Healthy hot soups for those cold days

As we move into the winter months, soups and chilis can be an easy way to get a quick and nutritious dinner on the table. When you think of soups and stews, think about homemade favorites for cool winter nights, rather than opening a can. Soups and chilis can be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days and frozen for 1-2 months.

Preparing soup does not require special equipment, usually just a knife, cutting board, measuring utensils, and a large pot with a lid.  Many times the pot is referred to in the recipes as a stock pot or a Dutch oven that is 4 quarts or more in size. You may cook the soups in a slow cooker or a pressure cooker, instead of cooking on the stove.

Some soups have a cream or milk base that adds some additional calories. Other soups are broth based and are usually thinner. Broth based soups can be thickened by pureeing a small amount of the soup’s ingredients and adding the puree’ back to the pot of soup.

If you purchase a broth or bouillon, be sure to read the label to check for sodium content. Some broths may be purchased with no added salt. Of course, making your broth or stock at home will result in a much lower sodium content.

You can add fresh veggies to your soups or you can use frozen or canned produce. Either way most soups and stews provide a hearty meal that can be complemented with fruit or a salad, whole grain bread or crackers and a glass of low-fat milk.

Soups can help you stretch your food dollar with in-season veggies that are usually lower in cost. Then you can use smaller amounts of the more expensive protein foods like chicken or beef.

Vegetable soup provides an opportunity to use the veggies in your refrigerator that might not be fresh enough to use in a salad. Dice your veggies of choice and saute’ in a small amount of olive oil in a Dutch oven. When the veggies are crisp tender, add 4-6 cups of vegetable broth or stock or low sodium vegetable juice and cook until the veggies are tender. Then season to taste with salt and pepper. More firm veggies like potatoes and carrots take longer to cook than the softer foods like spinach and tomatoes. So plan to add the softer foods toward the end of the cooking time. Of course, you can add other spices and seasonings as well as pasta to the soup. YOU are the Creator!