The day after her 14th birthday, my daughter E leaned against the door to my office and said, “Let’s go on a diet together.”
I was stunned into babbling: “You do not need to go on a diet. You’re a size 0. If you get any smaller, you’ll cease to exist.”
“I know. I don’t want to lose any weight. But it would be fun to do it together.”
I knew where this was coming from. Earlier that day she’d had lunch with a friend and her friend’s “awesome mom” who were doing a low-carb diet together. She’d watched as her vegetarian friend put all the cheese and vegetables of her sandwich onto one piece of bread and ate it open-faced. She’d told me about the lunch in detail, and I could tell that there was something about the relationship between the mother and daughter that appealed to her, something that she wanted to share with me. And though the idea of her starting down this whole diet path at her age scared me to death, I said, “How about a cabbage soup diet?” I never dreamed she’d say yes, but she did.
Notice I said “a” cabbage soup diet and not “the” cabbage soup diet, whatever that is. Our plan was simply to eat cabbage soup once a day for a week and not to restrict ourselves in any way. I figured it would be a way to get more vegetables into her “sandwich for lunch” diet. It had been years since she’d allowed me to pack soup in her lunchbox, but now she was asking me to, even offering to eat it for breakfast. More importantly, it would give me a chance to show her that a person’s “diet” isn’t about weight loss but about healthy eating. If I’d seen any sign that she was actually wanting to lose weight, any sign of body image issues, I would have backed off of the idea and sat her down for a long talk. But she just wanted to get into the kitchen to make our soup together.
I decided right away that our vegan cabbage soup would contain beans for protein, tomatoes for lycopene, and a little extra fat, in the form of pine nuts. E sauteed the onions and other vegetables while I did all the chopping, and we decided together that some of the basil from our garden would be the best seasoning for our “pesto soup,” as E called it.
Like everything else E has had a hand in making, she loved this soup. She ate two bowls of it for lunch on Sunday, the first day of our “diet,” and took it to school for lunch on Monday, along with some whole-grain crackers, a granola bar, and an apple–a nourishing meal for a teenager.
I’m still not sure I did the right thing in allowing a 14-year old to go on a diet, even one without restrictions. But I figure in our body-conscious society, more and more of her friends are going to be talking about dieting, and I might as well show her from the start that it’s all about adding healthy fruits and vegetables, not taking dangerous pills or drinking meals out of cans.
Update: We had this soup for lunch on Sunday and Monday, and for Tuesday I made a potato-cabbage soup that was, in E’s words, an epic fail. We both ate it anyway, but there was no way we were choking it down again on Wednesday, so we went soupless. I’m making another pot of this cabbage soup today, since it was such a success, and we’ll have some for a snack this afternoon.
Simple Cabbage and Chickpea Soup with Fresh Basil
- 1 onion , chopped
- 2 carrots , sliced
- 4 cloves garlic cloves , minced or pressed
- 6 cups hot water (plus bouillon cubes, below) or vegetable broth (and no bouillon cubes)
- 3 cubes no-salt added bouillon cubes (or enough to flavor 6 cups of water)*
- 1/2 head cabbage , chopped
- 1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
- 1 16-ounce can chickpeas , rinsed and drained (or 1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas)
- 2 teaspoons oregano
- generous grating black pepper
- 1/3 cup fresh basil , chopped
- 2 tablespoons pine nuts , lightly toasted (optional)
- Heat a large, non-stick pot. Add the onions and cook, stirring, for about 3 minutes. Add the carrots and garlic and cook for another two minutes. Add all remaining ingredients EXCEPT the basil and pine nuts. Cover and simmer until vegetables are tender, about 25 minutes.
- Stir in fresh basil and serve in individual soup bowls, topped with 1 teaspoon of pine nuts, if desired.
Nutritional info is approximate.
MadhuMay 6, 2011 at 8:17 pm
Hi Susan, this is a wonderful recipe. I was a little worried on how a combination of cabbage and chickpeas would taste …. but it turned out so tasty and hearty. I generally dont use bouillon cubes but picked up the Rapunzel brand which you used from Whole Foods Market. This is a soup I am going to make atleast once a week.
PM in NCMay 10, 2011 at 9:12 am
I made this soup for dinner last night and brought it for lunch today. It’s delicious and came together very quickly, especially since my recently returned college student son did all the chopping while I worked on the rest of dinner. Thanks for another delicious, practical recipe.
VEGirlMay 11, 2011 at 11:00 am
“If you get any smaller, you will cease to exist!”. LOL!
I remember going on a calorie-restriction diet with my mom when I was younger (maybe 12 0r 13). I kind of wish we had done a cabbage soup diet instead (Although I currently eat a “popcorn every day!” diet). I don’t think is was healthy for me to learn how to count calories– It definitely could have contributed in part to my difficulty with disordered eating. 🙁 But, E, you are so cute! (and this is coming from a fellow teen, not an old creep).
