Tuesday, November 27, 2012

[Cooking Corner]: The Power of Soup

In the fall/winter, I go into soup/stew mode.  They are easy, nutritious, feel good on a cold day, and great for kids if you've got 'em.  And they are relatively quick to prepare and make for great leftovers, which is imperative for those of us who have little time to spend on menu planning due to work/kids/life/all of above.  I've been making stews for years, but I've very recently discovered the MAGIC of bisque.  Seriously, magic, especially if you have kids.  See below..

I use a crock pot for soups and stews.  I throw everything in before work in the morning (takes about 30 mins) and then it's done when I get home.  You can also use a pot if you don't have a crock, but youll have to monitor it so your time commitment is longer.  Crock pots are amazing, just buy one :)

What I throw in the crock pot (and in this order):

- Veggies:  Anything.  Use whatever you have left lying around at the end of a grocery cycle.  Onions, carrots, celery, leeks, tomatoes (canned or fresh), greens (like kale, mustard etc), corn, anything will work here.  Just aim for 2-3 unless you have time for more, and you don't need a ton of each.  *TIP*:  Buy pre-diced veggies.  This saves a ton of prep time.  I also sometimes dice earlier in the week, or have my nanny do that so so I can just throw the veggies in in the morning.

-Starch:  Potatotes or sweet potatoes, peeled and diced.  Again, you can try to buy pre-diced or dice earlier in week (when I pre-dice I save half for use in a different recipe later on in the week.  The potatoes will get a little brown but who cares).  You can also add in pasta (shells or dumpling type or macaroni are great). 

- Meat:  Beef stew meat (they usually sell it pre-cut up in meat section) or chicken breast/thigh that I dice up.  I've also used pork. Could do extra firm tofu if vegetarian.  *TIP*:  for extra protein/fiber boost, throw in a handful of ground flax seed.  I have been putting flax in everything lately.  You won't taste it.

- Liquid:  If you want a rich stew, just splash a half cup of water on top of the meat and sprinkle a little flour for thickness.  For more a soup, add about 1.75c of water or vegetable/meat broth.

- Spice:  Salt/pepper is enough, but can also do onion powder, garlic powder. 

All day on Low in crock pot, or about an hour in a pot on the stove.  Eat by itself or with crackers, or - especially for kids - pour on top of mashed potatoes, or pasta or rice.  You'll get multiple meals out of this.  Next time you do it, change up the veg/protein choices and you have what feels like a new recipe.

I made butternut squash bisque recently and not only was it a hearty soup for us, I poured it over pasta, threw some cheese in it, and Noah absolutely loved it.  A creamy vegetable bisque over pasta is a great, healthy alternative to mac 'n cheese.  I plan to do the same with carrots, sweet potatoes, cauliflower, etc.  This took about 30 mins.


Throw a chopped onion into a pot with some butter, let it sweat. 
Follow with diced butternut squash (I bought pre-diced) and 1.75c broth (more if you want a thinner soup) and let boil 10-15 mins. 
Throw mixture into a blender/food processor and puree to desired thickness (keep thicker if going to put over pasta). 
Put back into your pot and spice with salt, pepper, nutmeg, ground coriander, thyme.  I also added ground flax.  Heat is on Low now.
Mix in some heavy whipping cream at the end and turn off heat. 
It will thicken fast so eat it quick.

You can add some shredded cheese (especially for your kids), and then pour over pasta or eat plain.  If you eat with pasta, you can add steamed broccoli and/or chicken to it as well.  Do this the next day so it feels like a different meal. 

Happy Souping!!

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