2013-11-01 / Columns

Cooking on Purpose

Hearty, healthy soups and stews
By Connie Wendell
Special contributor

The temperatures are getting lower every day and the nights are downright chilly. It’s time to start making soup to warm you up.

Your family and friends will delight in these hearty soups to warm your bones up during a chill. And, they are not only hearty, they are healthy too, whole grains are a wonderful addition to any soup. Feel free to make changes to suit your taste

Try experimenting, that’s what I do and it’s fun.

Barley-beef soup

12 ounces beef stew meat; 1 tablespoon vegetable oil; 4 (14 ounce) cans lower sodium beef broth; 1 (14 ½ ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained; 1 cup chopped onion (1 large); 1 cup peeled parsnip or potato cut into ½-inch pieces; 1 cup frozen mixed vegetables or vegetable of your choice; 2/3 cup regular barley; ½ cup chopped celery (1 stalk); 1 bay leaf; 2 cloves garlic, minced; 1 teaspoon oregano or basil, crushed; and ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper.

Trim fat from meat. Cut meat into 1-inch pieces. In a large skillet cook meat in hot oil over medium-high heat until brown. Drain off fat.

Transfermeattoa5or6quartslow cooker. Stir in broth, tomatoes, onions, potato, vegetables, barley, celery, bay leaf, garlic, oregano and pepper.

Cover and cook on low-heat setting 8 to 10 hours or on high-heat setting for 4 to 5 hours.

Serves eight.

Chicken farro stew

3 large carrots, sliced (2 cups); 2 medium stalks celery (1 cup); 1 large onion chopped (1 cup); 2 bone-in chicken breasts (about 1 ¼ pounds), skin removed; 3 cups water; 2 cups chicken broth; 1 cup farro, rinsed (or kamut or barley); ¼ teaspoon pepper; 1 can diced tomatoes; 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley; and 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves.

In a 4- or 5-quart slow cooker, place carrots, celery and onion. Place chicken breasts on vegetables. Add remaining ingredients except parsley and thyme. Cover, cook on low-heat setting for 8 to 9 hours.

Remove chicken from cooker; place on cutting board. Remove meat from bones and chop into ½ to 1 inch pieces; discard bones.

Stir chicken, parsley and thyme into stew. Increase heat to high. Cover and cook 10- 15 minutes longer or until chicken is thoroughly heated.

Serves six.

Tuscan bean soup

1 cup carrots, coarsely chopped; 1 small onion, chopped; 3 tablespoons olive oil; 2 (15 ounce) cans cannellini beans, rinsed and drained; 32 ounces reduced sodium chicken broth; 2 – 3 teaspoons Italian seasoning, crushed; 1 (5 ounce) package baby spinach; and freshly cracked black pepper.

In a 4-quart Dutch oven cook and stir carrots and onion in 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat for 3 minutes. Add beans, broth and seasoning.

Bring to boiling, slightly mash beans. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered for 8 minutes, stirring occasionally.

In a large skillet heat remaining oil over medium-high heat. Add spinach; toss with tongs 1 to 2 minutes, just until wilted. Remove from heat. Ladle soup; top with spinach. Sprinkle with pepper.

Serves four.

Tomato basil soup

3 ½ pounds ripe tomatoes; 2 tablespoons unsalted butter; 2 cloves garlic, minced; 1 cup finely chopped onion (1 large); 1 ½ cups loosely packed fresh basil leaves; 1 ½ teaspoons sea salt or kosher salt; ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper; 1 ½ cups finely shredded Gruyere or Emmentaler cheese (6 ounces); and ½ cup whipping cream.

Set aside 1 tomato. To peel tomatoes, dip in boiling water for 30 seconds or until skins start to split. Dip in cold water. When cool enough to handle, remove skins and core tomatoes. Coarselychop;setaside. Ina4quart Dutch oven, melt butter over medium heat.

Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add onion and cook for 4 to 5 minutes or until tender. Add the chopped tomatoes. Bring to boiling; reduce heat.

Cover and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Transfer tomato mixture in batches to a food processer, food mill or blender. Cover and process until smooth. (If using a food mill, discard tomato seeds and onions.) Return pureed mixture to pan. Meanwhile finely chop basil, reserving ¼ cup.

Stir remaining basil, salt and pepper into tomato mixture. Heat through. Add cheese and cream. Heat and stir until cheese is melted. Chop remaining tomato; combine with reserved basil.

Ladle soup into bowls and sprinkle with tomato and basil.

Serves six.

Enjoy warming up with homemade soup on a chilling evening. Until next time, keep Cooking on Purpose.

Connie Wendell can be reached at conniewendell27@gmail.com.

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