KristenMay 21, 2011 at 4:07 pm
I made this last night and it was indeed delicious! I wasn’t expecting it to have much flavor, but it had lots of flavor and was very filling. Will definitely make again!
Kimberly C.May 28, 2011 at 12:46 pm
This looks crazy delicious! I remember trying to become a vegetarian when I was a teen and my stepfather wouldn’t support me, and ate all my strawberries! I’m trying to find my way back, and a recipe like this could definitely help.
sarahfMay 28, 2011 at 9:55 pm
Wow, this soup is awesome. The pinenuts and fresh basil really make it, I probably added more fresh basil per bowl of soup than called for, but I love it so much.. I have left over pinenuts so I think I will make another batch this week. Susan, I think you are a great mom. I have a 3.5 month old daughter and it totally scares me to death when I think about all the pressures that young girls face these days. I hope that if I have the patience and the sense to handle situations with her when she is a teen the way you handled things with your daughter.
EmilyJuly 4, 2011 at 12:49 pm
I try to find delicious ways to cook vegetables, so that my husband and I can ease our way into a healthier lifestyle. We LOVED this recipe! Thank you for sharing this 🙂
FionaSeptember 2, 2011 at 5:08 pm
I didn’t have fresh basil (it’s the end of winter here in Australia and I wasn’t going to spend $4 on a tiny bunch of basil at the store) so I used dried basil and the soup came out very bland. So, to anyone who is thinking about substituting fresh basil for dried in this recipe I would definitely recommend against it. To bring up the flavor I added thyme, rosemary, a ton of no-salt added garlic and herb seasoning, as well as more basil and oregano, then added some vegan worchestershire sauce, lemon juice, and a slice of vegan sandwich meat. The sandwich meat sounds weird but added a really meaty, slightly smoky flavor to the soup. I also wanted my soup to be a bit heartier so I added 1/2 cup quinoa to the soup, and if I’d had more chickpeas around I would have added more of those too. My additions much improved the soup, but overall it was just ok. I suspect it’s probably much better with fresh basil.
Janers5October 27, 2011 at 12:13 am
Just made this soup and it was so yummy! The pine nuts and basil really made the dish! Thanks a bunch, this is becoming a regular in our house for sure now!
GusichkaDecember 16, 2011 at 4:47 am
I have a slight cold and was looking for a vegy soup, this is just what i needed! Going to try both of your recipes today =)
Sylvia SmithJanuary 9, 2012 at 10:53 am
sounds tasty and wise
VenessaApril 21, 2012 at 4:32 pm
I think your reaction was perfect.
Every one of us is on a “diet”. In my opinion, diet is just the food we eat – some people are more concious about their diets than others are. Some people have diets full of rubbishy food and some people prefer their diets to contain nutritious healthy food.
Off to print out this soup and add it to my rotation!
Marian GleasonApril 23, 2012 at 1:22 pm
SUSAN!!! just printed out this recipe & you’ve added a photo feature – that is awesome! Can’t wait to make this for Bill & me. Bet it’s YUMBO! Oh, how I’ve missed chatting w/you this way. Been too long away from the Internet… BEST to you & YOURS! xxMarian
KateApril 24, 2012 at 6:28 pm
I love this soup! I made it twice and just can’t get enough of it. I make it with twice the tomato (a large can) and twice the cabbage and use red cabbage for gorgeous color. Thank you Susan!
ambrosiaJuly 31, 2012 at 2:45 pm
I always make this recipe – it is fabulous. Even without the pine nuts. It gets gobbled up right away.
SharonSeptember 7, 2012 at 5:51 pm
This soup is delicious.
LynnSeptember 18, 2012 at 8:10 pm
I did a search for chickpeas and basil, and found you. I have basil growing wild in the back yard, and this was a great way to use some of it. I didn’t have carrots so I used the tiniest butternut squash you have ever seen, salvaged from the garden before the bugs got it. The soup was wonderful. Thank you!
JenniferJanuary 2, 2013 at 1:06 pm
Was looking for a vegan New Years dish and this was perfect! Used black eye peas instead of chickpeas and served with a side of flaxseed cornbread = a semi-traditional New Years meal!
Also, loved the story that went along with this. At 23, it wasn’t that long ago that I was in your daughters position surrounded by fad diets and friends trying to lose weight when they didn’t need to. So glad that you’re teaching your daughter about a healthy lifestyle that will serve her well for her entire life!
HanaFebruary 4, 2013 at 4:42 pm
Basil?!!! I would not have thought of that, but with the tomato it would work well.
