I love soup. I love to prepare it, I love when it simmers on the stove and I especially love to eat it. Some of our earliest memories include soup-our mothers may have served us chicken soup when we had the sniffles or maybe as a hearty lunch. Whether it's prepared from scratch or from a carton or can, soup has a lot going for it.
Soup can ladle up a lot of nourishment. It's an easy way to add ingredients that provide vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber and protein to your family's diet. You can even boost the nutrient value of ready-made versions by adding beans or leftover veggies like corn, peas, carrots, spinach or other greens.
There are so many different types of soup, you'll never get bored. With chicken alone you have chicken noodle, chicken and rice, tortilla, chicken barley, matzo ball or chicken vegetable. Try preparing these with turkey for a heartier taste. Meaty soups include beef barley, beef vegetable and split pea. Don't forget vegetarian options such as vegetable, black bean, minestrone or creamy potato leek. Favorite Chicago ethnic soups include Greek avgolemono, Polish krupnik, Asian udon noodle, pasta fagioli and fish soup. Hungry yet?
Soup night isn't hard to pull off if you're home during the day. At mid-afternoon, grab your sharp knife, stockpot and soup ingredients and start chopping. If you work outside the home or are running your kids around after school, you can still serve soup if you plan ahead. Either put your ingredients in a slow cooker the night before or set aside some time on the weekend.
Cooking up a pot of soup can be a family affair on a cold Saturday or Sunday afternoon. What's left over is like money in the bank-you have a few more dinners just waiting there in the fridge. Add a crusty loaf of bread plus salad and call it a meal.
Making soup is a time-honored way to stretch even the tightest grocery budgets. Cooks have always turned little bits of this and that into a tasty broth. In today's world, you can save the broth from cooking potatoes and other vegetables in a container in the freezer. A second container might hold dribs and drabs of veggies too small to save for another meal that can be added to soup some day.
Cooking up a steaming kettle of soup can be fun. I find it meditative and soothing when I'm chopping vegetables. Soup recipes are the type where exact amounts usually aren't critical. Even kids can help.
What about picking up some ready-made soup at the grocery store? While you can't beat the convenience, consider their sodium levels. Look for those with less than 500 milligrams of sodium per serving. Add spices, such as garlic, basil, oregano, curry or Cajun seasoning for extra taste. You can always toss in leftover veggies to increase nutritional value. Or boost calcium and protein without extra fat by adding skim milk, evaporated skim milk, dry milk or calcium-fortified soy milk instead of water to condensed soups.
Nothing beats a bowl of hot soup on a cold wintry day. A soup chock-full of vegetables that includes a small amount of meat or poultry (or a bean-based soup) can provide a satisfying and healthful meal. Every spoonful will make your family feel cared for, nourished and loved. Consider serving soup to your brood more often during these frigid, post-holiday weeks.
Christine M. Palumbo, RD, is in private practice and teaches nutrition students at Benedictine University in Lisle. Send your questions and column ideas to her at (630) 369-8495 or Chris@ChristinePalumbo.com
Christine M. Palumbo, RD, is a nutritionist living in Naperville.
See more of Christine's stories here.