Celebrate the Goodness of Soup

To me, nothing is better on a cold winter day than a bowl of  hot soup.  Well, maybe hot chocolate… but January isn’t National Hot Chocolate Month.  No, January is National Soup Month in the United States.  Did you know that approximately ten billion bowls of soup are consumed every year by Americans?

The first soups were a far cry from what we have today.  We don’t think fast food when we hear about soup but when it first started showing up on street carts in 600 B.C. it was.  Watery broth, lentils, beans, and peas were the main ingredients for Greek street vendors.  Soup was sold to help keep people warm and to ward off exhaustion.  Many cities that have large fisherman’s wharves — like San Francisco — still have soup vendors today.  The origin of the word ‘soup’ is in constant disagreement, but it can’t be ignored that soups are popular in most of the world.  Almost every country or culture has its own signature dish because soup is extremely versatile and customizable.

When you are sick, there is nothing like a good bowl of soup.  Soup can’t cure the common cold but it can help. Scientists have discovered what our mothers have been telling us forever.  Soup can help loosen mucus in the nose and relieve congestion.  It also acts as an anti-inflammatory.  Soup is also one of those foods that can help keep you hydrated and fill you up to provide your body energy to fight the virus.  Your choice of homemade or condensed doesn’t really matter because it’s all about the ingredients.  Look for or make soups that have vegetables, noodles and chicken broth.  Chicken broth contains vitamins and minerals that your body will need to get better.

Short on time?  Soup is the perfect meal, and I’m not just talking about opening a can and heating it up.  Homemade soup can be easy to make as well.  All cooking levels can make a tasty soup and it can be frozen for future use.  The easiest way to make soup is to throw everything into a slow cooker.  The soup will cook while you are busy and without much effort your whole house will smell yummy and you’ll have a hot, comforting meal.  Any leftover soup can be frozen,  but do not freeze it longer than 3 months.  It will lose its fresh taste and flavor.

Looking to eat healthier?  Try soup.  Soup is a wonderful way to create a healthy meal in one pot.  In one bowl, you can have a mixture of vegetables, pasta, meats, and beans, plus less clean-up.  A good rule of thumb for getting as many nutrients as possible is to make your soup as colorful as possible.  The more colorful your soup, the broader the range of nutrients. Imagine getting your daily allowance of fruits and vegetables in one bowl.  Soups are also good for hiding things from picky eaters.

Soup is the perfect meal if you’re on a budget.  Soup ingredients do not have to be expensive.  In fact, soups, stews, and chowders are perfect for those inexpensive cuts of meat that you don’t know what to do with and those discounted vegetables.  Many times you can make a really good soup with whatever you have in the pantry.

Soup is perfect for everybody.  Celebrate this month by throwing on an apron, stepping into the kitchen, and trying out some new recipes or digging out your old favorites.

Home-Style Turkey Soup
(Serves 10)

1 turkey carcass
4 cups water
8 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
4 large onions, 1 quartered and 3 chopped
1 cup diced rutabaga or turnip, peeled
1 cup chopped celery
4 carrots, peeled and cut into thin strips
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
¼ teaspoon dried thyme
1 bay leaf
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
¼ cup pearl barley
1 can (14 ounces) unsalted tomatoes
1 can (16 ounces) white beans, rinsed and drained
½ pound leftover light turkey meat, cut into bite-size chunks

1. In a large stockpot, combine the turkey carcass, water, broth and quartered onion. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 1 hour.
2. Strain the mixture, discarding the carcass and onion. Chill the liquid in the refrigerator — overnight, if possible — and skim off the fat from the broth’s surface. Return the liquid to the stockpot.
3. Add the remaining ingredients to the broth mixture. Bring to a simmer and cook, covered, for about 1 hour.
4. Ladle into individual bowls and serve immediately.

Hearty Potato Soup
(8-10 Servings)

6 medium potatoes, peeled and sliced
2 carrots, chopped
6 celery ribs, chopped
8 cups water
1 onion, chopped
6 tablespoons butter, cubed
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1-½  cups milk

1. In a large kettle, cook potatoes, carrots and celery in water until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain, reserving liquid and setting vegetables aside.
2. In the same kettle, sauté onion in butter until soft. Stir in flour, salt and pepper; gradually add milk, stirring constantly until thickened. Gently stir in cooked vegetables. Add 1 cup or more of reserved cooking liquid until soup is desired consistency.

Broccoli Chowder
(Serves: 6)
Preparation: 1 hour, 5 minutes

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, chopped (1-1/2 cups)
1 large carrot, diced (1/2 cup)
2 stalks celery, diced (1/2 cup)
1 large potato, peeled and diced (1-1/2 cups)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon dry mustard
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3-½ cups vegetable broth or reduced-sodium chicken broth (two 14-ounce cans)
8 ounces broccoli crowns, cut into 1-inch pieces, stems and florets separated (3 cups)
1 cup grated reduced-fat Cheddar cheese
½ cup reduced-fat sour cream
1/8 teaspoon salt, or to taste

1. Heat oil in a Dutch oven or large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion, carrot and celery; cook, stirring often, until the onion and celery soften, 5-6 minutes. Add potato and garlic; cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Stir in flour, dry mustard and cayenne; cook, stirring often, for 2 minutes.
2. Add broth and broccoli stems; bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to medium. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Stir in florets; simmer, covered, until the broccoli is tender, about 10 minutes more. Transfer 2 cups of the chowder to a bowl and mash; return to the pan.
3. Stir in Cheddar and sour cream; cook over medium heat, stirring, until the cheese is melted and the chowder is heated through. Season with salt.