Applause for teaching your daughter to cook and sharing the kitchen with her. My grandmother taught me to cook and appreciate fine foods and wine; it was a priceless gift. My sister, who never learned to cook or savor real food, turned into an anorexic and never learned how to eat in a healthy way.
On a more cheery note, I usually make cabbage soup with grass fed lamb, but I’m trying vegetarian versions — the one I’m cooking right now has only cabbage, caramelized onions, carrots, white wine, parsley and dill. Based on your ideas I might add a tomato coulis and perhaps some cooked white beans.
RobinApril 16, 2013 at 4:18 pm
I will be making tonight, for once I have all the ingredients on hand.
BuddyApril 16, 2013 at 10:32 pm
I have the same story as you but with my 15 year old, 6’1″ Football player. We are now “Pescaterians” and are bonding over our new healthier lifestyle. As a single Dad with two sons (one away at college) you got to love when you can bond.
This soup will make it on our table soon.
Love your site and look at it often to help me find new meals to keep things interesting.
evelioJune 9, 2013 at 3:41 pm
Eating vegan is not a “diet”. Eating vegan is nothing more or less than natural hygiene. I think that it is self evident that people who don’t shower often or wash their hands before a meal stand a greater chance of becoming ill. It is also not hygienic to live in a dirty, cluttered, dusty home environment; likewise, it is not hygienic to fill one’s intestines with the meat and the secretions(dairy) of –often diseased and mistreated– animals.
You may tell your daughter that eating vegan is just common sense hygiene–it’s everybody else, on the contrary, that’s on some weird “diet”.
thanks for the recipe!
–buy local and organic
BritneyAugust 24, 2013 at 11:18 am
Just wanted to thank you for the recipe!
Diane O'CallaghanApril 22, 2015 at 10:06 am
I’m becoming addicted to your recipes – very best to you and your awesome daughter…..(you’re no slouch, yourself!)
Rebecca FinchApril 24, 2015 at 1:10 pm
Just finished making three quarts of soup using this recipe as the base but adding many more carrots (I just had eye surgery). So delicious in addition to being nutritious. I added both thyme and rosemary in addition to the oregano to up the antioxidant content of the dish. The flavor profile of this recipe is out of sight.
Randy BSeptember 30, 2015 at 4:45 pm
This looks like a similar recipe that my grandma used except she didn’t use the tomato and pine nuts. Thx
SusanOctober 25, 2015 at 8:44 pm
another tasty, easy soup recipe. I followed your recipe and also added some quinoa that I needed to do something with. Thank you Susan! Your recipes are always so reliable!
PaulaJanuary 11, 2016 at 12:06 am
Just made this, since we had a whole head of cabbage left over. I’m going to try adding some cumin and more garlic next time.
MatildaJune 1, 2016 at 11:10 am
Oh, Oh, close to Heaven this soup is. I had a bowl for Breakfast and I imagine I’ll have it for my other meals today also.It is one of the absolutely best soups I’ve Had. Give your daughter E a big hug for me, I’m glad she convinced and helped you make it. Thank you, Susan and E. Matilda
EmOctober 13, 2016 at 11:47 am
I’m going to make this again- but a purple haze version. I have purple veggie broth from using purple carrots and will use purple/red cabbage and add purple carrots and purple potatoes. I will use cannellini beans because they take on the color and other than that follow the recipe as I have before and is so yummy!
LindaMarch 25, 2018 at 5:54 pm
When your recipe calls for 1/3 cup basil, chopped – do you measure it first, then chop it? Or measure it after it has been chopped? I am excited to try this soup.
Susan VoisinMarch 25, 2018 at 10:34 pm
I measure it first and then chop it. I hope you enjoy the recipe!
MarieNovember 2, 2018 at 12:20 pm
Such a good mom! You’re daughter reminds me of me at that age (now 50) and my mom even back then took a similar approach. Food was never presented as a treat or punishment or bad/good just healthier and less healthy and things like pure chocolate syrup (Yum!) was special for once and while and moderation, chips and soda maybe weekends and never whole bags but cereal bowls. We also were not made to finish or eat what we truly didn’t want BUT at the next meal you were reminded and made to take a smaller amount to not waste moms or dads cooking. And I agree with size zero – WTH?There is a size double zero but in high end designer lines I believe. Crazy. So bravo mom! I just found this and will be making this weekend. Looks great! Hubby is working on going more vegan plant based whole food and loves cabbage roles so this fits! We may try adding some crumbly soy or mushrooms to help replace the beef. He doesn’t miss or want the taste so much as the texture. I’m good without and can’t eat any plant based (franken) foods/products that taste too much like real animal protein or cows dairy. Also thank you for print option to condense pages to just print recipe! So many don’t offer this. Best wishes,