Leaves are turning gold, nights are turning frosty, days are getting shorter and budgets are getting tighter. Outside my kitchen window, I can see scurrying squirrels busily hiding seeds. Like the squirrels, I have a primordial urge to prepare for winter.
This year, the impulse to get ready for the season’s storms is particularly intense. Like most of my friends, I have nagging worry about the economy and how it will affect us all.
In response, I make soup. I make lots of soup, and I make lots of different kinds of soup. By the time I finish this year’s soup-making orgy, my refrigerator may not have all the soup that’s fit to eat but it will surely contain a good sampling.
Here are a few of my favorites with a link to the recipe:
- beet and apple soup
- next day chili
- butternut squash soup
- curried carrot soup
- white clam chowder
- turkey vegetable
- split pea soup
- Canadian potato soup
- navy bean with ham
- French onion soup
Soup has many virtues. As a first course, soup is wonderfully filling, making it that much easier to resist seconds later in the meal. I also feel virtuous when I incorporate leftovers into a soup. At a time when many of us need to stretch our food budget, soup becomes a bargain—a bowl costs pennies. And soup nourishes our bodies in a comforting way, warming us from the inside out.
Soup is also a time-saver. By doubling the recipe, I usually have enough for several meals. With butternut squash soup, for example, I roast a large squash and freeze soup-sized portions of the cooked vegetable in plastic bags. On nights when I’m rushed or tired, I have the main ingredient prepared and simply need to add broth and seasonings.
Soup is also a calorie bargain and typically low in cholesterol. I can usually find ways to cut calories from recipes without sacrificing taste. For example, for a beet and apple soup, instead of sautéing the vegetables and apple in oil or butter, I roast the vegetables and apple together in their own liquid. With the clam chowder, I replace cream with a combination of skim milk and chicken broth.
When making chili, I drain the canned kidney beans (reducing starch and salt) and wash the browned beef in hot water (to eliminate fat). With the French onion soup, I fill a crock pot with onions, set the heat at low and leave it for 24 hours. At the end of the cooking time, without the bother of stirring or extra calories from oil, the onions have carmelized to a dark brown. To finish the soup, I add vegetable or beef broth plus a little sherry. Before serving, I spoon the rich onion broth into cups and top the soup with with rye toast and melted gruyere cheese. Mmmmmmm!
If you don’t have one already, consider adding a stick blender or hand blender to your kitchen toys. My French daughter-in-law introduced me to pureed soups using this wonderful tool. You can purchase one for as little as $15.00. A hand blender requires little space, is easily cleaned, and as appliances go, is relatively inexpensive. (When summer returns, you can use it to make smoothies.)
If you want more calorie-cutting ideas for soup recipes, send me your request. While you’re at it, send me your favorites and I’ll share them with others.
Unless we’re mindful, economic uncertainties can challenge our equanimity and well-being. But who can be anxious about the future when the aroma of steaming soup fills the home?
Next week, I’m going to try a new recipe for corn chowder.
What’s your favorite?