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Julie Garden-Robinson, Published April 12 2013

Seven steps to creating a delicious soup

“I made the wild rice soup mix, but I added a few things,” my husband commented one day on our way home.

“That sounds good,” I responded.

“We had carrots, celery and onions in the fridge, so I chopped them and added them to the soup,” he said.

I nodded my head. I knew the perishable veggies in the refrigerator needed to find their way into a recipe soon.

“We had some leftover mashed potatoes, mixed vegetables, chicken and crumbled bacon, so I added those to the soup,” he continued.

I think I raised my eyebrows and looked at him.

“Do you think the kids will eat it?” I asked.

“They already ate and they all had seconds. They raved about it,” he said.

Soup can be a hearty meal and a good place to use your leftovers. Remember that most leftovers have a storage life of about four days in your refrigerator for best quality and safety. You can freeze them in airtight freezer containers to extend their storage life. Be sure to mark the container with the contents, amount and date.

You can learn more about food storage times using the “Food Storage Guide” publication at http://tinyurl.com/

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If you are feeling creative, here is how to “create your own soup” in seven easy steps adapted from Utah State University. How about potato soup with ham, chopped celery and carrots? Chicken-rice soup with leftover mixed vegetables, grilled chicken, rosemary and parsley also makes a nice pairing.

1. Choose one fat.

Two canola, sunflower, olive or other oil or 2 tablespoons butter or 2 tablespoons margarine. Heat in large pot on stove.

2. Rinse and chop 1 medium onion. Add to pot and cook over medium heat until tender.

3. Choose one broth to add to the pot.

Two (16-ounce) cans chicken, beef or vegetable broth

Four cups water plus chicken, beef or vegetable bouillon or soup base prepared according to manufacturer’s directions

One (16-ounce) can crushed or diced tomatoes and 3 cups water

Four cups milk and chicken bouillon or soup base prepared according to manufacturer’s directions

4. Choose one protein to add.

One pound cooked (or leftover) chopped/diced beef, chicken, ham, lean sausage, etc.

One (16-ounce) can beef, chicken, ham

One (16-ounce) can beans (pinto, kidney, navy, black, etc.), drained and rinsed

5. Choose one starch to add.

Three to 4 cups diced potatoes

Four ounces egg noodles, macaroni, pasta (or 1½ cups leftover cooked noodles)

One-half cup uncooked rice (or 1½ cups leftover cooked rice)

6. Choose a mixture of 2 to 3 cups chopped vegetables (fresh, frozen or canned) to add to the pot.

7. Choose one or more seasonings, add to pot and simmer 20 to 25 minutes or until vegetables tender.

One to 2 teaspoons dried herbs (oregano, basil, cumin, chili powder, thyme, rosemary, parsley etc.)

Bay leaf (remove before serving)

Minced garlic

One to 2 tablespoons fresh herbs (add 5 minutes before serving)

For more information about food and nutrition, visit www.ndsu.edu/eatsmart or check out the Prairie Fare blog at www.prairiefare.

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If you prefer a recipe, here is a fiber-rich formulation courtesy of Cornell Cooperative Extension of Onondaga County, New York.

Zesty Black Bean Soup

1 cup onion, chopped

¾ cup celery, chopped

2 teaspoons garlic, chopped

1½ cups beef broth, reduced-sodium

2 (15-ounce) cans black beans, drained and rinsed

½ cup salsa (thick and chunky, mild or medium)

1½ teaspoons cumin

½ teaspoon onion powder

¼ teaspoon dried oregano

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan. Cover and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes or until vegetables are tender.

Makes four servings (1¼ cups per serving). Each serving has 160 calories, 1 g of fat, 27 g of carbohydrate, 8 g of dietary fiber, 8 g of protein and 360 mg of sodium (36 percent of the daily value).

Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., R.D., L.R.D.,

is a North Dakota State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences.