Preparing Soups for the Winter Months

When it’s cold outside, there’s nothing better than soup to warm you up on the inside. Most soups are easy to make and don’t require any fancy equipment other than a big pot. And once you learn a few basic steps, it’s easy to make soups that are packed full of nutrition AND flavor.
How do you make soups that are both nutritious and delicious?  By simmering vegetables, broths, and herbs together, you can create lots of flavor without adding fat and salt.
Most soups start by sautéing flavorful vegetables such as onion, carrots, celery, and garlic. Sautéing means cooking in a small amount of oil in a hot pan or pot. Sautéing softens veggies and brings out their sweet and savory flavors. After that, add a soup base, such as vegetable broth, tomatoes, or even just water. Finally, add your other ingredients to cook in the liquid base. As the soup simmers, the flavors combine and blend. Add some herbs and spices and you have yourself a soup.
Here’s an example of a recipe that follows this method. It features a variety of vegetables and lentils. Lentils are a member of the bean family. They are inexpensive and full of protein, fiber, and iron.
Lentil, Mushroom, and Swiss Chard Soup
Servings: 6
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, washed and chopped
1 celery stalk, washed and chopped
1 cup mushrooms, washed and sliced
1 cup dried lentils, rinsed
8 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
1 Tablespoon Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 bunch Swiss chard leaves or 4 cups of spinach, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
  1. In a large pot over medium heat, cook onion, carrots, celery, and mushrooms for 5 minutes.
  2. Stir in lentils, broth, and spices.
  3. Cover the pot and reduce heat to low.
  4. Cook for 20-30 minutes until lentils are tender.
  5. Stir in chopped Swiss chard or spinach and cook for 5 minutes.
  6. Divide soup into bowls and serve with whole grain bread, if desired.

Can’t find Swiss chard or don’t like mushrooms? No problem! Soup recipes are very flexible. Substitute whatever veggies you have in your fridge for the ones listed, or you can add additional types of veggies, or just increase the quantities of veggies called for in the recipe. You can’t go wrong.
While you’re preparing all of this warm, hearty goodness, you may want to make a double recipe and freeze half. When the next snowstorm hits, enjoy pulling it out of the freezer and serving a healthy meal to your family without having to spend time in the kitchen.

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© Eat Smart, Be Fit Maryland!Maira Gall