Thankfully, the temperatures are out of the deep freeze, but there’s still plenty of winter ahead. Nothing beats a steaming bowl of soup on a cold winter’s day. Store bought versions are convenient, but you can kick up the flavor and boost nutrition when you make your own. As an added bonus you can throw in ingredients that need to get used. (I’m thinking about the celery that’s hanging out in my crisper drawer.)
Four steps to healthful, delicious homemade soup.
Step One. Sauté vegetables. Sautéing some of the vegetables in a small amount of oil before adding other ingredients give soup an unmistaken homemade flavor. Onions, green pepper, celery, carrots, mushrooms and garlic are frequently used as this base layer. To sauté vegetables, heat a small amount of canola oil or olive oil (no more than 2 Tbsp) in a large pot. Add any variety of chopped or diced vegetables and cook until slightly browned.
Step Two. Add a liquid. For a healthy soup this will be broth or tomato juice. Opt for lower sodium canned broth and vegetable juices. If you have enough time homemade broth is the way to go.
Step Three. Add other ingredients. There are countless ingredients you can use in soup and it’s hard to go wrong. Here are some ingredients I frequently use to make soup.
Lots of veggies. In addition to the vegetables you have already sautéed, try corn, green beans, cabbage, tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, sweet potatoes, squash, turnips, parsnips, peas or kale. These vegetables need to simmer in the cooking liquid until they are tender, so think about the timing of when to add them. Potatoes will require 15-20 minutes of simmer time, kale or other green leafy vegetables will require just a few minutes.
Beans and legumes. Beans and legumes are good sources of fiber and protein and make great hearty, winter soups. Canned beans are the most convenient way to go and are very nutritious when you drain and rinse them before they go in the pot. Lentils are also convenient because they are dried beans that don’t require soaking before you cook them. Add lentils directly to the cooking liquid with the other ingredients and simmer for 20 - 25 minutes.
Animal Protein. Soup is a great way to use leftover meat. Roast leftovers, ground meat, chicken breast and turkey have all made their way into a satisfying soup meal. If you use fresh meat such as stew beef or chicken, cook the meat in a small amount of water and use this as part of the liquid in Step Two.
Grain. Adding a whole grain makes a heartier soup and boosts fiber and nutrition. Typical grains include barely, whole grain or wild rice, and pasta. Check the package for the cooking time and add accordingly. Pearl barley takes 40 minutes to cook; quick barley takes 10 minutes to cook. Rice will take 20 minutes and pasta will only take 10 minutes.
Step Four. Season. Choose whatever seasonings you think will complement the other ingredients. Italian spices like oregano, basil or Italian seasoning will work well with a tomato based soup. Parsley flakes, thyme and marjoram blend well with chicken or turkey. You may want to use just salt and pepper!
Of course the last step is to enjoy! When you follow these steps you won’t even need a recipe to create healthy, nourishing soup this winter, but here’s a recipe to get you started.
Winter Vegetable Soup 12 servings
2 Tbsp canola oil
4 carrots, thinly sliced
2 celery stalks, thinly sliced
2 parsnips, diced
6 cups chicken stock or reduced sodium chicken broth
3 medium potatoes, diced
2 cups cauliflower florets
1 small head cabbage, quartered and cored and cut into thin strips
2 tomatoes, seeded & diced
1/2 tsp dried thyme
3 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley, or 1 Tbsp dried parsley
Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add carrots, celery, and parsnips and cook 10-15 minutes over medium heat, stirring frequently. Stir the stock into the vegetables and bring to a boil. Add the potatoes, cauliflower, cabbage and tomatoes with herbs. Bring back to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until the vegetables are tender, 15-20 minutes.
1 cup = 101 calories, 3 g fat, 15 g carbohydrates, 323 mg sodium