Monday, October 19, 2009

Sipping on Soups

One of the things that helps me (and I'm sure a lot of people) to get through the cold, gloomy days of fall, winter and spring here (yes, all 3 seasons can be very cold and grey!) is the food. There is such yummy, warm foods with rich, earthy flavors that make staying inside, nice and cozy, more endurable. I have especially grown to enjoy soups.

We occasionally had soup when I was growing up- usually the canned variety and usually for a quick lunch or if we were sick. Campbell's chicken noodle and vegetable were my favorite. In kindergarten I remember one day a mom came into our class and made home-made chicken noodle soup for us with home-made noodles. It was so good! I can still taste those noodles and the savory flavor of the broth. That was over 20 years ago and I still remember it vividly and I still have never found a chicken noodle soup that matched up.

When I was doing my supervised practice to be a dietitian, to hone our skills, we had to interview many patients in the hospital about what they usually ate. One day I came back to my teacher and I made her laugh when I asked, "Why do so many old people eat soup?" It seemed like every patient said they at soup for at least one or two meals a day I just didn't get it. With all of the food out there why would someone eat soup every day if they weren't sick?!

When I got my first job working in hospital as a dietitian, we were able to eat lunch in the cafeteria and after growing tired of the salad and sandwich bar and not wanting a heavy fried meal, I started gravitating towards the soups. There was vegetable, bean, chicken noodle, southwestern chicken, Mexican wedding, split pea, etc. Most of them were pretty good. I started realizing why people ate so much soup- they were warm, comforting and filled you up for hours. I made my own version of a vegetable soup with pasta and a Mexican wedding soup for Thanksgiving eve a few years ago- I think that was one of my first experiences making soup and I was amazed at how easy it really was. Not to mention, flavorful and healthier than any canned variety that is loaded with sodium and preservatives. I was hooked on soup.

Now during the cooler months I try to make a big pot of some type of soup, chili or stew once a week. I love having the leftovers for lunches, plus you can freeze extras for later. Because we have had some cold, grey weather already, I have had the soup pot going for weeks. Last week I made a minestrone soup with an Israeli couscous mixture that I got at Trader Joe's. Yum yum. I just ate my last serving for lunch and now I will have to decide on my next variety! Enjoy!

Savory Minestrone Soup

3 large carrots, chopped
3 large celery stalks, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 large can of tomatoes (28oz)
1 can kidney beans or cannelloni beans
1 quart chicken broth
1 cup of water
1 cup Israeli couscous, brown rice, barley, or small pasta
bay leaf

Heat about1 tbsp olive oil in a large stock pot. Add onions and garlic and cook for about 5 minutes to 10 minutes and until soft. Add celery and carrots and cook for another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add tomatoes, beans and chicken broth, and bay leaf. Let cook for about 20 minutes. Add couscous and water and season with 1 tbsp chopped parsley and basil. Let simmer for another 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Ladle into soup bowls along with a warm slice of crusty, fresh bread.

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