By: Jan Skaar, RD, CSP, CNSC, CLE, clinical dietician at CHOC Children’sAre you tired of overindulging in the abundance of holiday cakes, pies and cookies during the last month? Are you thinking it’s time to give your waistline and your wallet a break? There’s no better time than January, National Soup Month, to try making one of the many delicious, healthful, and economical soup recipes that abound, for your family.
Soups have been a dietary staple for centuries in many different cultures. The word soup comes from the word “sop,” meaning a broth or liquid eaten with a piece of bread to “sop” up the liquid. Soups all have similar basic ingredients; are often easy to prepare; are high in nutrients; and they won’t break your food budget! Here are four steps to making a great soup:
1. Choose a base. Whether you are a vegetarian or meat eater, you can choose a broth or stock for the liquid foundation of your soup. Homemade is great, but if you need to save time like most of us, choose a prepared broth or stock from your favorite grocer. Many are available in low sodium and non-fat versions. Stock has a more intense flavor compared to broth.
2. Choose your vegetables, herbs, meats or protein sources. Dried peas, beans and lentils are inexpensive, in comparison to meats, chicken and fish. They are high in protein, iron, fiber, and low in fat. This makes them excellent nutritional choices, and will stretch your food dollar.
3. Develop the flavor. Sauté or brown the meat or vegetables in a small amount of oil or use cooking spray. Some soups need an acidic ingredient such as wine or vinegar. These are used to deglaze the pan after sautéing the meat and vegetables, bringing out the flavor of the browned bits in the pan. The broth or stock is added next, becoming infused with flavor as your soup simmers.
4. Choose your texture and garnish. Soups can be pureed for a smooth appearance and texture. Leave your soup chunky for a more rustic look. A light sour cream or shredded cheese can help balance a spicy soup; fresh lime juice or chopped herbs can compliment a soup’s complex flavors.
You can find a plethora of great tasting soup recipes at www.cookinglight.com or www.myrecipes.com. Check out the nutritional information listed for each recipe. Try Golden Winter Soup, made with butternut squash, russet potatoes and leeks. It tastes great with a tossed salad and a slice of French bread and Gruyere cheese!
And don’t forget, there are many soup recipes that do well in a slow-cooker, which can be a godsend for the working parent or just those of us who are too tired to cook at the end of the day. A great cookbook series for slow-cooker recipes is “Fix It and Forget It” by Phyllis Pellman. It is available in low fat, diabetic and 5 ingredient versions. Try Chicken Tortilla Soup, a family favorite! With a little planning, you can avoid the fast food habit and start your way to a healthier and budget-wise New Year!