STANDARD — When temperatures drop and families begin to retreat indoors, one of the most common cravings is for a warm bowl of hearty soup.
“Soup has always been a comfort food, and you could probably eat a different soup every day and not repeat yourself,” Susan Glassman, nutrition and wellness educator for the University of Illinois Extension, told those at the Putnam County Community Center (PCCC) on Oct. 23.
Glassman hosted “Hearty Soups and Stews,” a program about the perennial kitchen favorite and reviewed the types of soups, tips to make them their tastiest, their health benefits, several recipes, garnish ideas, storage and reheating, and how to solve common problems.
“There are so many things you can do with soups that are delicious, and one of my favorites which proves this is “Kitchen Sink Soup.” That’s when you get to use all of the leftovers from the week,” she said, to knowing laughter from her audience.
She added that with the large variety of soups, as well as the list of possible ingredients, that the combinations are endless.
“Soups are a great way to use all of the small quantities of leftover meat and vegetables that routinely accumulate in your refrigerator, and fresh, frozen or canned ingredients can all be used in them,” she said.
Glassman then reviewed the basics of bisques, vegetable soups, cream soups, purees, consomme, chowders, broth and stews. She also provided several tips on reducing sodium and fat content, as well as providing nutritional information on commonly used ingredients.
She said rinsing canned vegetables can reduce their sodium content by up to 40 percent, and that as long as a soup is broth or tomato-based, its calorie count will remain reasonable.
“But all of that changes, though, once you begin talking about cream-based soups,” she said. “One cup of light whipping cream is 698 calories, and the same amount of half-and-half adds more than 300 calories.”
By comparison, one cup of stewed tomatoes adds only 66 calories, and chicken broth adds 25. Fat content is also greatly changed depending on your soup’s base. That same cup of whipping cream provides 74 grams of fat compared to approximately 1 gram for broths.
“Using evaporated skim milk will give your soup the creamy taste and texture you desire, but without all the calories and fat,” Glassman said.
Once the soups are ready to serve, Glassman shared the power a good garnish can create.
“Garnishes are where you can show your creativity and personality, and when we’re cooking for others, we want to show our best,” she said.
She had prepared a butternut squash soup to share with those attending her program, and offered a variety of garnishes to sample with it, including dried cranberries, feta cheese, minced herbs, croutons and more. She also encouraged home cooks to not be afraid to experiment with the unusual.
After enjoying a bowl of soup, Hennepin resident Pauline Marchiori shared what she enjoyed about the program.
“This was my first time here, and it was very warm and had a nice sense of togetherness. My favorite soup is homemade vegetable, but the squash soup we sampled was delicious,” she said.
“I liked that we learned how to substitute ingredients to make it healthier and also how to saute vegetables in olive oil to seal in their flavor,” JoAnne Walden of Cedar Point said.
For more information about the U of I Extension’s Nutrition and Wellness programs, visit www.web.extension.illinois.edu/state/nutrition. For more information about the PCCC, visit www.pcaservices.org or call 815-339-2711.