Spring is on its way. Why not get into the season with a hearty seasonal soup?
Valerie Phillips, freelance writer and author of "Soup's On!" will be at the Home & Garden Show to sign copies of her cookbook, make a few of her soups and share some recipe's with the audience.
"I think soups are good anytime of the year, but some soups use seasonal ingredients," Phillips said. "In the spring, everyone is trying to get in shape for swimsuit season, so it's great to have soups with lighter broths and more veggies."
Phillips said spring offers a lot of nice seasonal ingredients, such as asparagus, peas, carrots and even strawberries, that can be made into soups. She said any soup can be converted to a healthier version by using lean meats and more vegetables. Some "stealth nutrition" tips would include adding a can of V-8 or tomato juice to some soups, such as vegetable beef, chicken vegetable or minestrone.
"I also like to add thin ribbons of fresh spinach or kale or chopped herbs, such as parsley, basil or cilantro, depending on the type of soup," she said. "They add color and flavor as well as nutrition, and most people won't really notice that you've added more veggies."
Also, let the broth cool in the refrigerator for several hours, Phillips said. The fat will float to the top and harden, so you can scrape it off and cut those calories. Pureed veggies are also a good thickener instead of using a lot of heavy cream.
"A lot of studies and diet plans advise eating a low-calorie soup before a meal so that you'll eat smaller portions overall," she said.
And while many soups use monosodium glutamate, which some people are allergic to, Phillips said there are plenty of alternatives.
"I recommend looking for a packaged broth identified as MSG-free. Swanson makes a 'Natural Goodness - no MSG' broth that has a nice, strong, chicken flavor," she said. "Unfortunately a lot of bouillon cubes and dry soup bases do contain MSG, so read the labels."
You can also make your own broth by simmering a chicken or turkey carcass, she said. In her book, she gives easy recipes for doing this.
"But besides the broth, you should be careful of any other ingredients going into the soup, such as seasoning blends and spice rubs. Many of them contain MSG."
An alternative is to make your own seasoning mixes from your spice rack.
Phillips said her soups are very easy and require minimal chopping, peeling and dirty pots and pans. Instead of cooking your own bacon, she suggests using cooked bacon pieces located in the salad dressing section of the grocery store. Need to use potatoes? Buy the diced Southern style frozen hash browns. Instead of peeling and chopping onions, use the dried onion flakes. Use a jar of salsa or a can of Ro-tel tomatoes instead of roasting chilies and chopping tomatoes.
Phillips will be doing two 45-minute cooking demonstrations at the show. You can also find her at Soup's On on Facebook.