Welcome to The Basil & Cinnamon Sagas! I'm Alexa, and I am a food and travel blogger who loves cooking, baking, eating, and storytelling. Enjoy reading and eating your way through the Sagas found here!

Hearty Winter Soup

Hearty Winter Soup


The Winter Olympics, though. Am I right?!

I absolutely LOVE the Olympics, and while the Summer Olympics are definitely my favorite, the winter variety comes in at a very close second (in fact, some might even say that they receive the silver medal....haha. Just here to provide you with your daily dose of cheesy jokes!). 

I've been watching the Winter Olympics practically every free moment that I've had since they started last week. I've also been following the social media accounts of food bloggers Molly Yeh and Tieghan Gerard, as they're both in Pyeonchang right now. Molly had a really cool opportunity to report on arts and culture in Pyeonchang for the Olympic Channel, while Tieghan is there to support her little brother Red, a snowboarder who just won USA's first medal (GOLD! Way to represent Colorado!). I'm not going to lie, I'm a little jealous of both of them, but more than that I'm just really happy that they get to be in that heady environment of victory and the realization of dreams, including their own. I think that's part of what makes the Olympics so great, that we all get caught up in that spirit of patriotism and respect and support and global connectedness, even from thousands of miles away. There is so much emotion tied into the Olympic games, and it is so palpable that it reaches across the globe and gifts everyone watching with a spark of inspiration, a spark of connectedness. We watch unblinking as each athlete competes, we cheer for each other, and we stand together in awe of the incredible things that humans are capable of.


Amongst all this inspiration, I think that there is sometimes this darker hidden depth to the games. The old joke "That 16 year old just won a gold medal for doing ____ and here I am just sitting on the couch" while funny, has the power to haunt you. I know I've caught myself thinking negatively and playing the comparison game when I watch the staggering feats that these athletes are able to accomplish, some of them at as young as 15, and then compare it to what I have accomplished in my life.

This is a fruitless pursuit, and it's wildly skewed. Olympic athletes have worked extremely hard at something that they are passionate about and talented in. The only reason we start to play this comparison game is because we see the culmination of their accomplishments on a big screen, buoyed with years of fanfare and hype. What if someone televised our own personal accomplishments? Then would we finally see them as worthy? I guarantee that there is something in your life, in each of our lives, that you are passionate about and talented in. Therefore, the only thing that separates us from Olympic athletes is the amount of work we put in, and how much of an audience we get. 

One of these factors we can change, and one of them we don't need to. It doesn't matter how large of an audience you have; if you are doing something you are passionate about, it is going to bring you joy. Whether or not that comes with an audience doesn't change how it makes you feel, and how it makes you feel is what is ultimately going to give you that gold medal vibe. 

The other factor, how much work we put into our passions, is something that is entirely up to each of us. Talent can only take you so far; if you don't work to become better at something, you won't. Even Olympic athletes, if they hadn't dedicated year after year of their lives to practicing a sport that maybe they had some natural talent in originally, would never have gotten to that Olympic stage and been able to compete in front of the world.

So I think rather than playing the comparison game or hopping aboard the self-pity boat, use the Olympics as a springboard of inspiration. Utilize the emotion pouring out of the games to focus on your own personal passions, and let the drive and work ethic of Olympic athletes motivate you to work hard, to push until you have accomplished an Olympian-worthy achievement of your own.


This post went in a completely different direction than I thought it was going to, but that topic has been something that's been on my mind this past week, and that is the beautiful thing about writing. It tends to divulge whatever has been spinning around your head and give it clarity.

In other, more mellow news, I've made soup for you all. Warm, hearty, vegetabley goodness in a bowl. I'm just getting over a wicked cold that knocked me down for a few days, and I know that there are a lot of you out there who are with me--this winter has been rough in the immune department. Even if you did manage to stay healthy as a horse, there is also quick a bit of cold/snow/rain flurrying around right now as well; my Illinois family and Colorado family are both reporting snowfall. So no matter what kind of cold you have, weather or illness, I've got your back with this healthy recipe full of herbs and vegetables and things that are going to warm you up and strengthen your body. Plus, it's easy as can be to make, requiring nothing more strenuous than some simple vegetable chopping and dropping in a pot to simmer.

I've dubbed it a winter soup, but to be honest, it's more of an all-around cold weather soup. The ingredients are all seasonal things that are easy to find in the fall/winter months. Plus, eating seasonally is always better for your body, your budget, and your local food economy.

A quick note: while the simmering time is 30-40 minutes, feel free to let this soup cook for a couple hours while you do something else. Cooking longer is only going to increase the flavor, which is never a bad thing in my book! Just make sure to stir occasionally and to add water if it ever starts to look dry.

This winter soup pairs well with the Winter Olympics. Treat yourself to a steaming bowl while you watch athletes freeze their booties off on the ice and in the snow.

xoxo Alexa


Hearty Winter Soup

Takes: About 1 hour

Makes: 5 servings

The Saga:

  1. Wash and dice your shallot, onion, carrots, and celery stalks.
  2. Add olive oil to the bottom of a large 8 quart pot. Turn to medium heat.
  3. Sauté the shallot, onion, carrots, celery stalks, and chickpeas together until the vegetables have softened and the onions have turned translucent, about 10 minutes. In the last few minutes, mince the garlic cloves and add them to the pot. 
  4. Wash and peel the sweet potato. Slice the sweet potato into square, half inch cubes and add them to the pot. 
  5. Add diced tomatoes, crushed tomatoes, water, baby kale, and all the spices to the pot. Stir to incorporate, and add salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Cover the pot with a lid, leaving a slight gap for steam to escape. Let cook for at least 30-40 minutes or until sweet potatoes have softened, checking and stirring occasionally. If the soup begins to look dry, add a little more water. **You can cook for longer to increase the flavor. Just make sure to stir the soup occasionally and check to make sure it isn't becoming dry.**
  7. Serve up a bowl of delicious, hearty, cold weather goodness.

The Characters:

  • 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 shallot
  • 1 onion
  • 5 carrots
  • 5 celery stalks
  • 15 oz. can of chickpeas
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 large sweet potato
  • 14.5 oz. can of diced tomatoes
  • 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes
  • 2 cups water
  • 5 oz. baby kale
  • A few fresh sage leaves
  • 1/2 tsp. dried rosemary
  • 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • Salt
  • Ground black pepper


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