Simply soup: 5 nutritious recipes to warm your winter and fuel your fitness fire

How much do I love soup? Let me count the ways.

First and foremost, soup tops the list of economical dinners – it goes a long way to serve many hungry people, all from one big pot. It even saves you time: You can make a kettle brimming full of goodness on a weekend and have two more nutritious meals to pop in a plastic container and eat during the workweek. And if you have trouble getting your family to eat vegetables, well, here’s an easy solution. After all, being good for you is soup’s greatest attribute. When loaded with vitamins, nutrients, fiber, protein and carbs, it can boast more nourishment in one small bowl than any other entree.

My particular specialty is kitchen soup. Haven’t heard of it? As I clean my refrigerator out every Saturday morning, I toss all the leftover veggies in a pot – you know, the two carrots, that stalk of celery, half an onion, a bell pepper, a couple of potatoes. Instead of throwing it all out, cook it up into a delicious meal! Add a large can of tomatoes along with a handful of rice, barky or your favorite pasta, and there you have it.

Yes, my cup runneth over with the goodness of soup, so I’d like to share a few of my favorite healthy recipes. Try them and write to the magazine to let us know which ones were a hit at your house. Bon appetit!

WONDERFUL WINTER SQUASH SOUP

With its velvety texture, buttery flavor and oodles of fiber, winter squash packs this recipe with taste and nutrition. Acom, butternut, banana or any combination of squash works well. Some recipes say to cook the squash in a kettle, but I prefer to bake it so I don’t have to watch it on the stove. Just before serving, prepare a few small cheese ravioli and place them in each bowl before you add the soup. The big boys in the family will thank you.

  • 2 lbs. winter squash, halved and seeded
  • 2 onions, peeled and halved
  • 1 bulb garlic, top cut off
  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • 2 tsp. dry or fresh thyme
  • 4 cups Swanson’s no-fat, less-sodium chicken broth
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Place squash skin side down in a glass baking dish, adding a little water to the bottom of the dish. Add onions and garlic. Drizzle garlic with olive oil and sprinkle squash with thyme. Cover dish with foil. Bake at 350 degrees F for 1-1 1/2 hours, or until vegetables are soft when pierced with a fork. Remove squash, onion and garlic from dish, then put in a blender and puree. Meanwhile, warm chicken broth in a kettle on the stove. Add pureed vegetables, and salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot with optional raviolis, a dollop of light sour cream or chopped chives. Makes four servings. Per serving: 174 calories, 5 g protein, 38 g carbohydrate, 1.5 g fat, 10 g fiber.

CREAMY CLAM CHOWDER

Thoughts of my hometown come to mind whenever I make this savory chowder. Every Friday night in every restaurant in Little Falls, New York, it’s Fish Fry Friday: fresh haddock served with homemade clam chowder. Why, even the Elks Lodge and VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) have a fish fry! The clam chowder on the menus is a far cry from low-cal, so I modified my “real” recipe into a low-fat version. When I served it to my family, the raves kept coming in.

  • 5 6-oz. cans chopped clams
  • 2 slices bacon
  • 1 large onion, chopped fine
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 2 bottles clam juice
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • Water if needed
  • 1 cube chicken bouillon
  • 1 large bay leaf
  • 4 medium potatoes, washed, peeled and diced
  • 1/2 tsp. white pepper
  • 4 Tbsp. butter or margarine
  • 4 Tbsp. flour
  • 6 Tbsp. fat-free milk
  • Fresh chopped parsley

Drain clams, reserving juice, and set aside. Cook bacon in a skillet until crisp, then set aside. Saute onion and celery in bacon drippings 3-5 minutes. In a large bowl, combine bottled clam juice, reserved juice from canned clams, wine and water to equal 6 cups. Add chicken bouillon, then transfer mixture to a large pot and simmer with bay leaf 10 minutes. Stir in potatoes and pepper, and cook 15 minutes more. Add drained clams. Meanwhile, melt butter in a small pan, then slowly stir in flour. Cook over medium heat two minutes, stirring constantly. Add milk and stir until thick. Add white sauce to clam mixture and simmer 10 minutes; do not boil. Remove bay leaf before serving; top with parsley and serve with oyster crackers. Makes eight servings. Per serving: 197 calories, 14 g protein, 20 g carbohydrate, 6 g fat, 2 g fiber.

