Time to Soup Up Your Diet

Gotta love Monday mornings. I just had chicken-barley soup for breakfast.

Here’s why you should make — and eat — more soup.

Soup Is Nutrient Dense

Chicken-barley soup
Chicken-barley soup

When I was a kid, my Nana came over every Sunday for a mid-day dinner that my mom would make (roast beef, ham, roast chicken, pot roast, etc.). Supper was my dad’s job, and he often made soup by emptying all the week’s leftovers from the refrigerator into a pot and “doctoring” it up with fresh ingredients. His results were so tasty that my Nana once declared, “I like the suppers better than the dinners.” (Not a wise move in terms of mother-daughter relations.)

What my father knew is that you can pack a lot (and hide a lot) of healthy ingredients into soup, and it can still taste good. Scientists even study the chicken-soup-for-a-cold connection. Who am I to argue?

Soup Is Convenient

I telecommute for my day job. That means no corporate cafeteria. So when it’s lunch time, I walk down from my attic office (aka “the tower”), take the dog for a walk, and start scrounging around for something to eat. Since my husband works from home as well, I usually have two mouths to feed. Oh, and sometimes three, since our youngest daughter arrives home from her packed lunch-less high school schedule around 2:30 famished.

Heating up soup is super quick. Follow it up with an apple and peanut butter and we’ll all make it to dinner without becoming homicidal. (Okay, I am actually the only one who gets homicidal with hunger.)  I sometimes take a container of healthy soup with me to NJ on business, and heat it up for lunch or dinner.

The Days (in the Northeast US anyway) Are Getting Chilly

Soup and autumn are a great combo, especially with the wonderful squashes that will soon hit the local farmer’s markets: Delicata, butternut, and buttercup are my faves. What’s better than a brisk breeze coming through the still-open windows while a simmering soup on the stove fills the house with warm smells of yumminess? Perhaps only a cinnamon-y apple crisp in the oven.

Try These Soups

Here are a few suggestions to inspire you. No, they’re not exactly recipes. Who needs exact directions for soup? Go for it. Be creative! That’s another reason to love soup.

Chicken-Barley: I never let a chicken carcass go to waste. I turn it into soup. (Tip: I once heard Gourmet editor Ruth Reichel say you should never boil ingredients when making stock. Simmer!)  Take meat off the bones, then throw in lots of peppercorns, a bay leaf, celery, onions, garlic, and carrots and simmer. After a while, strain the bones and vegetables out of the broth. Toss the bay leaf, put the veggies back in, and zap it all with an immersion blender. (This last step isn’t required. I do it because someone in the family used to object to carrots. Another avoided celery.) Throw in barley, cook for 30 minutes or so. Then add back in the chicken, season with salt and pepper, and yum.

Lima Bean Soup
Lima Bean Soup

Lima Bean: Our local vegetarian restaurant Bloodroot serves a number of lima bean soups, depending on the season. This weekend I was too lazy to go upstairs to find their cookbook, so I tried to approximate my favorite version from memory. I sauteed onions and garlic in olive oil (until almost caramelized), added a bag of frozen baby lima beans, salt, pepper, sage, and about a quart of vegetable broth. Brought it to a boil, then simmered for 30 minutes or so. Added Bragg’s Amino (you could use regular soy sauce), a tablespoon of tomato paste, juice of a lemon, and basil.

Ginger Squash: Roast a variety of squashes in the oven. When cool enough to handle, scrape the flesh into a pot with vegetable (or chicken) broth (not too much — you can always add more). Add fresh ginger (at least an inch or two, peeled). And a peeled apple or banana, too. Ground cumin and ground chipotle are good additions, too. Simmer. Then blend. Season with salt and pepper, and some lime or orange juice. Serve with cilantro on top. If you want a more dramatic presentation and dose of dairy, add a dollop of sour cream or yogurt.

What are your go-to soups?

One thought on “Time to Soup Up Your Diet”

  1. We love soup at our house! With my schedule I haven’t made a lot of it in the last few years, but am looking forward to changing that soon. Navy Bean (with ham, blue cheese and apple), Roasted Corn, Creamy Tomato, Herbed Mushroom………………….. and experimentation is the key. Start with a decent stock (home-made or store bought) and go for it!! An immersion blender is a great tool, and they’re not very expensive for a small one for jobs like this – helps give it a nice creamy texture without adding too much fat/dairy. And so, I think I will make soup tomorrow – I’ll let you know what happens!

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