Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Tastes of Autumn: It's Souper Time


It's Souper Time!
Ah, soup. It's a warm, hearty one pot meal that offers plenty of leftovers for later in the week. What may surprise you is how quickly you can get soup on the table. Here's a handy guide to help you make sensational soups from scratch!

Starter Saute
Many soup and/or stew recipes start by sauteing meats and vegetables. This technique caramelizes the surface of foods which releases aromas and adds unbeatable depth to flavors. Start by cutting the ingredients to a uniform size and thickness, avoid overcrowding the pot or skillet and add foods based on the time needed to cook. If using any precooked ingredients be sure to add them towards the end and with just enough time to heat them thoroughly and brown them. 

The Best Base
Stock your pantry with a variety of canned tomatoes to use in soups and stews. When making smooth tomato-based soups try chunky crushed, puree and crushed tomatoes. If you are making chunky soups with lots of texture try adding diced, petite diced, or whole peeled tomatoes. You can also try preseasoned varieties for quick-cooking soups. My personal favorite is Muir Glen Organics Varieties. They have  a variety of no salt added tomatoes and even the salted varieties are low-sodium.

Chocked Full of Goodness
If you crave soups with lots of texture add plenty of vegetables, rice, pasta, or beans to get more out of every spoonful. Beans supply plant-based protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals to make heartier and healthier soups. They also help stretch the batch of soup you're making to feed a larger crowd or extra meals. Cook up a batch of dried beans or buy canned beans- just remember to rinse and drain them either way. Add light or dark kidney beans to Minestrone soups or puree great northern or cannellini beans to add texture to classic creamed soups.

Super Shortcuts
Frozen  vegetables provide as much nutrition as fresh vegetables because most have them have been picked and prepared at their peak and quickly frozen to retain most of their nutrients and other health benefits. Wegmans makes a wonderful line of Organic Fresh Picked and Quickly Frozen veggies in several varieties.<--- Yes, sometimes I cheat when I don't have the time to chop, slice, dice, and whatever else needs to be done to my veggies.
Don't limit yourself on grains you can add. Rice and beans aren't the only things you can throw into your soup mixes. Try adding barley, quinoa, bulgur wheat, or kasha (groats) to liven up soups and add variety and new life to old family favorites. You can always make these ahead of time and store them in your fridge a 2-3 ahead.
You can always pre make a batch of dried beans a few days before hand or cheat and used canned beans. I try very hard not to make a habit of it, but when I do cheat I love to use Eden Organics bean varieties. They offer a wide range of beans with minimal sodium content. I usually just try really hard (if I remember I need them for a specific recipe) to make dried beans. You can always make a batch and incorporate them into multiple meals.


If you're ready and feeling brave here's a great soup recipe to kick off Fall.

Fennel Mushroom Barley Soup

Fennel Mushroom & Barley Soup
30 minutes Prep/Serves 10

Ingredients

1 cup (1/2 of 16 oz bag) Barley, rinsed twice
1 tsp Salt
2 Tbsp  Olive Oil
14 oz  Diced Celery & Onions
3 large Cloves Garlic, peeled and minced
1 large (about 1 lb) Bulb Fennel, trimmed, cored and diced small (1/2-inch) (about 2 cups)
10 oz. Sliced Shiitake Mushrooms
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 pkg (10 oz) Matchstick Carrots
1 medium (about 1/2 lb) Red Sweet Pepper, seeded and diced medium (1 inch)
2 cartons (32 oz each) Vegetable Culinary Stock
1 Tbsp chopped Thyme leaves
3 Tbsp chopped parsley

Directions

  1. Add barley to sauce pan with water to cover by 2 inches; add 1 tsp salt. Bring to simmer on MEDIUM. Cook uncovered about 30 min, until just tender, stirring occasionally. Drain in colander; rinse with cool water. Drain again.
  2. Heat oil in large stockpot on MEDIUM, until oil faintly smokes. Add celery and onions; cook about 5 min, until soft and translucent. Add garlic and fennel; cook 4 min. Add mushrooms. Season to taste with salt and pepper; cook 3 min. Add carrots; cook 2 min. Add red pepper; cook 1 min. Add broth; stir and bring to gentle simmer. Cook 10 min, or until vegetables are tender.
  3. Add barley; simmer 5 min. Stir in thyme; simmer 2 min. Add parsley; stir and serve.
Enjoy & Bon Apetit!