Nourish Yourself with Homemade Soup

By Martha Marcom

One of the great comforts of November-through-March weather in Ohio is a warming bowl of soup. Soup is truly simple to make, cost effective, and healthy--the minimal time and energy is time beautifully spent. One needs a healthy body to be able to do yoga! Keeping a few winter vegetables on hand will insure that you always have the ingredients to whip up a nourishing bowl of soup for yourself and your friends and family. Plus, it warms your home and is a treat for the senses.

Wonderful winter vegetables to have on hand--and these all keep well:
• onions
• garlic
• cabbage
• carrots
• celery
• potatoes
• sweet potatoes
• winter squash
• beets
• parsley
• leeks

Pantry items:
• canned beans
• canned tomatoes
• pasta
• dried mushrooms
• dried herbs
• grains--quinoa, rice, etc.
• tamari (soy) sauce
• olive oil
• salt

Other additions to consider
• cheese
• miso
• tofu

Use organic ingredients whenever possible; this supports your health and that of the earth. Although they may be more expensive, organically grown food prices reflect a truer cost to the consumer and the earth if you factor in such things as chemical contamination of the soil and water by industrial farming methods.

Basic technique for making soup:
Peel, chop and saute an onion in a bit of olive oil. Stir the onions around occasionally for a few minutes until they begin to soften and brown and smell delicious. Then add some peeled and chopped garlic.
Meanwhile, scrub, chop and add the longer cooking, denser vegetables such as carrots. Keep adding vegetables and when everything is in the pot, add some water, a pinch of salt and a few herbs—perhaps basil or a bay leaf. Cooked or canned beans can be added near the end if you want a heartier soup.

Serve your soup with bread and butter or crackers and humus. You could double the amount you prepare and serve it again--soup often gets better the next day--or freeze a portion to pull out for when you’re in need of soup.

Dried herbs and mushrooms should be added early on. Fresh herbs can be added near the end or as a garnish.

Once this simple preparation becomes familiar, you can begin to play with flavors and explore some traditional ethnic fare. To the basic recipe, you could add canned tomatoes, cannellini (white kidney) beans, oregano or rosemary and some cooked pasta. Float some crusty bread on top, finish with parmesan cheese, and you have made minestrone, my friend!

Or add beets early on--they are quite dense--choose cabbage, carrots and potatoes perhaps some dried dill as other ingredients and top with yogurt or sour cream--you’ll be able to serve borsht for dinner. Offer it with rye bread and you’ve fortified yourself for winter weather.

A very easy and hearty bean soup uses lentil; lentils are the fastest cooking beans. The little red lentil beans cook in less than a half hour.

Another avenue to explore is the making of broths. They add nutrients to your soup by extracting the vitamins and minerals from the vegetable peels you might discard otherwise. And when you’ve invested in organic produce, you’ll want to use every bit of it. Making broth is a small extra step that pays off big in flavor. A broth can take a soup from the realm of good to very good indeed!

Technique for making broth while you make soup:
Put a pot of water on to boil. As you’re peeling the veggies, throw those peels into the boiling water. Almost everything can go in--onion and garlic skins, ends of carrots. Avoid potentially bitter vegetables, such as turnips, in the broth. But you can add such things as stems of parsley or cilantro and the seeds of winter squash along with dried herbs, the outside stalks of celery that seem a little dried out, carrots that are too small to bother peeling, or a bit of leftover wine.

When you reach the step in your main pot where your vegetables are nicely sauteed--hold a strainer or colander over the soup pot and pour the broth in, catching the stock ingredients in the strainer.

Have fun making soup and be deeply nourished!