When there is a chill in the air, nothing beats a pot of homemade soup or stew simmering on the stovetop. A delicate soup or hearty stew makes an easy, affordable, healthy, and don’t forget – delicious – weeknight dinner idea. Pick up a bag of salad and a loaf of whole-grain bread for a complete meal in a hurry.
Soup helps to give you that “full” feeling at meals which can prevent overeating, plus many soups contain a variety of vegetables, making them a nutrient-packed choice. Prepare soups using fresh seasonal produce, or opt for canned or frozen varieties – both equally as nutritious. Be sure to choose broth-based soups over creamier soups, which are often high in fat and calories.
A few secrets to great soups and stews:
- When possible, prepare soups and stews a day ahead and refrigerate. Any fat will solidify and rise to the surface, where it can be removed easily.
- If using canned broth, choose the reduced-sodium varieties and season with salt-free herbs and spices. Add fresh herbs to soups at the end of the cooking time, as most lose their flavor and aroma when cooked too long.
- Freeze the cooking liquid from vegetables or roasts to add flavor and nutrients to homemade soups and stews.
- For added flavor, brown meat before adding to a soup or stew.
- If using leftover cooked vegetables in a soup, add them during the last 5 to 10 minutes of cooking as they only need to be reheated.
- Puréed cooked vegetables or potatoes make a healthy thickener for soups and stews.
- Add a peeled, thinly sliced raw potato to soups and stews that are too salty. The potato will soak up some of the salt. Simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, and remove the potato before serving.
Soups are also a great way to use leftovers and put together low-cost meals in minutes. Try a soup night once a week. Freeze leftover vegetables and meat throughout the week to create a homemade vegetable soup. For this, you don’t really need a recipe. With a supply of canned broth on hand, some onions and garlic, and a good supply of leftovers, you can create tasty soups. Here’s how:Sauté onions and garlic in a Dutch oven. Add canned broth, leftover vegetables and meats, and your favorite seasonings. Then just simmer and serve. Add canned tomatoes or beans, if desired. You can easily combine various ingredients creatively to come up with a new soup each week without spending a lot of money. Add seasonal produce to the pot to get the best value and flavor.