Every year Americans consume more than 10 billion bowls of soup. In fact, more than 90 percent of households in the U.S. buy soup annually. Whether eaten for lunch or dinner, our love for soup goes back a lot farther than the day Campbell’s started canning it or Andy Warhol started painting it.
Soup’s history dates back thousands of years and was often relied on as a nutritious meal usually containing a variety of meats and vegetables. Many of the first soups that gained popularity in colonial America included German-influenced meat- and potato-based soups and French-influenced vegetable soups.
Fast forward to 2008 and not much has changed.
There are a lot of reasons to love soup. Sure, it’s convenient, but chances are there is at least one variety of soup everyone in the family likes. What’s more, soups, especially homemade versions, can be extremely nutritious. Many foods lose their nutrients in the cooking process. Soups, on the other hand, retain most of the nutrient properties of the vegetables and meats they are made with by creating a stock. In fact, a couple common soup ingredients, including tomatoes and mushrooms, actually increase in their nutrient value when cooked. Whether your preference is for chunky or smooth, clear or creamy, all the nutrients in a freshly prepared cup of soup are just a spoonful away.
Better still, there are a lot of creative, tasty and nutritious soups you can make from start to finish in well under an hour.
The most important thing to remember about making a good soup is to use the freshest ingredients possible. The longer a vegetable or meat sits in your refrigerator, the more nutrients it loses. It’s never a bad idea to experiment with different herbs or spices, either. It would be hard to ruin a soup by adding an extra tablespoon of fresh basil or tarragon.
Here are a few tried and true recipes that you and your entire family can dig into on a cold Chicago day. Best of all, they’re quick and easy. Enjoy!
Winter ClassicCreamy Tomato Basil Soup
steaming cup of Creamy Tomato Basil Soup and a grilled cheese sandwich hits the spot on a cold winter afternoon. This low-fat recipe takes about five minutes longer to make than the canned version, so why not give it a try?
2 cans (14.5 oz. each) of crushed tomatoes3 cups low fat milk1 medium onion, diced3 cloves garlic, minced¼ cup fresh basil, finely chopped1 Tbsp. olive oil½ tsp. cayenne pepper½ tsp. sea salt
Heat olive oil in large saucepan. Sauté onions until translucent (about 4 minutes). Add garlic and continue to sauté for one more minute. Add tomatoes and simmer for 10 minutes. Transfer stewed tomatoes into food processor and puree until smooth. Return to saucepan and add milk, cayenne pepper and fresh basil. Heat, but don’t boil. Remove from heat and add sea salt. Serve immediately.
Kiddie-Licious Alpha-Veggie Soup
Delicious, nutritious and fun to eat—your kids will enjoy every letter-filled spoonful of this kid classic. Packed with nutrient-dense vegetables, moms and dads will love it, too. Serve with a hearty sandwich or salad and you’ve got a meal.
3 cups chicken or vegetable stock3 red potatoes, diced into 1-inch cubes½ cup alphabet pasta1 medium onion, diced2 large carrots, diced2 cups green beans, fresh and chopped2 Tbsp. butter or olive oil2 Tbsp. chives, fresh and chopped2 Tbsp. parsley, fresh and chopped½ tsp. sea salt
Heat butter or olive oil in stock pot. Add onion, carrots and green beans. Sauté for five minutes. Add chicken or vegetable stock and potatoes. Boil for 10 minutes, then reduce to a simmer for another 10 minutes. Add sea salt, chives and parsley just before serving.
Body GuardRed& Black Bean Soup
Did you know that red and black beans are two of the greatest resources of body-protective antioxidants? Combine these beans with heart-healthy onion, garlic and olive, and you’ve got yourself a soup that’s just as delicious as it is good for you.
2 cups chicken broth2 cans (14.5 oz. each) of black beans, drained and rinsed2 cans (14.5 oz. each) of red beans, drained and rinsed1 large onion, diced4 cloves garlic, minced1 Tbsp. olive oil1 tsp. cumin1 tsp. black pepper½ tsp. sea saltOptional toppings: Chopped scallions and sour cream
Heat olive oil in medium stock pot. Sauté onions until translucent (about 4 minutes). Add garlic and continue to sauté for one more minute. Add beans, chicken stock, pepper, cumin and bring to a boil for five minutes. Transfer contents from stock pot into a food processor and blend until smooth. Return to saucepan and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and add sea salt. Serve immediately.
Soul WarmerSuper Simple Chicken Noodle Soup
The common cold is one of the least welcome visitors of winter. It’s no myth that a cup of homemade chicken noodle soup aids us when our immune systems are down. In fact, the chemical properties released by boiling chicken into a broth are similar to the chemical properties in over-the-counter medications that help to clear congestion.
4 cups chicken stock2 cups chicken breasts, uncooked and diced into 1-inch cubes1 medium onion, diced2 large stalks celery, chopped3 cloves garlic, minced½ cup egg noodles2 tsp. parsley, chopped2 tsp. basil, chopped½ tsp. sea salt
Bring chicken stock to a boil for a few minutes in a stockpot. Add chicken and continue to boil for five minutes. Add onion, celery and garlic. Lower heat and simmer for five minutes. Add noodles and cook five more minutes. Reduce heat and add parsley, basil and sea salt. Remove from heat and serve immediately.
Traci Danielson Mitchell is a Chicago-based nutrition coach and health writer. She provides family nutrition services through her company, DM Nutrition& Fitness. Reach her online at www.dmnutrition.com or e-mail her at email@example.com.