By Melinda J Hill, CFCS, CFLE
Extension Educator Family and Consumer Sciences
OSU Extension, Wayne County, Ohio
It’s cold, it’s gray and sometimes winter seems like it will last forever. What smells better at the end of the day than something warm that greets you when you open the door? We all have our favorite soup recipes. Some have been passed down through the generations and others can be additional ingredients that supplement a canned soup.
When planning your meal, all you need to add to a thick wholesome soup or stew is a slice of whole grain bread or crackers, some fruit or salad and a glass of milk, and voila – you have a healthy, well-balanced meal.
Some soups are simple and can be made in the microwave or on the stovetop in a matter of minutes. Others like to simmer and blend flavors and work best in the crock pot or soup pot, cooking and tenderizing (and filling your house with tantalizing aromas) for hours.
There are two main types of soup: those made from some kind of stock, and cream-based soups. Stock soups are made with vegetables, meats, poultry or fish; these are generally lower in calories. Cream-based soups are made of milk, cream or yogurt as a large part of the liquid.
Now that you have the basics, here are a few tips for making your own great soup to warm your family on the next cold winter’s day.
* Stockpile bones from roasts or baked chicken in the freezer. Make your own base by adding vegetable broth or water and simmer for several hours to gather the flavor from the bones. It’s also a good idea to keep a “goodie” bag in freezer for small portions of leftovers; add them to the soup for color and nutrition.
* Season soups with fresh herbs and a tablespoon or two of lemon juice to “wake up” the flavor, then you can reduce the salt. Salt is a flavor enhancer and could be minimized if lemon juice is used.
* Use a blender or food processor to make a smooth, creamy soup from vegetables and broth, or add blended vegetables to your favorite potato soup or corn chowder.
* When slicing meat, do it while it is partially frozen; you can get even slices and do it much quicker than when it is completely thawed. The thinner slices are also much more tender.
* Ground meat or sausage can be the base of a speedy main dish soup meal. Ground chicken and turkey cook quickly and can add great flavor and sustenance to a vegetable-based soup. Remember (with whatever meat you use) to remove as much fat as possible by either draining it or chill the meat to remove the fat that rises to the top.
* With food safety in mind, remember to use shallow containers not over 3″thick to store your soup. Let it cool in the refrigerator, then label and place in the freezer for a quick dinner on a busy night. If you have a large quantity of hot soup left over, put the soup pot in an ice bath in the sink and stir till the mixture is cool before dispensing into smaller quantities and placing in the refrigerator.
* Use a thermos or wide mouth insulated vacuum bottle to have soup for lunch. It’s easier to keep things cold and reheat most of the time than to keep food hot. Just remember to keep it below 40 degrees to ensure safety.
* When preparing bean, pea or lentil soups, add the acid (such as tomatoes, vinegar, lemon juice or wine) after the beans are tender, as acid slows the tenderizing process. This may not be a big issue in the crock pot, but a 30 minute soup can take 3 hours if the acid is added too early, before the beans are tender.
* If you are making a cream based soup, use evaporated skim milk for the base to reduce the risk of the soup overheating and separating. It still tastes good, but may not look as appetizing.
* If you want to enhance a can or cream of chicken, mushroom or celery, sautÃ© your favorite vegetables until they are just tender. Add the canned soup that has been diluted with lowfat milk or evaporated milk. Simmer until all flavors have blended (about 20 minutes). You may also add barley, couscous or your favorite pasta to create your own recipe.
Pull out your favorite soup recipe and have the family help put it together for a great meal that gives nourishment to not only the body, but the soul. If you don’t have a favorite, why not give this one a try? It’s a recipe from one of the 4-H project books.
2 T. margarine
1 qt. Plus 1 1/3 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup onion, finely chopped
1 (16-oz) can tomatoes, diced with juice
1 cup chicken, cooked and cut up
1/8 t. black pepper
1 cup apple, peeled and chopped
2 whole cloves
1/4 cup carrots, julienne
1 T. fresh chopped parsley
1/4 cup celery, thinly sliced
1/2 t. curry powder
1/4 cup green pepper, thin strips
3 T. flour
In a large kettle, combine margarine and onion and sautÃ©. (This allows more flavor to develop in your soup.) Add chicken, apple, carrots, celery and green pepper. Stir and cook 5 minutes. Stir in flour and curry powder. Slowly add broth, tomatoes and juice, pepper and cloves and stir. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer 30 minutes or until ingredients are tender. Stir in parsley and simmer uncovered 5 minutes. You may add small pasta to this recipe if you would like. Also, you may want to add smaller amounts of the curry powder or omit, depending on your preference….that’s the beauty of soups. Adjust the recipe to your family’s liking.
If you like a more filling soup, try this one:
Quick Chicken and Dumplings
4 cups chicken broth
2 cups baking mix
1/2 cup sliced celery
1/4 t. dried thyme
Â½ cup sliced carrots
Dash ground nutmeg
1 bay leaf
2/3 cup milk
1 t. parsley flakes
1/2 t. dried parsley
3 cups cubed cooked chicken breast
In a 5 quart kettle, combine broth, celery, carrots, bay leaf and parsley; bring to a boil. For dumplings, combine baking mix, thyme and nutmeg; stir in milk and parsley just until moistened. Drop by tablespoonfuls into the boiling broth. Cook, uncovered, for 10 minutes; cover and simmer 10 minutes longer. With a slotted spoon, remove dumplings to a serving dish and keep warm. Bring broth to a boil. Reduce heat; add chicken and heat through. Remove bay leaf. Spoon over dumplings. Serves 4.