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Soup is an easy and inexpensive meal

January 11, 2006|by LYNN F. LITTLE

Soup satisfies and making soup is easy and economical. Soup is a tasty way to eat lots of healthy vegetables and beans and you can control the sodium and fat content.

Watching your weight? Soups can help. Soups take longer to eat than many foods, so less food and fewer calories are consumed in the 20-minute period it takes for the brain to realize the stomach is full. This helps prevent overeating.

Soup can be as simple as adding ingredients to a commercially prepared soup - dress up classic tomato soup with fresh-cut tomatoes and a little basil, for example, or choose an easy recipe with ingredients that family or friends will like. Include your children by having them choose pasta or vegetables for homemade soup. This can also help spur an interest in cooking family-friendly meals.

Homemade soup is a good candidate for a slow cooker, but there also are recipes that can be put together to make a meal quickly. If using a recipe for the first time, follow instructions exactly. Once familiar with the recipe, consider adding additional ingredients, such as extra vegetables, to taste. Most soups can be prepared whenever you have the time and then refrigerated or frozen until needed. Many soups taste better when refrigerated overnight, allowing the flavors to blend.

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Made from fresh, wholesome ingredients, homemade soups are bursting with nutrients and fresh flavor.

To simplify soup making, keep the following "top 10 soup ingredients" on hand.

1. Pasta in a variety of shapes such as stars, alphabets, bow ties or tiny tubes.

2. Petite diced tomatoes, canned.

3. Cooked meat or poultry, which could be leftovers from a previous meal.

4. Broth, either homemade or commercially prepared and sold in a can or box. Low-sodium varieties are preferable so that soup can then be seasoned to taste.

5. Barley, a delicious, but sometimes underappreciated whole grain. Choose either quick-cooking barley or slow-cooking pearl barley.

6. Vegetables - fresh, frozen or leftovers such as carrots, potatoes, onions, corn or mixed vegetables.

7. Beans, either inexpensive dried beans that require cooking or canned beans that can be drained and used immediately.

8. Herbs, either fresh or dried. Tip: Use less of a dried herb, but rub it between your fingers to release flavor.

9. Lentils - much like beans, lentils come in many colors.

10. Vegetable juice, such as V8 juice, to add additional nutrients and body.

For toppers, use low-sodium whole grain crackers; seasoned croutons; grated cheese; shaped crackers, such as Pepperidge Farm Goldfish; or a sprinkle of herbs. To complete the meal, make a salad and add bread.

Soup recipes usually make several servings and often provide enough for several meals. Cover and refrigerate leftover servings to use within a day or two or place leftover soup in a freezer container, label and date for use as a future meal.

Take out your soup pot and make soups a healthful and inexpensive part of your menus.

Turkey Barley Soup



6 cups unsalted chicken broth or water

3/4 cup pearl barley

2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms

1 cup sliced carrots

1 cup sliced celery (include the leaves)

1 cup chopped onion

2 teaspoons chicken bouillon granules

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

2 cups diced cooked turkey breast

Combine the broth or water and the barley in a 3-quart pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer 40 minutes, or until barley is almost tender.

Add the mushrooms, carrots, celery, onion, bouillon granules, thyme, pepper and turkey to the pot. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until the barley and vegetables are tender.

Ladle the soup into individual serving bowls and serve hot. Complete your meal with a salad and crusty bread.

Nutritional facts (per 1-cup serving): 135 calories; 0.9 g fat; 13 g protein; 30 mg cholesterol; 3.5 g fiber; 285 mg sodium.

Lynn F. Little is a family and consumer sciences educator with Maryland Cooperative Extension in Washington County.

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