It's soup!

January 23, 2002

January 22, 2002

It's soup!


A six-gallon stock pot sits atop the grill in the kitchen of Potomac Street Deli, steam rising in thick plumes toward the ceiling.

Inside the pot, a cornucopia of vegetables simmer: Carrots, potatoes, cabbage, tomatoes, celery, lima beans, green beans and onions, each marrying its flavor to the others.


For five hours, Rob Taulton will oversee his vegetable beef soup as the vegetables grow into soft, seamless parts of the whole.


"It seems, with vegetable soup, the longer it cooks the better it gets," Taulton says. "It warms up your body, makes you feel more relaxed, plus it fills your belly."

Searching for a way to warm the toes after an afternoon of playing in the snow?

Turn to a piping hot bowl of soup - any kind will do - to warm up the tootsies from the top down. Soup will defrost your insides while providing a healthy boost, particularly when the bowl is loaded with a bushel full of vegetables.

Healthy soups are brimming with vegetables, according to Lorelei DiSogra, director of the 5 A Day for Better Health program at the National Cancer Institute.

The program was established to encourage healthier eating by incorporating more fruits and vegetables into the diet. DiSogra, a registered dietitian with a doctorate in nutrition education, says the more colors in soup the better.

"Making soups, you want to think about using vegetables of color, your carrots, broccoli, squashes," she says. "It's taking a very nutrient-rich vegetable, and the resulting soup is very nutritious and very high in vitamin A and beta carotene. The same way you'd pick colorful vegetables at the market, use the same test with soups."

Taulton, who with brothers Kerry and Ralph owns Potomac Street Deli at 635 S. Potomac St. in Hagerstown, makes a pot each of vegetable beef soup and chili at least once a week. In addition to being a warm treat on a cold day, Rob Taulton says using fresh vegetables in his soup adds variety of taste and texture.

Even so-called bad recipes can, with a little forethought, turn out to be mmm-mmm-good.

Take bean soup, which can be made with a ham hock, full of fat. Jeanne Rhodes, a nutritionist and owner of Preventive Health Institute in Hagerstown, says to remember that fat floats to the top of the pot. As it does, scoop it out with a slotted spoon to make a healthier version of what could be a decadent favorite.

"There's no reason to avoid almost any soup that's ordinarily high in fat if you defat the broth," Rhodes says. "You have a healthy food with a junk food taste."

When making a chicken or turkey soup, DiSogra says to go beyond traditional vegetables like celery and onions to include all the colors of the rainbow - green (spinach), red (peppers), orange (carrots) or yellow (squash).

The more you add, the better the soup will be, nutritionally speaking.

"Go beyond how your family did it, the celery and onion," DiSogra says. "And it's so easy today because if you want to add carrots to a soup you just buy a bag of baby cut carrots and throw it in. You don't have to cut or peel."

Worried that your favorite cream-based soups are unhealthy?

Rhodes says they are. But not necessarily for the reasons you might think.

Yes, New England-style clam chowder and cream of broccoli usually have a creamier, whole milk base to make them less healthy for you. They also tend to have white flour as a thickener.

Refined carbohydrates like white flour provide largely empty calories, and Rhodes says the body handles them like it would sugar.

Noodle soups are the same way, and pasta is another refined carbohydrate.

But Rhodes' real point about cream-based soups is that you're not getting enough bang for your buck.

"You're not getting - spoon for spoon, cup for cup - the nutritional density you would with your vegetable soup," Rhodes says.

Still, she says not to purge such soups from the diet completely.

"If you have refined carbohydrates occasionally, it's not a problem, but when you are overloaded with them, like the American diet is now, it's not good," Rhodes says. "If some soups aren't as good nutritionally and you really like them, you don't have to eliminate it. Just moderate your eating of it."

Winter Sunshine Carrot-Orange Soup

1 pound carrots, peeled, washed and cut into 1/4-inch pieces

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1 14-ounce can low-sodium chicken broth

1 14-ounce can non-fat evaporated milk

Juice and zest of one orange

1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice

1 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 Granny Smith apple, chilled

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat carrots and garlic lightly with vegetable cooking spray and roast, covered, until carrots are soft, about an hour. Transfer carrots and garlic to a blender; add chicken broth and puree until smooth.

Transfer puree to a medium pot; whisk in milk, juice, zest and seasonings. Heat on low until warm throughout. Add water or milk to thin, if necessary.

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