With a few basics in your pantry, refrigerator and freezer, you can make a healthy, delicious soup in no time.
When the cooler weather rolls around, my thoughts automatically turn to soup. These one-dish wonders are warm and filling, and it doesn’t take much to round out the meal – a simple green salad will usually do it.And, soups store really well – to me, most soups taste even better the day after they’re made.
There’s no question that the best soups are made from scratch – I’m the first to admit that great chicken soup starts with a whole chicken, not a can or box of broth – but when you’re pressed for time, you can put together a quick, great tasting soup as long as the kitchen is well-stocked.
You’ll want to start with a liquid, and your best bets are boxed or canned broths which come in a variety of flavors (beef, chicken, vegetable, mushroom, seafood). In general, these will provide your soup with a fresher flavor than if you use bouillon cubes (which also tend to be very salty). There are also some good paste-style concentrated soup bases in a variety of flavors. I’ve found pureed vegetable bases made from butternut squash or broccoli. Canned tomatoes in their liquid also make a good starter, too, after you treat them to a spin in the blender.
Canned beans make a great soup base, too. Start with the beans and the tasty liquid they’re packed in, and then add more liquid to get a soupy consistency. Black beans pair well with tomato puree, while white beans are great with chicken or vegetable broth.
Once you’ve chosen your liquid, you’ll want to boost the protein. You can turn your butternut squash or broccoli base into a creamy soup by stirring in milk or soy milk, or whirling in the blender with some soft tofu. Creamy soups pair well with seafood – so try adding frozen or canned shrimp, canned salmon, or minced clams with their liquid to make a quick chowder. Canned chicken and turkey breast are super-convenient for your broth-based soups; if your supermarket sells whole roasted chickens, even better – pick one up and add some diced oven-roasted chicken to give your soup a homemade flavor.
Next, think about seasonings. Want an Asian flavor? Add a dash of soy sauce, a bit of white pepper, a dash of ground ginger and a few drops of sesame oil. To add a southwestern flavor to your bean soup, try adding some chili powder, cumin, oregano and garlic powder. Give your tomato-based soup a Mediterranean vibe with basil or rosemary and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese. For the chowder, you can’t go wrong with a little garlic, celery seed, paprika and thyme.
Once you’ve seasoned your soup, it’s time to add the veggies – and you can never have too many. Keep some loose-pack vegetables (like spinach, carrots, lima beans, green beans, broccoli or mixed veggies) in your freezer to add to your soup during the last few minutes of cooking. Or, drain a can or corn kernels and add to your seafood chowder. For the finishing touch, add a bit of fresh vegetable if you have it. A sprinkling of minced parsley, or some freshly grated carrot or zucchini added at the last minute adds a fresh, bright color to your soup, and it’ll look like you spent hours – rather than minutes – on your creation.
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