I remember arriving home from elementary school on blustery winter days to the sound of the jiggling gauge on our pressure cooker. Usually the aroma of baking bread accompanied the jiggling sound.
The rhythmic jiggling sound revealed the menu before I had a chance to ask, “What’s for dinner?” We most likely were having vegetable beef soup with lots of carrots, celery and rutabagas. The pressure cooker reduced the cooking time and softened the meat.
I can’t say I was thrilled about vegetable soup at the time. I finally gave in to rutabagas and grew to like them. But that took awhile.
Lately, our cold weather makes piping hot soup and warm bread an enticing dinner menu. In fact, you might feel like crawling into a warm kettle of soup to stay warm. Well, maybe not.
Not only does soup comfort us during long, cold winters, but having soup more often also can be good for our waistlines and can improve our nutrition.
Researchers at Penn State University compared the effects of two diets with 71 obese women ages 22 to 60. One diet was reduced in fat, while the other was reduced in fat and high in water-rich foods. Water-rich foods include soup, fruits and vegetables.
The women eating the water-rich foods ate about 25 percent more food by weight, so they felt less hungry. The women on the water-rich food diet lost 19.6 pounds in the first six months, while the other group lost 14.7 pounds. Both groups were successful in maintaining their weight loss in the second six months.
If weight loss or management is your goal, try having broth-based vegetable soup more often. To temper your appetite, consider having a broth-based soup with your lunch or as a first course with your dinner. Remember, though, that many creamy, cheesy soups can be quite high in calories and won’t necessarily pare any pounds from your frame.
Some broth-based soups are high in sodium. If you are having canned soup, opt for reduced- or low-sodium varieties. Read and compare the Nutrition Facts labels. Rinse canned vegetables to lower their sodium content before adding them to your homemade soups.
To control sodium and fat in the broth you use, try making your own meat-based or vegetable soup stock at home. Making stock is a good way use up vegetables and to stretch your budget by extracting the flavor from beef bones or a turkey or chicken carcass.
To make meat and vegetable stock, allow about half solids and half water. Cook together chopped celery, carrots, onion and meat or poultry bones. Add garlic cloves, pepper or other spices as desired. Experiment a little. Cook for a couple of hours and then strain the solids.
To remove excess calories and fat, refrigerate the stock a few hours and then skim off the fat. If you don’t have time to refrigerate the stock, you also can use a gravy separator or a turkey baster to separate the fat from the soup. Freeze soup stock in recipe-size portions.
When making large batches of soup to enjoy immediately and as leftovers, keep safe food handling in mind. Always chill leftover foods quickly. The improper chilling of food is a leading cause of foodborne illness.
Pour the soup into shallow pans or small containers so the food is no more than 2 or 3 inches deep. Then place the containers in the refrigerator. After the food reaches 40 degrees F or less, you can store the food in any size container in the refrigerator.
If you lack refrigerator space, you can make an ice bath in your sink to cool large quantities of food quickly. Fill your sink with cold water and plenty of ice cubes. Next, put the soup pot in the ice bath and stir about every 10 minutes. Then refrigerate or freeze the soup.
Here’s a slightly spicy soup to warm you on winter days. Pair it with corn muffins or warm bread.
1 pound lean or extra-lean ground beef
1 onion, chopped
2 (14.5-ounce) cans diced tomatoes (with juice)
2 (15.5-ounce) cans whole-kernel corn, drained and rinsed
2 (15.5-ounce) cans red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 1/2 tsp. chili powder (or to taste)
3/4 tsp. cumin powder
3/4 tsp. garlic powder
1 c. water*
Optional toppings (shredded cheese, sour cream, tortilla chips)
Cook meat with the chopped onion in a pot over medium heat until browned. Drain fat from meat using a strainer if available. Mix all the ingredients in the pot and cook on low for one hour. This also could be prepared in a slow cooker. Assemble as directed and cook on low for six to eight hours. This soup freezes well.
(*) If you prefer a thinner soup, add water to desired consistency and adjust spices to taste.
Makes 10 servings. Each serving has 190 calories, 5 grams (g) of fat, 25 g of carbohydrate and 5 g of fiber.