There's nothing more soul soothing than a huge bowl of steaming, hot soup packed full of healthy veggies and fragrant herbs. Warm soup on a cold day is as alluring as crawling into your favorite pair of well-worn sweatpants, or as captivating as an unforeseen hug from a moody teen.
Homemade soup is not only an easy, quick weekday meal, but it is also a great way to reach out to friends and co-workers with just a little bit of extra effort. Here are a couple of tips to prod you into experimenting with soups this winter season.
Keep homemade stock on hand
Good stock is the basis of terrific soup. Of course you can substitute with a good quality purchased soup stock. I prefer the unsalted, low-fat version so that I can manage the flavor of the end result. But homemade stock is really a breeze to make and definitely does make a difference in the essence of your soup. Make a homemade chicken stock by placing chicken pieces (like backs and necks) into a soup pot. Fill the pot with water. Add a peeled, sliced onion, some celery tops, carrot pieces and parsley. Bring the stock to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for at least one hour. Strain the liquid through a colander to produce a flavorful, yet simple stock. For an updated twist on chicken stock take a look at my favorite recipe for Chicken Stock with Roasted Vegetables.
Use leftovers and vary a recipe
Don't be afraid to use the veggies and other ingredients that you have on hand. The best soups are often made with yesterday's leftovers. If a recipe lists carrots, celery and fresh rosemary in the ingredients, experiment with substitutions like green or red bell pepper or the change in herbs from rosemary to thyme. Fennel adds a distinct taste and texture, but in a pinch, slices of cabbage will add an interesting twist to soup. Ingredient substitution will peak your interest when cooking great dishes. Homemade soup is the perfect dish to experiment with.
Have some fun with your garnish
Prepare homemade croutons to serve on top of the soup. Or garnish a creamy soup by thinning a tablespoon of sour cream with a few drops of water in a squeeze bottle. Shake well and swirl the mixture on top of the finished soup. Try a slice of grilled bread topped with chopped plum tomatoes and fresh basil in place of crackers. Appearance is the precursor to a great taste experience. Serve your soup in an oversized coffee cup and saucer, or try it in a shallow pasta bowl.
Share with friends
Make a pot of soup - not a bowl. Not only will soup stay fresh for days in the fridge and months in the freezer, but soup often gets better as the flavors successful marry. Keep a pot of soup on the stove for the after-school gang that arrives home with your child. Pour some extra soup into a container and share it with a sniffling friend. Better yet, grab a thermos of homemade soup and take it to work for your next lunch bunch meal!
Whatever the garnish and presentation, or the ingredients that you have on hand, learning to make good soup is a cooking basic that you will love to explore. Just imagine the smiling faces that drift into your kitchen anticipating a taste treat that equals the fragrance created from your homemade soup. It doesn't get better than this - unless of course, you have a baggy sweatshirt that matches those pants!
Jorj Morgan is the Lifestyle Director of BlueSuitMom.com and the author of "At Home In The Kitchen," a cookbook due in spring 2001. Please share your favorite soup meal recipes with other BlueSuitMoms.
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