Soups for cold days

Mike and Jean Muckian, Contributing writers

Few foods have the restorative power of soup. We’re not talking about the canned heat-and-eat variety, many of which lean too heavily on sodium as a key ingredient. We prefer to make our own soups and, thanks to our participation in a community-supported agriculture program, we always enter the new year with a cornucopia of root vegetables just waiting for some broth.

This time of year we prefer hot, thick soups chock-full of ingredients (mostly vegetables) to fill our stomachs and warm our souls.

In creating a soup, professional cooks start with one or two specific ingredients and add contents they regard as complementary. Our choice is often determined by what’s been sitting for the longest time in the vegetable bin. For instance, three or four leftover turnips cry out for a batch of booyah, an extra chunky chicken-noodle-vegetable soup that’s a local favorite.

Ready to stash the Campbell’s and try making your own soup from scratch? Here are a couple of recipes to get you started.

CHICKEN BOOYAH

In producing the traditional northeastern Wisconsin soup-stew, our Kewaunee County grandmothers started with a big stewing hen cut into pieces and set to boil. Everything — including the skin, bones, neck and vital organs — were included along with the meat.

The resulting soups were rich with layers of chicken fat, vegetables and homemade noodles. As much as we loved the chicken booyah, we’ve modified the recipe to be more heart-healthy and appealing.

Ingredients

2 lbs. chicken breasts, bone-in

5 quarts water

2 tablespoons kosher salt

1 medium onion, chopped

4 carrots, sliced

3 stalks celery, diced

(We also add turnips, parsnips, rutabagas or celeriac from our CSA)

2 cups frozen corn 

5 oz. Harrington’s Amish Style Handmade Noodles

Directions

Remove skin from chicken breasts and place them in a large stockpot. Add 5 quarts of water and 2 tablespoons of kosher salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 2 hours. 

Remove the chicken breasts from the stockpot and place on a plate to cool. Allow the stock to cool and remove any congealed fat. Strain the stock and return it to the pot. Heat to boiling, add the vegetables and noodles and simmer for 30–45 minutes. While the vegetables are cooking, remove the meat from the bones and cut it into small pieces. When the vegetables are soft, add the breast meat to the stock and simmer for an additional 15-20 minutes. Enjoy!

SPICY BUTTERNUT SQUASH AND BLACK BEAN SOUP

We’re fans of vegetarian soups and of anything using squash. Blogger Kaylen Denny’s low-fat adaptation of the following Bon Apetit recipe for Azteca Squash Soup is a delicious, meat-free alternative. 

Ingredients

1 large butternut squash (about 1.5 lbs.)

Salt and fresh ground black pepper 

2 teaspoons olive oil

2 cups finely chopped onion

2 cups finely chopped celery

6 cloves garlic, finely minced 

6 cups vegetable stock or canned vegetable broth 

2 teaspoons ground cumin 

1 15-oz. can of black beans

1 medium red bell pepper, chopped small

1/2 cup chopped cilantro (plus more to garnish soup if desired)

1–2 tablespoons of jalapeño hot sauce 

Low-fat sour cream or plain Greek yogurt to garnish soup (if desired)

Crushed tortilla chips to sprinkle in the soup (if desired)

DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut the butternut squash in half and use a sharp spoon to scoop out seeds. Place the squash on a baking sheet, season with salt and pepper and roast until slightly brown and soft enough to pierce with a fork (about 50-60 minutes).  Let the squash cool enough to handle.

While the squash is roasting, chop the onion and celery and mince the garlic. Heat the olive oil in a large nonstick soup pot and sauté the onions and celery until soft (about 7 minutes).  Add minced garlic and cook 2–3 minutes more.  Add 2 cups of vegetable broth and simmer the mixture for 10 minutes.

Once the squash has cooled, scrape the flesh from the skin and mix it with the other 4 cups of broth and the ground cumin.  Add this mixture to the soup pot and simmer about 20 minutes; then use an immersion blender or food processor to purée the soup.  

While the soup simmers, rinse the black beans with cold water. Chop the cilantro and red bell pepper.  Add the beans, red bell pepper and cilantro to the soup mixture and simmer for 15–20 minutes more, adding a little more vegetable stock if desired.  Stir in the jalapeño sauce to taste and serve the soup hot, garnished with low-fat sour cream or plain Greek yogurt and tortilla chips.