The aroma of a simmering soup is always welcome on a cold winter day. Soups fit beautifully into busy lifestyles and are easy to prepare using ingredients that are available. And they typically taste even better the second day as flavors have more time to blend. Clean-up is easy since soups require only one pot for cooking.
Soups are one of the most versatile of all recipes. They can be smooth and creamy or clear and thin. The base for a soup can be a meat, poultry, fish, milk, vegetable or even fruit. Some soups are high in fat and calories if made with ingredients that are high in fat. For example, a creamy soup using cream for the base or one flavored with a large amount of butter or other fat will be high in fat. Many traditionally prepared canned or processed soups are also high in sodium. But they can be made to be much healthier by selectively choosing ingredients. Soups should be packed with good nutrition and flavor.
When preparing homemade soups you can control calorie, sodium and fat content by the ingredients used. Homemade broth is a great ingredient to keep in the freezer. However, canned and boxed broths are convenient and are quite good. Many brands offer fat-free, reduced-sodium and no-added-salt varieties in chicken, beef and vegetable.
Soups can also be budget friendly. Choose ingredients that are on sale for the week. Plan ahead and purchase fresh vegetables such as bell peppers, celery, tomatoes, green onions and summer squash when they are at the lowest prices. Wash, pat dry and chop vegetables. Then portion them in half to one-cup amounts in freezer bags. These can be added to soups while still frozen.
Plan to use leftovers to make soup. One idea is to keep a bowl for making soup in the freezer. Leftovers can be refrigerated until chilled and then added to the bowl and covered. It is amazing how several spoons of leftover vegetables like green beans, carrots, peas, potatoes, squash, corn, tomatoes, cabbage and many other vegetables can be used to make a delicious and nutritious soup. Leftover pasta and a protein such as chicken, turkey or lean red meat can also be added to the bowl. When the bowl is near full remove it from the freezer and place it in the refrigerator overnight to defrost. When ready to make the soup simply add some type of stock. Unsalted stewed tomatoes or reduced sodium vegetable or tomato juice can also be added for liquid. Simmer to allow flavors to blend and season as desired. No two pots of soup will ever taste the same but they can all be delicious!
When making soup, prepare enough for multiple meals. Simply double the recipe and then freeze enough for dinner another evening.
This Pasta Fagioli recipe includes onion, red bell pepper, diced tomato and kale from the vegetable group, kidney beans from the protein group and whole wheat pasta from the grain group. And it is so simple to make. Here's how we made it:
Makes 8 servings
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon dry thyme
½ teaspoon dry rosemary
2 teaspoons minced fresh garlic
½ cup finely chopped onion
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
6 cups fat free low sodium chicken broth
2 15 ounce cans red kidney beans, drained
¾ cup uncooked whole wheat small pasta
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
15 ounce can tomato sauce
4 cups fresh diced tomatoes or two 14.5 ounce cans diced tomatoes
1¼ cups chopped fresh kale
• Pour oil in a large pot and heat to medium.
• Add thyme, rosemary and garlic to hot oil and sauté for about a minute.
• Add remaining ingredients. Cover and simmer about one hour.
Nutrition Information: This recipe makes 8 one cup servings. Each serving contains approximately 182 calories and 2.3 grams fat.
Serving Suggestion: Add a fresh fruit cup with fat free vanilla yogurt as a salad or desert to include something from every food group in MyPlate.
IF YOU GO
Becky will teach the following Healthy Cooking Classes in January: