May 25, 2018

Guest Column

Hot soup for cold winter nights

Jan. 27, 2011

By Dianne Lamb

Cold winds and snow, winter darkness and hungry bellies all tell us one thing: “Feed me soup!”

Soup is a satisfying choice for lunch or supper this time of year as it is a hot food that is quick and easy to prepare. It can be made quickly in large quantities so extras can be frozen or used for another meal, which definitely puts the time-saving practice of cook once and eat twice (or more) in motion. In fact, most soups taste better on the second day or for the second meal as the flavors have time to intensify.

Soup also can be prepared in a slow cooker and be ready at dinner time if you put the soup together in the morning before leaving for the day. Perhaps you have a woodstove that has a surface that can be used to cook soup. Or if you have a pressure saucepan, you can make soup quickly using that appliance.

What’s nice about soup is that you can utilize leftovers in the refrigerator such as meat, poultry or fish, dried beans, vegetables and rice or pasta. Or if you prefer to follow a recipe, you’ll find an abundance of soup recipes online and in cookbooks. Or make your family favorites.

Check out the wide variety of canned soups available at your local market. You can heat up canned soups, adding more ingredients if you want, for a healthy meal in no time.

Be sure to read the nutrition facts on the food labels, as canned soups are generally very high in sodium — although most also are now available in a lower-sodium variety. Before preparing, check to see if the canned soup is meant to have liquid added or eaten as is. To increase the nutritional value of canned soups, add low-fat milk instead of water.

When I was a child, my mother always made canned tomato soup with milk. She called the soup “pink soup” and we loved it. This was her way to get us to drink our milk.

Soup as the center of a meal can be simple, quick and filling on a cold, winter day. A hearty soup that contains meat, fish, poultry or dried beans and plenty of vegetables is good to go with the addition of wholegrain bread or crackers and fruit for dessert. Depending on the content of the soup, including protein sources and vegetables, you might serve fresh vegetables and dip, hummus or cottage cheese to augment the meal.

When making soup that will not be served immediately, remember to follow basic food safety principles. The first principle is DO NOT put the large pot of hot soup directly into the refrigerator to cool. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that it takes an 8-inch diameter pot of chicken soup 24 hours to cool to a safe temperature (40 degrees Fahrenheit) in your refrigerator.

Before refrigerating soup, transfer it to shallow containers no more than 2 inches deep. The soup can be loosely covered while still warm in the refrigerator. Once the soup has cooled, cover it tightly.

If soup is not going to be eaten within two days, label the container with the name of its contents, date the package and put into freezer. Be sure to leave some headroom so as the soup freezes, it does not pop the lid off the container.

Soup should not sit at room temperature for more than two hours. Temperatures between 40 degrees and 140 degrees are considered the danger zone, an ideal temperature range for rapid growth of bacteria and pathogens that could result in food-borne illness. Heat soup to 165 degrees before serving.

Soup is a wonderful way to use some of those root vegetables such as carrots, beets, parsnips, turnips or potatoes that may be in storage in your cellar or refrigerator. Or visit your local market for soup ingredients. Then take the chill off your dining experience by serving hot soup to warm you and your family up on a cold winter’s night.

Dianne Lamb is the Extension Nutrition and Food specialist at the University of Vermont.

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