Campbell’s has been telling us for decades that “Soup is Good Food” and each winter we start to believe them a little bit more On those cold winter days when all you’re dreaming about is a warm pair of slippers and fuzzy pajamas, feel comfortable adding soup to your list of must-haves. It’s packed with nutrition and offers multiple benefits – from aiding digestion to soothing a cold – plus, it warms us up from the inside out.
For as many years as Campbell’s has been lamenting its usefulness, doctors have been studying exactly why soup seems to cure what ails us. Is it merely leaning over a warm, steaming bowl that helps clear the nasal passage? Or does chicken noodle soup have some magical anti-inflammatory affect? The speculations run the spectrum from plausible to just plain silly.
The fact of the matter is that soup is an ideal vehicle for getting our required daily allowance of vegetables in one succinct package. There is little clean up. There is little cost. And there are numerous varieties from which to choose, with options everyone will love, whether carnivore or vegan. Plus, it’s just plain comforting. Nothing is better than a steaming cup of mom’s chicken noodle soup when cold symptoms appear. And a recent study by Penn State University shows that it can also aid in weight loss. People who added a small bowl of soup before their meal reduced their overall daily caloric intake and said they felt more satisfied.
When working with canned or prepackaged soup, be aware of the salt content. Many pre-made varieties can be extremely high in sodium, although all of the major brands now offer a full slate of low-salt options to choose from. Keep in mind that if it is too low in salt, you can always add a touch of sea salt at home to give it a little flavor. Just don’t overdo it.
Of course, homemade soup with fresh ingredients is always best. And today’s slow cookers make it an easy alternative, even if you are away from the home during the day. Sure, there’s some chopping to do in preparation, but keep in mind that a nice sized pot of soup can not only provide lunches for a week, but it freezes well, too.
If reduced calories are your focus, make sure you stick to extra lean cuts of meat. Remember that beans and tofu have far less saturated fat than animal sources and there’s no rule that you have to be a vegetarian to enjoy them. To cut back on the fat content, cool your soup in the refrigerator prior to serving, allowing the fat to rise to the top so you can scoop it out before reheating.
While we all know that broth-based soups are the healthiest, counting calories doesn’t mean you should always forsake its cream-based counterpart. If you’re cooking at home, try using whole milk (about 150 calories/8 grams of fat per serving) instead of light whipping cream (698 calories/74 grams of fat per serving) for an adequate, yet lighter, alternative.
Ready to get started? Here are a few of our favorites, but keep in mind that soups are easy to modify and make your own. Leave out the stuff you don’t like and add a few of your favorite things. When it comes to soup, just about anything goes!
2 med. carrots, 1/4-inch pieces
1 med. onion, 1/4-inch pieces
1 large celery stalk, 1/4-inch pieces
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 med. all-purpose potatoes, peeled, 1/4-inch pieces
1 can chicken broth
1 1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1 can white kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 pound green beans, 1-inch pieces
1/3 cup small pasta, such as cavatelli or ditalini
1 pound Swiss chard, chopped
1/2 pound spinach
1/2 tsp grated lemon peel
Grated parmesan cheese for garnish
Spray a medium pot with cooking spray and add carrots, onion and celery, cooking until brown. Add garlic and simmer for one minute. Add potatoes, broth, salt, pepper, thyme and six cups water; heat to boiling over high heat. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer about 10 minutes. Add kidney beans, green beans and pasta; cook 10 minutes longer before stirring in Swiss chard, spinach and lemon peel. Cook about five minutes or until greens are wilted and tender. Top with grated parmesan if you like.
Homestyle Chicken Noodle
1 whole chicken (3-4 lbs)
3 qt low-sodium chicken broth
6 carrots, peeled
4 stalks celery, ends trimmed
3 med. onions, peeled
5 black peppercorns
1 clove garlic, crushed
10 sprigs parsley
2 sprigs thyme
1 bay leaf
2 tbsp unsalted butter
4 leeks, tops and roots removed
1 tsp salt
1 tsp fresh-ground pepper
3 c. medium egg noodles
Place the chicken and chicken broth in a large stockpot and set it over medium heat. Roughly chop two carrots, two celery ribs and one onion and add to the broth. Add the peppercorns, garlic, two sprigs of parsley, thyme, bay leaf and enough water to just cover the chicken. Bring the broth to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook until the chicken is very tender, 1-1 ½ hours. Remove the chicken and place in a large bowl. Strain the broth through a very fine sieve into a large, clean bowl or stockpot. Discard the vegetables. If caloric intake is a concern, skim any fat off the top of the strained broth. Slice the remaining carrots, celery, onions and leeks into 1/4-inch-thick pieces and set aside. Remove and discard the skin and bones from the chicken, cut meat into 1/2-inch pieces and set aside. Chop the remaining parsley leaves and set aside. Melt the butter in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the vegetables and cook until the onions are clear. Add the chicken, the reserved broth, salt and pepper. Simmer the soup until the vegetables are tender, about 1 hour. Stir in the egg noodles and parsley and cook until the noodles are tender.
Mushroom-Soup with Barley
1 oz. dried mushrooms
3 c. water
1 large onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
12 oz. cremini or button mushrooms, stems removed, sliced
1 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
2 cans chicken broth
1/2 c. barley
1/4 tsp sea salt
In a small saucepan, bring the dried mushrooms and water to a boil.
Remove and let stand for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, coat a Dutch oven with nonstick spray. Add the onion, carrots and celery and cook over medium heat about five minutes. Add the sliced mushrooms and oregano and cook until vegetables are soft. Add the broth, barley and sea salt. Cook for 10 minutes. Line a fine mesh sieve with a coffee filter or paper towel. Strain the dried mushroom water into the pot. Rinse the dried mushrooms under running water to remove any grit. Chop and add to the pot. Cook until the barley is tender.
2 cans crushed tomatoes
2 cups chicken broth
1 bunch fresh basil, chopped
1 large shallot, diced
1/2 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, sliced
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 cup cream
3 tbsp sugar
In a large stockpot, heat vegetable oil over medium-low heat. Add sliced garlic, finely diced shallots and onion. Simmer until onion starts to caramelize. Add cans of crushed tomatoes and sugar and simmer for ten minutes. Stir in chicken broth and remove soup from heat. Puree the soup mixture in a blender or liquid-tight food processor. Put pureed mixture back in the pot. If you’re looking for a smooth soup, straining it back in will provide the texture you desire. Prior to serving, reheat the puree and stir in cream and top with basil.
Curried Butternut Squash Soup
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 c. onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp curry powder
1 tsp ground cumin
Red (cayenne) pepper to taste
2 1/2 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded, halved lengthwise and sliced thin
3 c. vegetable or chicken broth
3 c. water
1 lb. tart apples, peeled, cored and chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
In a large soup pot over medium heat, add olive oil and onion and sauté until golden brown. Add garlic, curry powder, cumin and cayenne pepper; cook, stirring constantly, 30 seconds. Add squash, vegetable or chicken broth, water and apples. Bring liquid just to a boil; reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, 25 minutes or until squash is tender. Remove from heat and let cool 15 to 20 minutes. Puree mixture in a blender or food processor and transfer back into soup pot. Season with salt and pepper to taste.