Welcome to Tumbleweed Tidings! Now that we seem to be coming out of the pandemic and life is returning to some semblance of normal, I have discovered that it might be time to shed my COVID weight gain. While not as drastic as some I’ve heard of, I can still attribute a few extra pounds to being more housebound than normal for so long. And what are my favorite things to do when I have extra time on my hands? Decorate. And cook. And decorate. And cook. And So. Much. Comfort. Food…
You know the old saying “There’s no such thing as a free lunch?” Well, it turns out that may not be true. Today I’m going to share a delicious, healthy, and adaptable vegetable soup that you can eat to your heart’s content because it’s almost free of calories, fat, and guilt.
I don’t know about you, but when I am watching what I eat, and often yearn for warm, comforting bowls of soup. Salads are great, especially in the warmer weather, and we eat them often. But soups are something we love year-round. Not only are they packed with flavor, vitamins and yummy goodness, but they make you feel fuller. The key to making this almost free vegetable soup is using very little fat, and low sodium stock. The rest of the ingredients are vegetables, and lots of them. I will give you the basic recipe, and then you can “freestyle” it to suit your family favorites, or as a method to use the items you need to clear out of your vegetable crisper.
First, in a Dutch oven saute the onion, carrots and celery in 2 Tbs. olive oil until soft. Add two quarts of low sodium chicken stock and bring to a boil. Add diced or riced cauliflower, a can of diced tomatoes, kale, cabbage, broccoli, zucchini or yellow squash, and seasonings such as salt, pepper, Italian seasoning, Worchestershire sauce, celery salt, parsley, or whatever you like. Reduce heat and simmer until all vegetables are cooked but not mushy, approximately 30 minutes. At this point, the soup is ready to enjoy.
So that is the basic “free soup” recipe. If you want to make it a heartier meal, you can add a protein such as beef or chicken, and a starch such as pasta shells, rice, or potatoes. When adding protein and/or starch, you may want to reduce the amount of vegetables to make room for those additions.
It may be hard to tell now but I am a lifetime member of Weight Watchers, and this basic soup recipe was one of the things that really helped to keep me on track. Many WW members would keep a supply of this soup going in a slow cooker, or in ready to heat bowls in the refrigerator, to eat whenever they felt hungry.
The possibilities to personalize this soup are almost endless, and once you have the basic preparation down, you can customize it to suit your taste preferences and mood. By adding chicken, rice, curry powder and some coconut milk, the soup can take on a Thai theme. By adding leftover pot roast and barley, you can have a hearty beef barley soup. By adding a can of kidney beans, shredded chicken and taco seasoning, you can turn it into a chicken tortilla soup in a snap.
Studies have shown that people who have a bowl of soup before their main course consume less calories at the meal overall, making this soup not only something to enjoy for lunch, but as a healthy first course for dinner. That, coupled with the fact that this basic soup is packed with vitamins and antioxidants, makes it a real powerhouse food to enjoy day after day. As it turns out, there might actually be such a thing as a free lunch after all!