Make Soup the Main Course!

I was never a big soup lover growing up. The thought of having soup for dinner had me thinking, ‘yeah, and what else are we having?’ Soup just didn’t feel like a meal unless it was my mom’s Lapskaus, a thick Norwegian stew of meat and potatoes, or Goulash, which is also meat-heavy and stew-like.

I’ve noticed that this is how many people feel about soup as a main course. At some point soup got demoted to lunch – with a salad/half sandwich, and then to an appetizer. It wasn’t until I met my husband, who loves nothing more than a piping hot bowl of soup for any meal of the day, that I was motivated to figure out how I could make soup a ‘meal’. (He has even been known to ask for soup on his birthday.) The challenge for me then was that my husband doesn’t like red meat, lamb or pork – the three types of meats my mom used to make ‘real soup’.

So I decided to make this one of my first ‘professional development’ projects in the kitchen. (There have been many!) I found some recipes we both loved for delicious, filling, vegetable soups. Then, my younger son’s picky eating habits became another professional development project. I discovered that a simple, pureed vegetable soup was in fact the best way to get him to eat vegetables! As my boys grew older, I started tweaking our ‘Soup Meals’ to make them more satisfying for growing appetites. I have gotten creative with low sugar and high fiber muffins and turkey wraps on the side, or offering a wholesome bread to dip.

What I’ve learned is, just like a smoothie can be a solid breakfast by itself, a bowl of soup can be a solid main meal. You just need the right ingredients to put into it or on top of it to make an amazing one-pot meal. And then there are healthy ways to pair heavier food with it to satisfy your hungriest eaters.

Earlier this week, I hosted one of my annual Autumn Soup Classes in my home. One of the participants followed up with me by email the next day:

“I think last night was a great reminder that soups are not only warming and nourishing this time of year but also SO versatile. You can sort of make it up as you go and even throw in whatever vegetables you might have in the house. It was fascinating how changing up the texture (chunky vs. creamy) makes the whole experience different. The soups were all delicious! Plus, when you serve it with a variety of toppings, it can be a great crowd pleaser.”  

Here are some tips to help you put soup back on the table as a main course:

  1. Make a topping bar of interesting flavors and textures, such as caramelized onions, toasted coconut flakes, toasted cooked quinoa, pomegranate seeds, guacamole, seed blends, pesto, salsa, fresh herbs (cilantro, dill, basil, mint, chives or parsley), and a Greek yogurt seasoned with chopped herbs and sea salt.
  2. Serve a healthy muffin with it, or hearty bread for dipping. My family loves these Paleo Zucchini Muffins and Pumpkin Spice Muffins.
  3. Offer extra protein on the side for those who want it, such as chicken sausage or strips of grilled chicken. I tend to add lentils to most of my soups for that added protein. For example, last night we made a Mexican Lentil Tortilla soup which was a hit!

Last but not least, most soups can be made in the Crockpot while you’re out. I like sautéing onions on the pan (and celery and carrots too if the recipe calls for them) before throwing them into the slow cooker along with the other ingredients.  There’s nothing like coming home to the smell of hot soup, and knowing that dinner is done!

I’ve learned that soup doesn’t have to be laden with meat to count as a meal. Make it plant strong! Consider soups as your go-to for Meatless Mondays this Autumn, or anytime you want a hearty, meatless, plant strong, crowd-pleasing meal.  Here are two of my family favorites Creamy Cauliflower Soup and Winter Minestrone with Rosemary Kale Pesto.

Yours in Health,

Linda

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