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Soup was on this week in our family

A few weeks ago I received an email from my brother extolling the deliciousness of a soup he’d made that day. It was “Pureed Cauliflower with Rosemary Infused Oil and Coconut Milk.”

He sent me a link to the recipe, but it turned out getting into the specifics required a password. It quickly became apparent that my reclusive brother, living alone with his two dogs in the Pacific Northwest wilderness belonged to a password-protected recipe club.

This is the brother whose father never boiled, baked, poached or pureed anything in his entire life. If nobody made a meal for dad, he simply did not eat. And when my ever-doting mother served him lunch or dinner, it was seldom soup. Casseroles were her specialty. She named them after her children. Mine was “Sharon’s Hamburger, Rice and Cheese Hot Dish.”

But let’s stay with soup. My daughter texted me the picture of a steaming bowl of soup she made last week — she said her family “adored” it. It had coconut milk, bone broth, chicken, various kinds of peppers and several spices I had never heard of — try to find dried makrut lime leaves in your local market.

My sister is the self-designated “best chef” in our family — she makes a lot of exotic soups. So I called her to find out more about those spices, and she said, “When it comes to good soup, you will have more fun if you improvise — take every leftover in your refrigerator and add a lot of (low-fat) coconut milk.”

Some of the items in our refrigerator are a little suspect but I did have a lot of canned coconut milk. It is clearly the common denominator in all that is comforting in winter supping.

Despite my sister’s suggestion, I opted for an actual recipe. I took out a cookbook that has intrigued me, but which I have not used often, “Nom Nom Paleo,” written by the husband-wife team Michelle Tam and Henry Fong and their two sons. I opened it and turned to the soup section. Out leapt a recipe for “Cardamom Carrot Soup.” I had a lot of cardamom left from Christmas baking and could easily get carrots — the coconut milk was a given.

Two hours later the house smelled wonderful. The soup was as thick as chowder and my husband who does not like carrots all that much said he really liked it.

So what is the magic of coconut milk? I looked up the best information I could find and was awash in its documented health benefits. Lowering bad (LDL) cholesterol and increasing good (HDL) cholesterol was mentioned frequently. As was the anti-inflammatory impact, especially for people with fibromyalgia and lupus. The downside reminder was coconut milk is high in saturated fat and calories and apparently some people experience digestive issues when overindulging. That said, it was touted as “a simple, natural cure for a slightly constipated toddler.”

Coconut milk is also said to be a good hair conditioner and the answer to improving skin elasticity and flexibility — aka modifying wrinkles. Those last two benefits give new meaning to the term “soup’s on,” don’t you think?

Sharon Johnson is a retired health educator. Reach her at sharjohn99@.com.