by Dawn Boulay

A great way to warm up – besides exercising – on chilly days is to enjoy a hot bowl of soup. Homemade is best because you can decide what ingredients to include to ensure optimal health, and control fat, sodium, etc.

Soup is easy to make – it cooks itself in a short time while you do other things. A cup of soup can take the edge off hunger as a snack, and a bowl of soup with crusty bread makes a good meal.

Here are some soup tips:

• Start with a good flavor base: chopped onion, celery and carrots sautéed in a little butter is called a mire poix in French, sautéed in a little olive oil it’s called a soffritto in Italian. Garlic, leeks, fennel, dried herbs and other flavors can be used as well.

• Choose an organic broth, or make your own: Save the ends, stalks and skins of carrots, celery, onions, mushrooms, leeks, herb stems and other vegetables – no gassy veggies please, as well as poultry and fish carcasses, beef bones – accumulate them in the freezer until you are ready to make a stock.

• Pureeing soups, gives the impression of a creamy soup without the cream!

• Making soup is a good way to clean out the fridge! Take fresh veggies that are starting to go “past” and throw them in the soup or stock.

• Most of the time, making soup is not precise as say baking is, so improvise.

• In a meatless soup, grains and beans together provide quality protein.

• Soups freeze really well! Freeze in small containers so you will always be able to have soup on hand to defrost for a quick meal.

Soup is a great way to receive filling nutrition on relatively few calories. By starting a meal with soup, it’s been proven you will be able to more easily control your calorie intake.

Here are two quick vegetable soups that are hearty and high in fiber. The second one does not have quantities – just wing it!

Southwest Butternut Squash Soup2 large onions, peeled and chopped
2 carrots peeled and chopped
2 jalapeno peppers, finely chopped OR a couple of squirts of Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce to taste
4 TB butter
1-1/2 to 2 TSP ground cumin
1 TB ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp chili powder
2 butternut squash, peeled and diced OR cut in half, roasted face down and covered in the oven
chicken stock to cover the vegetables, approx. 4 cups
juice of 2 oranges and zest OR 1/2 cup to 1 cup orange juice and zest of 1 lime
salt and pepper to taste

• In a big heavy pot, saute the first 3 ingredients in butter until soft

• Add the spices and sauté for 2 more minutes over low heat

• Add the squash and cover the mixture with stock and juices. Let simmer until the squash is soft, approximately 1/2 hour.

• Let cool a few minutes and puree carefully in blender or food processor, season with s&p

• Garnish the soup with a dollop of plain yogurt or sour cream, toasted squash seeds and fresh cilantro sprigs. (you can scoop out the squash seeds and toast them in the oven for a garnish)

Kitchen Sink Vegetable Soup• In a soup pot sauté chopped onions or leeks, carrots, celery and optional – dried herbs, in a little olive oil until soft.

• Add a large can of whole tomatoes and juice – chop before you add.

• Add the rind of a wedge of parmesan or romano cheese, with a little cheese on it for flavor.

• Add enough broth to cover all the ingredients you intend to use.

• Add “hardy: vegetables such as diced potatoes, sweet potatoes, fresh corn, parsnips, cauliflower and bring to a boil, then simmer until vegetables are softened.

• Then add the following and cook until heated through:o Cooked red beans, chickpeas, cannellini beans or other favorite.

• Cooked barley, rice or other grain.

• “Soft” quick cooking vegetables such as chopped zucchini, green beans, frozen peas and corn.

• Option: add pieces of chicken or beef that have been sautéed in a little garlic and olive oil.

Serve with a little grated Parmesan and sprinkle of fresh herbs

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