It’s September, and we are nearing the tail end of summer. The tomatoes are ripening quickly and potatoes are ready to be dug up (if you were lucky enough to have them survive the blight!). Winter squash are ripening on the vine, and apples are starting to hang heavy on the trees, ready to be picked for pie, pressed for apple cider, or puréed into soups.
The fall harvest is nearing its end in some parts of the country, and hearty soups and stews will soon be filling our kitchens with the comforting aromas that summer left behind for us to enjoy. Here are some money savers, time savers, and healthful hints to keep in mind when putting together some soups this fall.
Always buy in season and locally when you can: Shipping adds to costs, particularly for fruits and vegetables out of season. Eating seasonal foods is not only cheaper, but the food is also likely to be fresher. So stock up now on your favorite summer veggies, and freeze them for nutritional additions to your favorite meals.
Get more bang for your bulk: Make large batches of your favorite soup and freeze them in individual or family-sized containers for quick and easy on-the go meals. That way, you’ll have the on-hand and won’t be as tempted to eat out in a pinch. Plus, stocking up now will save you from needing to buy out-of-season foods during the colder months of the year.
Fresh is best, but frozen is next: Frozen fruits and veggies, whether you freeze them yourself or buy them from the supermarket, make great quick and nutritious additions to meals. No chopping or peeling is necessary. In the off season, buying frozen fruits and veggies is often better for you than canned, or even fresh. Because they are flash frozen right on site immediately after harvest, their nutritional value is still intact. It sure beats buying year-old apples shipped from China.
Cook with leftovers in mind: Make enough soup to reheat for lunch the rest of the week.
Keep a food processor, blender, hand emersion blender, and chopper on hand for quick meal preparation.
Spice up your life: Cut down, or leave out completely, the salt in your bubbling creations. Instead, use more herbs and spices. Also, keep in mind that when using prepared stock, broth, or bullion cubes that these soup enhancers tend to be very high in sodium. Be sure to buy low- or no-sodium versions of commercial stock products.
Use less fat: Instead of sautéing your soup bases in butter or oil, try using broth instead (the no- or low-sodium kind, of course). This also flavors your veggies in a really easy way.
Eat your colors: Next time you make your favorite soup, ask what you can add to make it more colorful. For example, add some frozen spinach to your vegetable stew or shred some carrots into your leek and potato soup. It’s as aesthetically appealing as it is good for you. Each different color feeds a different part of your body and aids in different bodily functions.
Add whole grains: Adding grains to a soup makes it heartier and stretches your other ingredients further. Just be sure the grains you add are whole, not refined. Read your food labels to see if the first ingredient is “whole” wheat or “whole” grain brown rice. Watch out for words like “enriched” or “100% wheat.” These claims are often misleading, and many such products contain no, or very little, whole grains. Eating whole grains helps to reduce your risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, plus they contain B vitamins and protein, which refined grains don’t.
Feed yourself well this fall. Below are a couple soups and stews to get you going. Soup’s on!
Curried Pumpkin Apple Soup
4 tablespoons vegetable or chicken broth
1 cup onion, chopped
2 apples, peeled, cored, coarsley chopped
5 cloves garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon curry powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon coriander
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon cumin
2 cups broth
1-1/2 cups apple cider
2 cups pureed pumpkin (buttercup squash can also be used)
1 cup ligh tcream or 1% milk
1/4 teaspoon maple syrup
1 cup fresh or frozen greens, chopped (kale, collards, spinach)
In large saucepan, heat 4 tablespoons of broth. Add onions, apples and garlic. Sauté until soft, about five minutes. Add spices, cook for one minute. Add broth and cider. Boil gently, uncovered, for 15 to 20 minutes. Stir in pumpkin, cream/milk, and syrup. Cook for five minutes. In batches, purée in a blender or food processor. Return to saucepan, add chopped greens, and heat until warm.
Creamy Beans and Greens Soup
1 tablespoon broth or olive oil
6-8 garlic cloves, crushed or minced
1 large onion, chopped
1 cup shredded carrots
4 cups chopped kale, fresh*
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
2 (15 1/2-oz.) cans white beans
1 (15-oz) can tomatoes or 1 cup chopped tomato
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon rosemary
1 cup of chopped parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
In a large pot, heat olive oil then add garlic and onion. Sauté these ingredients until soft. Add kale and sauté until wilted. Add 3 cups of the broth, 2 cups of beans, tomatoes, carrots, herbs, salt and pepper. Simmer five to 10 minutes. Blend the remaining beans and broth until smooth. Mix into soup. Simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Serve it up in bowls and dress with parsley. Serve with a nice piece of crusty whole grain bread and a little parmesan.
* If frozen, use two or three packages. If canned, use two or three cans. You may also substitute spinach, Swiss chard, mustard greens, cabbage, turnip greens, or collard greens.