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Dinner Diva: Comfort for the soul

Dinner Diva
Comfort for the soul

One of the most wonderful comfort foods under the sun is soup. Great big soup, not anemic wimpy soup that you can sip with a straw.
I am not one of those that believes soup should be served as a first course. First courses are for people who have butlers. For the rest of us work-a-day stiffs, we need rib-sticking, hale and hearty Soup, capital S.
The problem with these kinds of soups is the unfortunate propensity for a nice, thick soup to feed a nice, thick waistline. What we want is warm, robust, soul satisfying soups without all the fat and calories. The question then is how do we do that?
Here are my Top Ten Ways to Make Great Soup (and without all the extras).
1. Skim the Surface. If you're using a ham bone or a chicken carcass to make soup from, you'll get a lovely broth, but you'll also get a heck of a lot of fat. That's easy to dispense of. Once you've made your homemade broth and removed the solids, chill the broth for a few hours or overnight. The fat will rise to the top, solidify, and make it easy to skim right off.
2. Can It. There are a multitude of wonderful, nearly fat free broths already made and available for purchase at your local grocery store. I find the low-sodium chicken broth to be a close second place to my homemade and definitely a first place in timesaving!
3. Chill Out. If you already made your soup and you didn't first de-grease your broth, you can do it even as it sits on the stovetop. Throw a few ice cubes in your soup and watch how the grease migrates to them. Pull the ice out (with its cling-on greasy friends) and dispose of them before they melt.
4. Decrease the grease. Another way to get rid of the extra fat in soup is to use a lettuce leaf. Weird, I know (talk about your soup and salad!), but if you float a big old lettuce leaf in your pot of soup, it's like screaming, Buffet! to the little grease blobs they come running to the big leaf and cling to it like a life raft.
5. Flavor Saver. If you saute the onions and other veggies before adding them to the soup pot, you will add extra flavor to your soup. The veggies themselves will retain their flavors rather than giving it all up to the soup and having everything taste the same.
6. The Frozen Chosen. Use frozen veggies, such as corn, petite peas and beans to cut your prep time way down. Just remember they will continue to cook as your soup simmers so you need to be careful when you add them.
7. Scrap Heap. Rather than chuck your leftovers, why not save them and make soup out of them? Leftover veggies, meats and pasta will all add a new dimension to your soup. Simply freeze your little leftovers and on soup day, add it all in to the same pot. True, your soup will never taste the same, but it will be good and definitely unique.
8. Thicker Stock. It's easy to thicken up your frail little soup with a modest amount of instant potato flakes. Just be sure you look for the kind without the trans fats and you're good to go.
9. Lean and Green. Soup is a great place to get your kids (and other picky eaters) to eat their veggies. Some kids and grown ups hate broccoli but adore cream of broccoli soup and it can be made without the cream and still be just as wonderful.
10. A Change of Seasonings. Sometimes your soup loses the oomph it once had and that's because your seasoning needs to be corrected. Don't be afraid to taste and re-taste your soup as necessary (just go easy you don't want to have a full soup meal before you sit down to the table!) and add a little more seasoning if it needs it.

For more dinner solutions, visit savingdinner.com Copyright 2006 Leanne Ely. Published with permission for this publication.

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