On sunny days like today it’s such a pleasure to enjoy what’s left of the beautiful fall leaves. I really wish I had a way to preserve this day to savor throughout the rest of the fall. One of my favorite fall meals is to prepare a big pot of soup. Soups and stews are a great way to lower fat in the diet, stretch protein and ultimately save time and money! Recipes can easily be altered to include more vegetables and less meat and not lose flavor. In addition, high-fiber items like barley, couscous and dried lentils can be included to increase the nutritive value. Remember to make your dish as healthy as possible, refrigerate the finished soup overnight in a shallow container (no more that 3 inches deep) which will cause the fat to rise to the surface and solidify, making it easy to remove the unwanted fat.
As you cook your vegetables, save the water to add to the stock of your next pot of soup. Leftover vegetables also work well in soups as variety adds flavor and color. Freeze your small amounts of potato water, beef broth and other liquids in ice cube trays to add to your base when making a big pot of soup. Many soups, stews, chilis and gumbos taste even better when refrigerated a day or so to allow the flavors to blend. For that reason, soups are an ideal item to make ahead for a busy night’s supper. Here’s a recipe you might like to try:
Slow Cooker Lentils and Sausage Soup
1 (16-oz) pkg. dry lentils, rinsed and drained
1 (16-oz) can diced tomatoes
2 (14-oz) cans beef broth OR 2 cups water and 2 bouillon cubes
3 cups water
1 carrot, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1/2 t. salt free seasoning blend
2 lbs. turkey kielbasa or Polish sausage, cut into Â½ inch pieces
In a slow cooker, stir together all ingredients. Cover and cook on High for 3 hours or low for 6-7 hours. Stir well before serving. (NOTE: If you are only cooking for the shorter time, wait and add the tomatoes until the lentils are softened. The acid in the tomatoes prohibits the cooking of the lentils in shorter times.) Makes 12 servings.
What is the best way to cool down a whole pot of soup? The best way is to place the pot in a sink full of ice water to bring the temperature down quickly (within a half hour). Stirring also helps in the cool-down process. Place soup into small containers and into the refrigerator within the 30 minute time guide. Containers can then be frozen and reheated without heating the whole pot each time. Most soups freeze well when frozen in airtight plastic containers or freezer bags. Use within 3-4 months for the optimum flavor. Why not put on a pot of your favorite soup or try something new? Add a salad and glass of milk for a complete meal for your family to enjoy.
Melinda J. Hill
Extension Educator, Family & Consumer Sciences
OSU Extension – Wayne County, Ohio