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Soup -- an inexpensive, easy meal

October 22, 2008|By LYNN LITTLE

Making soup is typically easy and economical. Add ingredients to a commercially-prepared soup. For example, dress up classic tomato soup with fresh-cut tomatoes and a little basil, or choose an easy recipe with ingredients family or friends will like.

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 you are familiar with the recipes, consider adding additional ingredients, such as extra vegetables, to suit your taste.

Family-friendly soup recipes typically combine familiar flavors that complement each other. Many are easy to make and offer an opportunity to build on basic kitchen skills. Inviting children to choose pasta or vegetables for homemade soup can spur an interest in cooking family-friendly meals.

To simplify soup-making, keep the following top 10 soup ingredients on hand:


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

2. Petite diced tomatoes, canned.

3. Cooked meat or poultry, which could not be leftovers from a previous meal.

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

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

6. Vegetables, fresh, frozen or leftover such as carrots, potatoes, onions, corn or mixed vegetables. Canned or frozen mixed vegetables can save time when making soup. Some cooks keep small amounts of leftover vegetables in a closed container in the freezer, so they can build up their own vitamin-rich "parfait" to use in soups -- a great way to save on the grocery bill.

7. Beans, either inexpensive dried beans that require cooking or canned beans that can be drained and used immediately. Use lentils or other dried beans -- pinto, kidney, great Northern white beans and other family favorites.

8. Herbs, either fresh or dried. Tip: Use less of a dried herb, but rub it between your fingers to release flavor. Favorites include marjoram, thyme, oregano, rosemary or a bay leaf (remove the bay leaf before serving).

9. Vegetable juice such as V-8 Juice to add additional nutrients and body.

10. For soup toppers, add 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; have fruit for dessert.

Soup recipes usually make several servings and often provide enough for several meals. Be sure to refrigerate soup within two hours of serving. Divide it into shallow containers so it will cool quickly. If you are not going to eat the soup within two to three days, label, date and freeze it in small containers for use as a future meal.

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

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