Soup, a Great Budget Meal
I can’t think of a better comfort food than a bowl of homemade soup. Whether you’ve been raking leaves or feeling under the weather, there’s nothing quite like a hearty soup waiting for you on the kitchen table. But most of all, I love soup because it’s one of the best bargains out there.
Ingredients are Inexpensive and Plentiful
Eat with the seasons and most of the ingredients that go to make soup are usually not that expensive…vegetables and cheaper cuts of meat that tenderize during this slow cooking process.
Fiber Feels You Up
Thicker soups like split pea or lentil contain lots of fiber that fill you up quickly. Sometimes they don’t even need meat or chicken added to them to make a hearty meal. Fiber also keeps away the hunger pains and the urge to snack.
Just Like a Gourmet Meal
Soups containing dairy products add a satisfying richness that tricks us into thinking we’ve eaten an elaborate meal.
A Meal In Itself
Serve a soup containing a protein and some vegetables, add some great crusty bread, and you’ve got yourself one of the least expensive meals you can put together.
Make Now, Enjoy Later
Soup is also a great item to make in large batches and freeze. Sometime this month I’m going to make double batches of curried cream of vegetable and baked potato soups. Half will be used for lunchtime meals, the other half, stored in the freezer for fall and winter eating.
It’s Better The Next Day Anyway
And never be worried about leftover soup. In fact, ask any top chef and he or she will tell you that all soups should ideally be eaten the day after they’re made. There’s a local restaurant where I live that proudly states on its menu that all soups were made the previous day.
If you have leftover vegetables you’re not quite sure what to do with, make some soup.
Make Your Own Stock
And if you’re thinking about making a stock for the soup, try saving up all your veggie peelings, and boiling them together. Some people also sauté the scraps and add the water after. It does give you a more flavorful stock, but if you’re watching your fat intake, the boiling method works just as well. You can either use the stock straight away or freeze it. You can also make soup from leftover meat bones and don’t forget to add ham bones to soups like navy bean and split pea. Some supermarkets sell them for less than a dollar; some will even give them to you for free.
Tips I’ve Learned Along the Way
Here are couple of tips I’ve picked up over the years to keep some of the fat content down while still get a really rich soup. Always cook the vegetables in the right order, sauté the onions first, then the root vegetables, then the ones that tend to cook quickly like zucchini. If you find you have to add more oil when you sauté the veggies, try adding some water or even stock. To get a creamy soup without adding cream, take out some of the soup, put it in a blender and then add it back to the pot. If a recipe calls for cream or half and half, I use about only 25% of the amount the recipe calls for and make up the difference with low fat milk.
Two Soup Recipes
Here’s a soup I usually make when corn is still cheap and abundant. You can freeze it but the contents seem to separate out so I recommend passing on the freezing and enjoying it the week you make it.
Spanish Corn Chowder
I cup chopped onions
3 tablespoons oil
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 ½ cup chopped tomatoes
2 cups chopped potatoes
1 chopped green or red pepper
2 cups water
2 ½ cups corn, fresh, (frozen or canned work too)
1 cup milk
½ cup grated cheese
1.In a medium size saucepan, heat oil, add onions and cook until translucent, add potatoes, and then green/red pepper. Add water and simmer until potatoes are tender.
2.Stir in corn and tomatoes.
3.Stir in milk being careful not to overheat the mixture.
4.Stir in cheese until it’s melted.
And as there’s a hint of fall in the air…yes, the leaves are already turning where I live, pumpkin season must be arriving soon. Here’s a recipe from The Spice Hunter. They also have a recipe for pumpkin spread I’ll be testing and I’ll share the recipe and a photo with you in this month’s newsletter.
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter or margarine
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 can (14 1/2 fl. oz.) chicken broth
1/2 cup water
1/2 tsp salt
1-15 oz. can Pumpkin
1 1/2 cups half-and-half
1/2 tsp Spice Hunter Pumpkin Pie Spice
cayenne to taste
Melt butter in large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic, cook for 1 to 2 minutes or until soft. Add broth, water, salt and pepper; bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to low; cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes. Stir in pumpkin, half-and-half and spices. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
Transfer mixture to food processor or blender (in batches, if necessary); process until smooth. Return to the saucepan. Serve warm.