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Steamy, comforting soup savors seasonal veggies

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Its easy to see the value in local, seasonal food, but how does one go about finding it during the long winters of the Rocky Mountains? The kitchen team at Restaurant Avondale has suggestions on finding the freshest produce, preparing it, preserving it and saving a little money along the way.Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa Executive Chef Mike Regrut understands the growing seasons. October and April are the lightest harvest months, he says. In the northern hemisphere April starts the beginning of the growing season and produces the lightest harvests. Its just the opposite in the southern hemisphere. Were seeing the end of the local harvest and will soon see the beginnings of the new season from South America.Learning to eat whats in season is a great way to save money, he adds. When food is in season, its abundant and the prices are lowest. Its basic supply and demand. Learn to prepare foods that can be frozen, which saves time on busy days.Avondales pastry chef Allison Helfer agrees. We purchase many cases of fresh fruits in season and make preserves to use all winter long. Jams and preserves can be heat-sealed and frozen or canned in the traditional method. Even easier, try drying fruit slices for a nutritious snack, tasty addition to cereal, or healthy topping for ice cream.Another tip from Helfer is joining a community-supported agriculture farm. There are co-ops in California that grow throughout the winter in their greenhouses. The farmers will sell you a share in their produce for the growing season at a flat rate, and youll get a box each week with whatever is freshest on their farm.Jeremy Kittelson, executive chef at Avondale says a steamy soup on the stove is one of lifes simple pleasures. One of the easiest meals to learn to make, soups have endless variety from one technique. Use whatever looks welcoming in the grocery store, use leftovers, and use items you froze during the summer. A hearty soup with a simple salad and a rustic loaf of bread will make a comforting meal on a cold night. Think ahead and make a big batch freeze in quart containers and you have a delicious meal ready for another time.

2 carrots, peeled and sliced1⁄2 onion, diced2 celery stalks, diced1 clove garlic, minced1 teaspoon dried whole thyme1 teaspoon dried basil1⁄2 teaspoon dried marjoramSalt and pepper to taste3 quarts chicken or vegetable stock1⁄2 cup barley1 15 ounce can peeled, seeded tomatoes1⁄2 cup fresh (or frozen) green beans1⁄2 cup fresh (or frozen) broccoli florets1⁄2 cup fresh (or frozen) cornSaute carrots, onion, celery and garlic in a large pot until translucent and fragrant. Add thyme, marjoram, basil, salt and pepper and stir for another minute. Add stock and bring to a boil. Add barley and tomatoes (add green beans and broccoli if fresh) and boil gently on medium high heat for 20 minutes. Add frozen vegetables and continue to simmer until barley is tender. Add salt and/or pepper to taste. Makes 4 quarts and freezes well.Chefs suggestions: There are unlimited additions and substitutions to make this soup different every time. Try adding turnips, parsnips, rutabagas and other root vegetables to the carrot mixture. Vary your herbs and spices. Substitute rice for barley. Add canned cannellini (or other) beans. Add or substitute any quick-cooking veggie at the end spinach, zucchini, red peppers or peas. To make your soup more hearty, add cooked chicken, pork or beef. If you are planning to freeze part of your soup, do not add cream or dairy products.

2 apples, sliced paper thin2 ripened pears, sliced paper thin1 cup sugar1 cup waterJuice of one lemonMake a simple syrup by combining sugar and water over medium high heat and stir until the sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice. Place apple and pear slices in separate bowls and pour half of the simple syrup over each. Turn to coat each slice. Drain. Spread fruit slices on a non-stick baking sheet and bake in low oven (200 degrees) for about one-and-a-half hours or until crisp. Remove from baking sheet before completely cool to avoid breakage and store in airtight containers. Great as a snack, an addition to your favorite trail mix or healthy topping for cereal or ice cream.Sue Barham is the marketing director for Restaurant Avondale and Larkspur Restaurant. Avondale recently opened in The Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa in Avon. The restaurant features a West Coast inspired, seasonal menu and the chefs use time-honored cooking methods, such as slow roasting and braising, to create simple dishes rich in flavor. The wine program focuses on small production wines to compliment the straightforward cuisine. For more information visit http://www.avondalerestaurant.com.


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