Fall is the beginning of soup season. From now through the winter months, a pot of soup is an easy answer to, "What's for dinner?"

From a cook's point of view, there are many reasons for making soup. First and foremost, it's easy to make. Chock full of such ingredients as vegetables, lentils, beans, and perhaps meat, soup can make a hearty entree, especially if bolstered with a salad and bread, preferably whole-grain. With a little advance planning, soup can last through several meals.

From the diner's perspective, homemade soup has more flavor and more nutrients than any soup in a can. Homemade soup is also a good way to control weight, especially since you can control the fat, sodium and calorie content. Soup can create a full feeling with a minimum of calories. It can keep you feeling full longer than starchy, higher-calorie foods like potatoes and refined breads, especially if made with hearty ingredients like lentils, beans and whole-grain rice or pasta.

A vegetable soup can make a particularly satisfying dinner. Any recipe can be varied to accommodate what's available at the market, what you have in the refrigerator and individual tastes. For a purely vegetarian dish, use a vegetable broth; otherwise, a low-sodium, low-fat chicken broth will provide more body. Spinach and other greens add color, crunch and nutrients. Add some leftover meat or tofu for a protein-enriched soup. Hot pepper flakes, a few drops of hot sauce, or some chopped chilies can be added for those who like their soup spicy.

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Using a wide variety of vegetables, herbs and spices makes a soup loaded with nutrients yet low in calories. In addition to containing powerful anti-cancer substances called phytochemicals, vegetables will help you reach the ideal goal of nine servings of fruits and vegetables a day.

Use the following recipe as a guide, adding and subtracting for what's in season and what you like.

Hearty Vegetable Soup

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Makes 8 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 medium zucchini, sliced thin
  • 2 medium carrots, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 10 mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 ribs celery, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 1 can (15.5 oz.) corn, drained
  • 1 russet potato, peeled, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1/2 lb. green beans cut in half diagonally
  • 4 cups (1 qt.) reduced-sodium vegetable broth
  • 3 cups canned crushed tomatoes, drained
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 Tbsp. chopped garlic
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil (or 2 tsp. dried)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh oregano (or 2 tsp. dried)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions

  1. In a heavy, large pot, place all ingredients except salt and pepper. Bring mixture to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook, checking that contents remain at a simmer, until vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes.
  2. With a slotted spoon, transfer 3 cups of vegetables to a blender or food processor. Add 1 cup cooking liquid. Puree until smooth, then return to the pot of soup.
  3. Stir to incorporate puree into the soup and season to taste with salt and pepper. Heat through and serve.

Nutritional Information Per Serving:
119 calories,
less than 1 g. total fat,
0 g. saturated fat,
24 g. carbohydrate,
6 g. protein,
6 g. dietary fiber,
578 mg. sodium


AICR