Warm Up With Healthy Soups
Happy fall everyone! The leaves have turned their final colors and are now dropping off the tress at a faster rate, the days are more crisp and cool and there is a very evident chill in the air. I hate to say it, but ol’ man winter is right around the corner, there is nothing we can do to prevent it unless you plan to move to Hawaii tomorrow, so the only option left is to prepare and embrace it! You may ask, what I am doing to prepare myself? Well folks, besides turning on my fireplace and drinking hot tea every chance I get, I’m am spending more time in my toasty warm kitchen making soups! Hot and healthy soups are a great way to warm the soul and allow you to step out into the bitter cold with a bit more confidence that you won’t just turn into an icicle.
Here are some tips to keep in mind while preparing soups:
Use low sodium broths, not necessarily lowER sodium, lower than what? LowER sodium could still be very high, in order for something to be labeled as “low sodium” its 140mg or less of sodium per serving. But remember when there is no salt, you need to replace it with other flavors so…
Use sodium free seasoning such as Chef Paul and Mrs. Dash as well as herbs; fresh, dry, or freeze dried, and garlic powder, onion powder should be a staple.
If you need to thicken your soup use pureed potatoes or cauliflower or any other vegetable to thicken and use fat free Greek yogurt in place of cream. I always try to think seasonal this time of year so I would thicken my soup with pumpkin or squash, or both and then add a dollop of fat free plain Greek yogurt on top for extra creaminess! You could also try a slurry of cornstarch and cold water instead of cream or roux, but obviously there is more nutrition if you use veggies J
Speaking of veggies…soups are a very easy way to get a lot of vegetables. Add, add, add away! Maybe adding vegetables sounds like a lot of work… it surely doesn’t have to be! Why can’t you use canned or frozen vegetables instead of fresh. That way they have already been washed and cut. All you have to do is open the can or bag and just keep adding! Make sure they are not in cream sauce or loaded with extra sodium though. Try to buy the no salt added versions or just remember to drain and rinse for 2-4 minutes to remove that excess sodium. Canned and Frozen are just as nutritious as their fresh counterparts.
Try using tofu or beans and lentils as your protein base. Remember canned beans are just as nutritious as dried beans and a huge timesaver, just remember to drain and rinse them for 2-4 minutes to reduce the sodium by up to 41%. By the way beans are so nourishing, did you know that they offer a good source of protein, iron, and fiber, plus they are low-fat, not to mention very cheap compared to other protein foods. Cannellini beans work great for Italian style soups with black or pinto beans are nice in Southwestern-types.
Don’t forget the whole grains! Get creative, use wheat berries, barley, quinoa, brown rice, or wild rice to name a few. You can either add them to the soup, or pour the soup on a bed of whole grains for something different. This will add fiber and keep you feeling fuller for longer. There is a laundry list of benefits of adding fiber to your diet, from weight loss to lowering your cholesterol and maintaining blood sugar levels, just don’t forget the fiber!
Think smart when it comes to toppings: Crackers may be the go-to soup topping, but there are other options that will add crunch or flavor to you soup with some nutritional benefits to boot. If you are looking for a crunchy topping, try toasted whole wheat bread sliced into cubes or whole grain tortillas sliced into strips, misted with oil and placed under the broiler until crispy, or whole wheat bread crumbs are a great option as well and very easy! For creamy toppings, try nonfat plain Greek yogurt instead of sour cream or reduced-fat finely shredded cheese (the more finely it’s shredded, the less you’ll use) Avocados work great to add creaminess as well, plus they are a fruit… BONUS! Also, fresh herbs like basil or cilantro are always great to add as a final, flavorful touch to your favorite soup. Adding any veggies as toppings, not only do they add eye appeal, but also nutrition of course!
Below is my favorite soup recipe for this season!! Enjoy! Happy Soup Making! The weather outside may add a chill but this is sure to take that away, now honestly speaking, would soup taste so good if it was warm out? Nope, that’s for sure, so be thankful for the cold weather… I guess, okay maybe not thankful, that’s a bit far, rather make the best of it!
- 2 Lb. Winter Squash, such as Butternut
- 2 Medium Bulbs Fennel
- 4 T. Olive Oil
- 2 tsp. Fennel Seeds
- 4 tsp. Butter
- 2 Cups Onions, sliced
- 1 T. Fresh Thyme Leaves
- 2 Dried Red Chiles, or a fat pinch of Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
- 1 Bay Leaf
- ¾ Cup Sherry
- 8 Cups Water
- ¼ Cup Plain Greek Yogurt
- For the Pumpkin Seeds:
- ½ Cup Raw Pumpkin Seeds
- ¼ tsp. Ground Cumin
- 1 T. Butter
- 1 T. Sugar
- Generous pinch each of Cinnamon, Paprika, and Cayenne
- Salt to taste
- 1 tsp. Honey
- Heat the oven to 400°F. Peel and cut the squash up into 1-inch wedges, discarding the peel and seeds.
- Peel and core the fennel and chop it up into equally-sized wedges.
- Roast, drizzled with the olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper, until soft and caramelized, about 35 minutes.
- In the meantime, toast the fennel seeds in a dry skillet until fragrant, then grind.
- Heat the butter over medium-high heat in a heavy, large pot (like a Dutch oven) until it foams, then add the seeds, onion, thyme, chiles, bay leaf, and a pinch of salt and pepper.
- Cook until the onions are soft and translucent, about 10 minutes.
- While the squash and fennel finish roasting, prepare the pumpkin seeds: melt the butter in a small skillet over medium heat, then add the seeds, sugar, spices, and a pinch of salt.
- Toss well to coat the seeds and cook until they begin to pop and color slightly, moving them around the pan often.
- Remove from the heat, wait 30 seconds, then add the honey and toss quickly to coat.
- Spread on a plate to cool.
- Combine the contents of the roasting pan with the onion in the heavy pot, and pour in the sherry. Allow to reduce for a few minutes, then add the water and bring to a boil. Simmer for 20 minutes. Transfer about a third of the solids to a blender (purée it in batches to ensure the perfect consistency) and add ½ cup or so of the liquid.
- Turn on at low speed until the solid are completely puréed, then add another ½ cup broth and turn the speed to high, adding liquid little by little until the soup has the consistency of heavy cream. Blend for at least a full minute on high speed.
- Follow this process for the rest of the soup.
- Serve the soup with some crème fraîche or Greek yogurt spooned in, scattered with the pumpkin seeds.