Warm up with soup

Baby, it’s cold outside! When you’re chilled to the bone, there’s nothing like a bowl of hot soup.

The thermometer shows negative digits. Winds howl and blow. Soup simmers on the stove, filling the house with comforting scents. It creates steam, adding humidity and warmth to dry winter air.

What’s your favorite winter soup? There are so many to choose from. Will it be thick or clear? Chunky or pureed? Cream or bisque? Will it contain grains like barley or rice? Potatoes? Noodles?

Soups have been with us for over 12,000 years and are part of almost every culture. As soon as people learned to use pottery to make containers that could hold liquid on the fire without breaking, they began to mix different vegetables with meat, beans, grains and seasonings, and cooking them to create simple, filling, nutritious meals. The English word soup derives from the French sope or soupe, which in turn has its roots in the Latin verb suppare, meaning to soak.

For most of us, soup is comfort. Your grandma probably made pots of homemade soup. It’s very likely that your Mom gave you soup when you were sick. Soup provides warmth to a feverish, chilled body; offers easily absorbed nutrients, and hydrates too. Steam from the hot liquid relieves sinus pressure, acting as a natural decongestant, and warm soup creates mucus that soothes the throat. While there is no conclusive proof that chicken soup helps when you’re sick, sitting on the couch wrapped up in a soft, warm blankets and sipping salty chicken broth does make you feel better.

Soup is easily digested; long simmering breaks down connective tissues. In addition to making the meat tender, this process releases vitamins and minerals into the liquid in a form the body can easily absorb. Slow-cooking soups are associated with good health.

Soup fills you up and helps you stay hydrated. It provides nutrients without an excess of calories. The blend of veggies, protein and carbs makes you feel full, and the deliberate action of raising the spoon to your mouth is slow, and doesn’t allow you to gobble your food. It’s also a great way to incorporate a variety of vegetables into your diet.

Studies have shown that by beginning a meal with a fiber-rich bowl of broth-based veggie soup, you can reduce your total calorie intake by 20 percent. That’s because this “veggie first course” helps fill you up, so you eat less of the main course.

Soup is adaptable. It can be easily made from whatever ingredients one has on hand: vegetables, legumes, grains, meat, herbs and spices. Even things generally discarded, like bones or onion skins, can be cooked first to add flavor and nutrients to the broth. In times of economic turmoil, soups are perfect for feeding many people from one pot.

Nutritious, easy to digest, simple to prepare, and relatively inexpensive, soup can be a simple broth or a hearty meal; a first course or the main dish. There are so many variations! There’s a soup for every occasion and every taste.

Customize your soup: will it be chunky or smooth? Mild or spicy? What herbs and spices do you have to season your soup? What ingredients do you have on hand? Potatoes? Rice? Noodles? What veggies are in your refrigerator or freezer? Are there beans in your cupboard? Meat bones?

Soup is simple to prepare. When it comes to soup-making, anything goes. Anyone able to chop vegetables can make a satisfying soup with little time and no great effort.

Here in the Adirondacks, below-zero temps are a normal part of winter life – and a hot bowl of hearty homemade soup is highly appreciated. Coming in from a day of outdoor fun, soup warms you from the inside out.

Soup can easily feed a crowd — and it always tastes better when enjoyed with others. There’s no better way to spend a chilly winter day than making and serving soup!

Mom’s Barley Soup

Ingredients:

1 meaty bone (beef, pork or chicken)

8 cups water

1 teaspoon salt, or more (to taste)

Black pepper, to taste

Few grains allspice

Bay leaf

1 carrot

1 parsnip

Wedge of celeriac or stalk of celery

Wedge of a mild cabbage, such as savoy, or diced turnip

1 onion

Several potatoes – 2 cups, diced (peeling optional)

2/3 cup barley

1 cup milk

1 cup minced parsley, for garnish

Directions:

Place meat in water; add salt & seasonings (bay leaf & allspice berries); bring to a boil. Lower heat to just a simmer. Cook at least, an hour, preferably longer.

Remove bone; cut off meat that didn’t fall off, and return to pot.

Chop veggies; add to soup pot along with barley and potatoes. Simmer another hour, until potatoes & barley are soft and thicken the soup.

Taste and adjust seasonings. Add milk, if desired. If soup is too thick, thin with additional broth or milk. Garnish with parsley just before serving.

Makes about 8 cups of soup.

Vegetarian cabbage and beet soup

Loosely based on a similar soup from Molly Katzen’s Moosewood Cookbook.

Ingredients:

1 Tablespoon olive oil or butter

1 large onion (about 1 1/2 cups, chopped)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 large carrot, sliced

1 stalk celery, sliced

4 cups (1 quart) broth or:

4 cups water, 1/2 teaspoon salt, peppercorns, bay leaf, all spice berries

1 large potato (about 1 1/2 cups, diced)

2 beets (about 2 cups, diced)

Cabbage (about 2 cups, coarsely chopped)

1 cup diced tomatoes (or 10 oz. can)

1 teaspoon honey or sugar

1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar

Fresh minced dill and / or parsley, for garnish

Directions:

In a large soup kettle, melt butter or heat oil. Peel and dice the onion; add and sprinkle with salt. Cover and cook on low.

While onion cooks, wash & slice celery & carrot, and stir in. Cook on low 5 minutes or longer, stirring occasionally.

While vegetables saute, prepare remaining veggies Peel and dice potatoes & beets; wash and chop cabbage.

Add broth or water with seasonings to kettle. Bring to a boil. Add vegetables, lower heat to simmer, and cook about an hour.

Use an immersion blender to puree some of the soup in the pot, if you wish.

Stir in honey and cider vinegar. Taste, and adjust seasonings.

Serve hot, garnished with minced dill, parsley, or combination.

Author of the award-winning cookbook Garden Gourmet: Fresh & Fabulous Meals from your Garden, CSA or Farmers’ Market, Yvona Fast lives in Lake Clear and has two passions: cooking and writing. She can be reached at www.wordsaremyworld.com, yvonawrite@yahoo.com or on Facebook as author

Yvona Fast.

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