For the Love of Soups

Who can resist a steaming bowl of homemade soup on a cool, fall or winter day? And if your family is like mine, they will love coming home to the wonderful aromas of fresh home cooked soup. There is no better way to add vitamins, minerals and fiber to everyone’s diet than with a warm, hearty bowl of homemade soup. Soups are a favorite low-calorie meal for weight watchers. Use them to sneak vegetables in the kids’ diet too as most kids love soup.

To make a great pot of soup follow these tips:

Tip #1 — Add vegetables according to their cooking time: Putting all the vegetables in at the same time might result in a fair tasting broth but soggy and tasteless vegetables. Begin with root vegetables like onion and carrot and sauté until onions are tender, usually about 2 minutes.

  • As you add other ingredients, keep in mind how long the soup needs to cook. For instance, if the soup is almost ready, add green vegetables like broccoli, string beans or zucchini in the last five minutes.
  • Green vegetables that contain high amounts of Vitamin C will be depleted if cooked longer than ten minutes.
  • Using the freshest vegetables is crucial to a good pot of soup. Combined with herbs, spices, whole grains, beans, pasta and fresh organic poultry, you can create easy make-a-head meals everyone will enjoy.

Tip #2 — Add only a little water in the beginning or you will drown the flavors. If you need to simmer vegetables, add enough water to cover over the top of the veggies by about 2 inches. By keeping the water low, it builds a tasty soup broth without having to rely on canned broth and bouillon.

  • Adding dried herbs and spices to this helps to improve the flavor. You may then add more water to get the right consistency of your soup after the vegetables are cooked. Remember, you can always add more water, but you cannot take it away if you added too much.
  • Never add pasta until it is ready to be served. Pasta will absorb water from your soup over time. Try to keep the pasta separate if there is leftover soup.

Tip #3 — Adding herbs and spices: Dried herbs and spices should always be added at the beginning so the flavors have a chance to meld with the soup broth. Place dried herbs in the palm of one hand and rub with your other fingers over the soup pot to help release their flavors.

  • When adding fresh herbs to soups such as: cilantro, oregano, parsley, dill, or basil, add half of them in the beginning to help flavor the soup broth and the rest the last 5 minutes of cooking. This way, the herb flavor is more pronounced.
  • When replacing dried herbs with fresh you can increase quantity by three times. Likewise, if you are replacing fresh with dried you should reduce it by one third. Spices can be added in the beginning of cooking as they hold up longer and don’t lose their flavor over time.

Soup Broths

Traditionally, broths were made with the meat and vegetables and stocks were made with just the bones of the meat so they are interchangeable unless you are a vegetarian.

Keeping homemade vegetable broth on hand in the freezer is easy and convenient. Put together a broth while you are doing other things in the kitchen. The vegetable pieces you normally throw away are perfect for creating a soup broth: onion (not too many of the dark outer skins as they can be bitter) leeks, green onions, carrot, parsnip, beet, zucchini, green beans, turnip discards, winter squash, mushroom stems, outer leaves of cabbage, cauliflower, celery leaves and hearts, parsley stems, kale stems, broccoli stems, etc. Accumulate several days’ worth of vegetable scraps — keeping them refrigerated until ready to use.

Other ideas for enhancing soups stocks:

Miso (fermented soybean paste) is my favorite ingredient for soups and I have a variety of light and dark miso on hand. It adds flavor and nutrients and healthful digestive enzymes. I use light miso when I want to add a subtle but salty flavor to a soup.

Sea salt should never be used on food once cooked. Use sea salt while the soup is cooking and it will enhance the flavors. Salt helps to draw out the juices of the vegetables into the broth improving overall flavor.

Sea vegetables enhance the flavor and add important minerals to soup. These include kombu (kelp), wakame, wakame flakes, and dulse. Kombu should be added to the beginning of the soup, others the last l5 minutes of cooking time.

Soup as a “One Pot Meal”

Transforming a pot of soup into a meal only requires minimal knowledge in balancing nutrients. Protein is usually the focal point of a balanced meal. If the soup contains beans or tofu, you are half way there.

Weight Loss and Soups

Soups make a wonderful light breakfast meal with a piece of wholegrain breadThey can help make a great meal and satisfy the appetite without filling up on excess fats and proteins. Even one small serving can help reduce the appetite for other heavier more calorie rich dishes to follow.

Weight Gain and Soups

Not a contradiction, just different soups. There are soups that can add more calories as well as have more fat, protein, or carbohydrates in them. Adding beans (legumes), cooked whole grains (such as wild rice or barley) can thicken soup while adding good calories. Although I do not advocate a lot of pasta because of so much nutrient loss in processing, it can be a good filler for soups. Adding chicken and beef will increase calories as well. If someone is underweight, having a hearty soup as a snack between meals can increase the overall daily caloric intake and help them recover their normal weight.

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