Hearty post-holiday soups

There are times when soup is just what you crave. It is soothing, sustaining and satisfying. The post-Christmas doldrums cry out for soup. No one wants another rich nibble. You want substance without sweet, substance with zing minus the calories and substance on the cheap. Soup is the answer.

Here are two soups that make my day whether for lunch or supper. They are delicious served with a hearty bread or biscuit and a salad. Soups helps achieve the desired waistline again, yet they are full to the brim with vitamins, which gives everyone the ‘oomph’ to make it through January.

Any Vegetable Soup
This cheap ’n cheerful combination of fruit and vegetables seems to meet with many happy smiles and ‘could we have more.’ The evaporated milk, not to be confused with sweetened condensed milk, is a wonderful staple. You can use skim or 2% (which refers to the butterfat content) and although low in fat the milk contributes the texture and richness of cream without the calories. As a bonus, it is double the quantity of calcium. Be sure to keep a can or two on hand to add to soups and sauces.
1 onion, chopped
2 tbsp (25 mL) vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 lb (500 g) about 4-5 carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
2-3 parsnips peeled and coarsely chopped
1-2 apples, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 celery stalks, including the leaves, chopped
4 cups (1 L) water or chicken stock
1 tbsp (15 mL) curry powder
1 bay leaf
1 tsp (5 ml) salt
1/4 tsp (1 ml) fresh black pepper
1 14 oz/ 385 mL) can evaporated milk, whole or 2 %
more milk for a thinner consistency
In large stainless steel saucepan, heat oil over medium-high heat. Cook onion until softened, about five minutes. Stir in garlic, carrots, parsnips, apples, celery, water, curry powder and bay leaf. Bring to boil reduce heat; simmer covered about 30 minutes or until vegetables are very tender. Discard bay leaf. Puree vegetables and stock in blender in batches until smooth. Stir in salt, pepper and evaporated milk. If soup seems too thick, stir in additional milk (may be regular milk) until you reach the desired consistency. Taste. Add more salt and pepper as necessary. Serve immediately or cool; cover and refrigerate for up to three days. For longer storage, freeze soup in usable batch quantities. Makes about 8 cups (2 L).

Lentil Vegetable Soup
Designed to chase the blahs away on a cold winter’s day, this nutritious soup can be a complete meal when served with bread and a salad.
2 onions, chopped
2 tbsp (25 mL) vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 stalks celery, sliced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
2 cups (500 mL) lentils, rinsed and picked over
4 cups (1 L) water or chicken stock
1 bay leaf
1 can (28 oz/ 796 mL) diced tomatoes
salt and black pepper to taste
1 tbsp (15 mL) lemon juice
fresh chopped parsley
plain yogurt
In large stainless steel saucepan, heat oil over medium high heat. Cook onions covered until softened about five minutes. Stir in garlic, celery, carrots, lentils, water and bay leaf. Bring to boil; reduce heat to simmer and cook covered 35 to 45 minutes or until vegetables and lentils are very tender. Discard bay leaf. Stir in canned tomatoes, salt, pepper and lemon juice. Taste; add more seasoning if necessary. Serve immediately with a sprinkle of fresh chopped parsley and a dollop of yogurt. Soup will keep covered and refrigerated for up to four days. If soup becomes too thick add additional stock or water to desired consistency. Makes about 8 cups (2 L).

Old Fashioned Biscuits
The original comfort food, these flaky mouthfuls are the perfect accompaniment to a hearty soup.
2 cups (500 mL) all purpose flour
1 tbsp (15 mL) granulated sugar
2 tsp (10 mL) baking powder
1/2 tsp (2 ml) salt
1/2 tsp (2 mL) thyme
1/3 cup (75 mL) butter
2/3 cup (175 ml) milk
1 egg
Preheat oven to 425˚F (220˚C) Line baking sheet with parchment paper. In mixing bowl, stir together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and thyme. Cut butter into flour mixture with pastry blender or two knives until it resembles coarse crumbs. Beat milk and egg together. Remove 1 tbsp (15 mL) milk mixture and reserve. Pour remaining milk-egg mixture over flour and stir in with fork to form dough. Knead gently in bowl until it comes together into ball. Turn dough onto piece of waxed paper and pat into a rectangle about 1/2 inch (1 cm ) thick. Cut out with 2 inch (10 cm) cookie cutters. Place biscuits on prepared baking sheet about 1 inch (2.5 cm) apart. Brush with egg wash. Bake 12 to 15 minutes or until golden. Serve piping hot. Makes about 10 to 12 biscuits.

Jan Main is an author, cooking instructor and caterer

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