OLD – FASHIONED CHICKEN & RICE SOUP

“There’s nothing quite like homemade chicken soup,” my dear mother would always say, and hers was the best. She always started with a fresh-dressed chicken the local farmer had just delivered to her door She’d boil it and pick the meat from the bones, saving all that wonderful, rich broth. Today’s working woman uses boneless/skinless chicken breasts and broth from the store. Add enough special ingredients, thought, and it’s good enough to call homemade. I sprinkle a little Romano cheese on top as my Italian father always did – oh, how he loved Mom’s chicken soup!

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, washed and cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1 cup chopped celery, leaves included
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup chopped carrots
  • 1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup uncooked long-grain rice
  • 2 14 1/2-oz. cans Swanson’s no-fat, less-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp. dry or fresh thyme
  • Chopped zucchini, parsnips, turnips or potatoes can be added if desired
  • Grated Romano cheese to taste

Place all ingredients in a large pot. Bring to a boil, then simmer uncovered for an hour, stirring occasionally. Remove bay leaves and serve. Makes eight servings. Per serving: 186 calories, 28 g protein, 11 g carbohydrate. 3 g fat, 2 g fiber.

PERFECT PASTA E FAGIOLI

Being raised Catholic in an Italian-American home, we observed the church law of no meat on Friday. So every Friday as far back as I can remember, we had “pasta vazool.” (I’m sure vazool is dialect from some part of Sicily.) My mother’s recipe came from my grandmother, who first made this ethnic dish in Montelepre, Sicily, a small town close to Palermo. Nonni served it in big, flat soup bowls with her homemade Italian bread and fresh grated Romano cheese sprinkled on top. She started by soaking cannelloni beans (fagioli) overnight, but we’ll improvise a little. I’m sure Nonni won’t mind. The memories of those family dinners will last forever.

  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 29-oz. can tomato sauce (plain or with Italian seasonings)
  • 3-6 cloves garlic, chopped
  • Fresh oregano and basil to taste
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 Ib. 11-oz. can less-sodium red kidney beans, drained
  • 1 tsp. sugar (optional; my mother said it cut the acidity of the tomato sauce)
  • 1/2 Ib. small macaroni or your favorite small past
  • Water if needed
  • Grated Romano cheese to taste

In a large pot, saute onion in oil until soft, then add tomato sauce, garlic, oregano, basil, bay leaves, red kidney beans and sugar (optimal). Simmer 30 minutes. Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions or al dente. When it’s ready, add the pasta and some of the water it was cooked in (as much as you like to achieve the soup consistency you prefer) to the sauce. Serve immediately. If you make the soup a day or more ahead, don’t add the pasta. Spoon pasta into soup bowls only when ready to serve, then add sauce. Sprinkle with Romano cheese. Makes eight servings. Per serving: 209 calories, 7 g protein, 32 g carbohydrate, 7 g fat, 5 g fiber.

ALBONDIGAS (MEXICAN MEATBALL SOUP)

How about something different when the gang comes over for Super Bowl Sunday? You’ll score some major points with all those weekend warriors with this football favorite. I serve this hefty soup at halftime, with a big, make-your-own-sub bar. It scores a touchdown every time. And I’ll let you in on a little secret: Without cumin, it’s not albondigas. Ole!

  • 5 cups water
  • 1 cup chopped carrots
  • 1 cup chopped bell pepper
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup chopped zucchini
  • 1 cup sliced celery
  • 14 1/2 oz. can whole peeled tomatoes with juice(with Mexican seasoning if desired)
  • 5 cubes beef bouillon
  • 1 tsp. fresh or dried oregano
  • 2 tsp. fresh or ground cumin
  • 1 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped fine, divided.
  • 1 lb. very lean ground beef (4% fat)
  • 1/2 cup uncooked rice
  • 1 egg
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Chopped green onion if desired

Place first 11 ingredients, water through cilantro, into a large pot, using only half the bunch of cilantro. Cover and simmer 30 minutes, adding more water if necessary. Meanwhile, in a large bowl mix ground beef, rice, egg, remaining cilantro, salt and pepper. Wet your hands to shape mixture into balls so it won’t stick to your fingers. Gently drop meatballs into the soup and simmer 20 minutes more, or until meatballs, are fully cooked. Sprinkle green onion on top of soup before serving. Makes eight servings. Per serving: 140 calories, 15 g protein, 12 g carbohydrate, 3 g fat, 3 g fiber.

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