For an easy and inexpensive meal, try these soup ideas and recipes. Inviting children to choose pasta or vegetables for homemade soup can spur an interest in cooking family-friendly meals, said Sandy Procter, Kansas State University Research and Extension nutrition educator.
Making soup is typically easy and economical, said Procter, who is a registered dietitian and coordinator of the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program in the state.
"Add ingredients to a commercially prepared soup -- dress up classic tomato soup with fresh cut tomatoes and a little basil, for example -- or choose an easy recipe with ingredients family or friends will like," she said.
"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," she said. If using a recipe for the first time, follow instructions exactly. Once familiar with the recipes, consider adding additional ingredients - such as extra vegetables - to taste.
Top 10 soup ingredients
To simplify soup making at her house, Procter keeps what she calls her "Top Ten Soup ingredients" on hand. Here's her list:
- Pasta in a variety of shapes such as stars, alphabets, bow ties or tiny tubes.
- Petite diced tomatoes, canned.
- Cooked meat or poultry, which may or may not be leftovers from a previous meal.
- Broth, either homemade or commercially prepared and sold in a can or box. Low-sodium varieties are preferable so that soup can then be seasoned to taste.
- Barley, which Procter describes as a delicious, but sometimes underappreciated whole grain. Choose either quick-cooking or pearl barley, which is the slow-cooking variety.
- Vegetables, fresh, frozen or left over such as carrots, potatoes, onions, corn or mixed vegetables.
- Beans, either inexpensive dried beans that require cooking or canned beans that can be drained and used immediately.
- Herbs, either fresh or dried. Tip: Use less of a dried herb, but rub it between your fingers to release flavor.
- Lentils, much like beans, come in many colors. They are typically kid friendly and popular worldwide.
- Vegetable juice such as V-8 Juice to add additional nutrients and body.
For toppers, Procter suggests low-sodium whole grain crackers; seasoned croutons; grated cheese; shaped crackers such as Goldfish or a sprinkle of herbs. To complete the meal, she typically makes a salad and adds bread.
Soup recipes usually make several servings and often provide enough for several meals. Cover and refrigerate leftover servings to use within a day or two or place leftover soup in a freezer container, label and date for use as a future meal.
More information on food, nutrition, health and meal preparation is available at county and district Extension offices or on Extension's Web site: www.oznet.ksu.edu/humannutrition/.
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