Sunday, December 5, 2010

Hectic Holidays? Try Soup

Nothing warms the heart on a wintry day like a nice bowl of soup. And during the hectic holiday season, it's an easily accessible dish. It's a great do-ahead meal for the crock pot and an easy dish to throw together with leftovers. There are also some delicious choices out of a can--yes a can. If you haven't strolled down the soup aisle in a while, you might be surprised with new varieties that sound like restaurant food: Italian Wedding, Vegetable Orzo, Chicken Mushroom with Barley. (and they have just 480 mg of sodium--part of Campbell's Healthy & Delicious line

Here are a few ideas and recommendations.

*Homemade Bean soups: I love split peas and lentils because you don't have to remember to soak them overnight. Beans soups work great in the crock pot. If you want to do other types of beans, do the quick soak method--my favorite. Cover the beans with water and bring to a boil for several minutes. Turn off the heat, cover and soak for 1 hour. No matter what kind of beans you make, the spices are pretty much the same--onion, garlic, bay leaf, thyme. If you are making beans with a south of the border flare, add cumin and chili powder. For lots of tips and recipes check out:

Semi-homemade and Canned Bean Soups: I love Progresso bean soups; minimum of ingredients and low in fat. For example, the Progresso Lentil soup has 150 calories, 2 grams of fat and (ouch) 870 mg sodium. But you can easily turn canned beans into a soup by pureeing in the blender or adding a broth, (black bean soup: some leftover barley and vegetables for a quick appetizer soup. Here's a great recipe using both canned condensed tomato soup as well as canned beans.

*Homemade stews: A stew is like a soup, only thicker--at least that's how I look at it. Although I'm not a fan of American stew, International stews are growing on me--in fact I made Beef Caldito last night! It's easy to turn an old fashioned stew into a gourmet dish by switching a few ingredients. Think Boeuf Bourginon (red wine, thyme, bay leaves) Caldito (chiles, cumin, chile powder). Check out this Caribbean themed stew that includes sweet potatoes: Canned soup can simplify a stew; check out this pork stew:

Talkin' soup is hard to keep brief--and it's making me hungry. Stay tuned for the next post about vegetable soups!