Feb
01
2011
1

DIY Soups, Tips for Making Soup From Scratch

Greek yogurt adds additional flavor

Whether you just need a bowl of warm soup on a cold day, or the healing powers of chicken soup to fight that cold, nothing beats homemade. Sure it’s faster to open a can of soup but I challenge you to find any canned soup that can beat the taste of soup from scratch. And the best part is that soup can be the easiest menu item to make. Here are some tips to help your soup making.

Make your own stock.

One of the keys to good soup flavor is starting with its foundation, stock or broth. Now, I must be honest and admit that I often cheat and buy canned, low sodium chicken stock. But I also have to tell you that making your own stock is super easy and you can freeze it for future use. Whenever we make a whole chicken, we simply place the carcass into a large pot, cover the chicken with water and add celery, carrots, onions and perhaps a few herbs. Let it simmer for an hour or so and then strain and store in an air-tight container. It’s that easy. And I promise its just as easy for beef or fish stock too. The flavors from your own stock will make a big difference when used as your base of a soup. Especially any seafood stew.

Plan ahead when soaking beans.

The easiest soup recipes to make are the ones that either don’t call for soaking beans or you can substitute canned beans. I say easiest because you don’t have that extra time component for soaking beans. But that being said, bean soups are some of my favorite soups of all time. White bean soup with bacon reminds me of my Grandmother’s house. And that makes the planning worth it. Just be sure to budget in the time to soak beans overnight. Or sacrifice a little flavor and cheat and buy the canned kind, problem solved!

Don’t throw away the seeds!

Nature's mysterious shapes and beautiful colors

Another fun little soup trick I learned when making soups with winter squash is to save the seeds and use them as a tasty garnish. I like to top our butternut squash soup with toasted seeds just like you would add oyster crackers to chowder. They make all the difference in the world. Plus they give a toasty flavor and contrast the sweetness of a pumpkin or butternut squash soup. Just rinse them in cold water and dry them on a paper towel after scooping them out of the squash. Then toss them in a little olive oil and sea salt and roast them in the oven at 350 degrees F for about 10-15 minutes or until just golden brown. Sprinkle them on your bowl of soup or enjoy them later as a healthy snack!

Plan ahead and make weeknight soup even easier!

Soup is one of the easiest recipes because you mostly just throw everything into one pot and let it simmer. It really is that simple. That’s not to say that there are not more complicated recipes out there, or that even the most simple soups don’t require adding things in a sequence. But it really is a simple recipe. The problem is that for some soups, especially those with a lot of veggies is that you spend so much time chopping and prepping. The actual cooking part is easier than the prep work.

To save on time or to be able to make a quick weeknight soup, I suggest chopping things like butternut squash, carrots, celery, onions, bell peppers etc ahead of time and freezing them in air tight containers in pre-measured quantities, i.e. a cup of chopped onion. That way you just have to thaw what you need that day, not a whole large chunk of frozen onions. And keep your pantry stocked with a couple of cans of chicken stock, dried herbs like thyme, basil and oregano and salt and pepper. I’m not a huge fan of buying the already chopped veggies though for two reasons. One: you pay more for them. Two: they don’t taste the same as fresh veggies you chop yourself. But that being said, they are a double time saver. The bottom line: save yourself time by chopping ahead of time.

Soup definitely falls into that category of “What would Julia Child do?”. Yes, that’s right she would make her own! So I challenge you to try a new soup recipe this winter. Ever tried butternut squash soup? Go for it! Read some tips from my previous post here or try out this easy recipe here: (more…)

Jan
28
2010
1

A Closer Look at Soup

Celebrating Soup for National Soup Month

Celebrating Soup for National Soup Month, Spicy Pumpkin Soup with Shrimp

We periodically fall back on a few favorite soup recipes this time of year. Chicken soup is our classic recipe that we make whenever we are looking for a healthy meal, but to also put that leftover chicken to use. But this week when I had some leftover chicken to use up, I wanted to venture out of my soup comfort zone. So I decided to try a spicy tortilla soup recipe. Wow, was I ever glad I did. I was surprised at how easy it was to blend all the ingredients and how flavorful the soup was. It is on my top ten list of favorite soups now.

After enjoying a bowl of thick tortilla soup I got to thinking. Every dish has a history. And I am sure there is a history for tortilla soup just like there is for chili. But what about the heritage of soup itself? I was surprised to learn that many historians consider soup to be the original fast food. In can be traced back to ancient Greece, where it was sold as a street food using lentils, peas and beans as the main ingredient. As a new member of a Greek family I can tell you that the Greeks take great pride in their ancient influence on modern culture. So I guess I was not really that surprised to learn that the Greeks had a hand in the early adoption of soup as a popular meal.

Ok, so that explains when and why soup first started to catch on, but what about the name? Why soup? Some think that it got its name because of the sound you make when you slurp it up. Others believe it had to do with the fact that it was often sopped up with bread, so from the Latin word suppa or sop – to soup. And one last theory is that it was derived from the “sup” in the word supper.

And finally a little more fact finding for you on the subject of soup in honor of January’s National Soup Month. Soups can be classified into two broad groups: clear soups and thick soups. The French classifications of clear soups are bouillon and consommé. Depending on which thickening agent is used, thick soups fall into several classifications:

  • Purées, which are vegetable soups thickened with starch;
  • Bisques, which are made from puréed shellfish or vegetables thickened with cream;
  • Cream-based soups, which are thickened with cream or béchamel sauce;
  • Veloutés, which are thickened with eggs, butter and cream.

Other ingredients commonly used to thicken soups and broths include rice, flour and grains. Soups are also very similar to stews, the generally accepted difference being that soups have more liquid than stews.

When you think about it, most soup recipes are really healthy for you, – well if you ignore the thick soups which contain cream and therefore more calories. The broth-based soups, chicken broth-based ones in particular, are the healthiest. It also is one of the most economical meals you can make because it can be made with just about any combination of ingredients. And sometimes that selection of ingredients can be closely tied into a region’s culture. The vast catalog of soup recipes spans all types of cuisine. Have you ever wondered why soup is such a common thread across all cultures? What other entrée can be translated to almost any cuisine? There are soup recipes with roots in almost every culture, making it a dish that is as simple to make is it is diverse. It can be enjoyed anytime of year, not just this month. So here is to soup, let us enjoy it for its healthy, flavorful and culturally diverse qualities.

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