said, “I have to ask you to marry me. When I ate that soup I thought to myself, I have to ask this woman to marry me.”


It really is not a difficult recipe, just a soup chock full of nutritious vegetables. But what makes it so special is the intention behind it. I did not make it for money. I made it out of love, because I love to cook, I love to make nutritious recipes and I love to share my food with people who appreciate it. Intention is the most important ingredient of all. When you make this soup, don’t focus on the specific ingredients or techniques, simply focus on your intentions for making it and if they are good, your “Champion Stew” will be loved and you too may get a marriage proposal.


Italian Marriage Proposal Soup/ Frankie’s Champion Stew

1 cup dry lentils (prepare with 3 cups water or brewed tea plus 1 piece Kombu)
2 cups chopped carrots
6 stalks celery,
chopped (including leaves)
1 cup small diced potatoes
1 (16oz) bag frozen corn
1 (16oz) bag frozen green beans
1 yellow onion,
1 Tablespoon Tamari or Bragg’s Liquid Amino Acids
2 Bay leaves
1 bunch fresh parsley,
Plus whatever fresh herbs you wish to use up. I also included fresh dill & sage in my soup.
1 Tablespoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground thyme

1 teaspoon marjoram
32 ounce Box organic vegetable broth
28 ounce can organic diced tomatoes

Prepare the lentils by rinsing them in a sieve first. Add lentils and water to a medium size sauce pot. Cover with a lid. Bring to a boil and reduce to simmer. Keep covered. Cook on low to avoid bubbling over.

While lentils are cooking, wash and chop the vegetables. Place each chopped vegetable into individual bowls.

Heat one cup of broth in a skillet that is at least eleven inches round by three inches deep. Add the onion and heat until fragrant, stirring constantly. Add the potatoes, carrots, celery and more water as needed. Cover with a lid and steam sauté for about 10 minutes.

Add the Tamari, the bay leaves and the dry herbs. Stir to blend flavors. Add the corn and green beans and stir. Add half of the vegetable broth, replace the lid and allow to steam sauté for 10 minutes. Add more liquid as needed to prevent ingredients from sticking.

Add the tomatoes to the sauté pan with the other ingredients. Add the rest of the broth and simmer. Allow the soup to simmer on low heat for about 30 more minutes. Stir every 10 minutes.

When the soup is done, be sure to taste it and add more seasonings or liquid as needed.

When the lentils are done, remove from heat. Remove the Kombu and cut into pieces. Add chopped Kombu to lentils. Store lentils in a separate container in the refrigerator. Label and date and use within 5 days. Add to soup and other dishes as needed.

Cool the soup in a large bowl placed in an ice bath in the sink. Soup should cool to 70 degrees within the hour. Ladle soup into storage containers and refrigerate within two hours. Label and date and freeze any portion you feel you may not use within 5 days.

Soup makes a great meal for breakfast, lunch or dinner or a snack. Pair with a green salad plus protein for a simple yet filling meal. To take to work, ready-to-eat, heat soup in the morning, place in 16 ounce thermos and eat within five hours.

Per serving: 1 cup, 90 calories, 1g fat, 15g Carbs, 4g Fiber, 5g Protein, 90% DV Vitamin A, 15% Vitamin C, 18% Folate and greater than 10% of the DV for every Vitamin & mineral except for B12. Add 1 Tbsp Nutritional Yeast Flakes for a Vegetarian source of B12.