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The fragrant aroma and comforting warmth of simmering soup is inviting on a cold winter day. Soups can be very healthy when made with ingredients rich in nutrients and low in sodium and fat.
• They are quick to fix and so they fit a busy lifestyle.
• Clean-up is easy since only one pot is required for cooking.
• Plus soups often taste even better the second day as flavors have more time to blend and so you can cook once and eat twice! Another great bonus - can clean out your refrigerator and make soup at the same time!
• Soups need a flavorful liquid for the base. If you have chicken or beef stock in your refrigerator from cooking chicken or lean beef simply remove and discard any hardened fat that has surfaced and use the liquid for the soup base – a great way to save money also! If not, use a low sodium and fat free commercially prepared chicken, beef or vegetable stock or broth for the base to keep sodium and fat content lower. Low sodium tomato or vegetable juice can also be used. Pour the stock or juice in a large pot and turn burner on low to begin heating.
• Now it’s time to clean out the refrigerator! Look for raw vegetables like carrots, celery, cabbage, kale, bell peppers and the onion half and that would be good in vegetable soup. Don’t forget the half bag of coleslaw mix and fresh tomatoes in the refrigerator. Toss out any vegetables that are not fresh enough to use.
• Chop vegetables in uniform pieces and add to the heating soup base liquid. Turn the heat up to medium to begin cooking.
• Check the potato bin and grab a couple potatoes to wash well under running water. Chop and add to soup. No need to peel, the peeling contains lots of nutrients. Grab an onion to chop if there wasn’t one to use up in the refrigerator.
• Next check the refrigerator for leftover cooked vegetables like green beans, corn and peas that would be good in soup and add those.
• If you have leftover cooked dried beans, peas or lentils that would be good combined with the soup ingredients you can add them for protein. Or open a can of unsalted beans to add if desired.
• Adding leftover cooked brown rice or whole grain pasta is a great way to incorporate a whole grain in the soup.
• If the soup seems lacking in vegetables a great option is to add that partially used bag of frozen peas, corn or mixed vegetables.
• If more liquid is needed add additional broth, a can or two of unsalted stewed tomatoes or unsalted tomato sauce plus water.
• Soups should be loaded with nutrients and wonderful rich flavor. For additional flavor add garlic, ground black pepper or favorite dried soup seasonings like oregano, a couple of bay leaves or thyme. A little salt can be added if needed but keep to a minimum to keep the sodium content of the soup low. Taste and adjust seasonings if desired.
• One more bonus – no two pots of soup will ever taste the same and each will be delicious!
Becky Varner, MS RD LD
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