January is National Soup Month.
Wow, an entire month celebrates soup. I get it! I love soup too, and it has so many wonderful ways of making us feel good. Kinda like a warm hug!
When I was little, my mom would make tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches on cold rainy nights. And of course, we had chicken noodle soup when we were sick. Most of these soups were from a can, but I have found I really love making soup from scratch.
I used to be intimidated by the thought of making soup from scratch. Then I did it. It’s pretty easy and I like controlling how much salt is added as well as how chunky I chop my veggies. I feel like I am being super healthy since it’s made with whole foods such as vegetables, stock and herbs.
There are 3 main components of soup: The stock, the ingredients and the spices. It’s that simple.
Here’s what you need to know to be a great soup chef:
- Start with a good pot. A large heavy pot will help reduce the chance of burning. It will also keep the heat distributed for even cooking.
- Use the freshest ingredients possible. I like my veggies chunky so I don’t mind taking the time to cut up my carrots, celery etc., but sometimes I just need to throw in a bag of frozen or already cut veggies. The same for beans, if you don’t have time to soak the beans overnight, go ahead and use canned beans that you’ve rinsed. Ditto with your proteins such as chicken. If you have the time, poach your chicken (boiled in water until cooked through) but already cooked is great too. It’s all good!
- Stock is your base. If I happen to have a leftover rotisserie chicken, maybe I will throw it in a pot of water, add some herbs, celery, onions and carrots and let simmer to make a homemade stock, but really? Today you can buy great quality stocks and broths, which is very convenient! While stocks and broths can generally be used interchangeably, stock has more protein and a richer mouth-feel from simmering bones, and often has significantly less sodium.
- Herbs and spices are your friends. Fresh or dried, these will really boost the flavor and set your soup apart. Adding a bit more than a recipe calls for is ok unless it is a particularly strong flavor such as curry or red pepper flakes. The flavor will deepen as the soup simmers, so do a taste-test part way through cooking to see if you want to add a pinch more. You’ll feel like a real chef!
- Some soups need to be blended until smooth. Everyone has their preferred method to achieve this. I love the convenience of using my immersion blender but a regular blender or a food processor works well too. Parent tip: kids love to help with the blending!
- Don’t throw your soup out if you realize you have burned the bottom. Carefully transfer the soup with a ladle to another pot and continue to cook. Do Not scrape at the bottom before transferring or the burnt taste will be forever in your soup. We’ve all been there. Simmer on low and stir occasionally.
- Creamy soups are thick and satisfying, so if you want to give your soup a thicker consistency without using cream, take out half the veggies and puree them. Add them back to the soup and enjoy. While nothing takes the place of cream, sometimes I can hardly tell the difference! One of my favorite examples is Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Cauliflower Soup, which is so rich and satisfying.
- Over-salting can be easily fixed. Just add a cut potato to the pot and after about a half hour pull the potato pieces out and discard. The potato will have absorbed the salt. Or, add more ingredients such as beans, pasta or rice to absorb the excess salt and complement the soup.
- Presentation is the final touch. If you really want to impress, sprinkle a topping that enhances the soup. For example, chopped green onions, parsley, shredded cheese, bacon bits or croutons will give your soup a restaurant-quality flair.
Soup is one of my favorite foods any time of day. It’s nutritious and generally low in calories. Big Bonus: Studies have shown that people who begin a meal with a bowl of low calorie soup consume 20% fewer calories overall for the meal. Plus, it’s easy to make extra servings for the next day, to share with a friend or freeze for the future. (You can keep track of the soup that you freeze in the DinnerTime Pantry manager.)
Search your recipe box for “soup” and be sure to “favorite” ones you would like to try.
Check out a few of DinnerTime’s favorite recipes for delicious and nutritious soups.