By Barbara Beltrami
I know of nothing to say to begin this column besides Happy New Year and then the obvious, thank goodness the holidays are over, the eating binge of rich food is finished, and I can go back to my reasonably healthy regimen of healthful eating with an emphasis on veggies, fruits, grains, fish, low carbs and low fats!
And after all the holiday cooking, what better way to minimize preparation than by making a big pot of hearty soup that will include so many of those ingredients that are so good for you? In fact, make a couple of different kinds of soup, freeze them in meal or serving size containers and voila! you’ve got yourself some easy no muss-no fuss one-dish meals that leave you lots of time for that other important regimen, exercise!
Cheese and Broccoli Soup
YIELD: Makes 8 servings
1 medium onion, chopped
6 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
3 tablespoons sifted flour
2 cups milk
2 cups chicken broth
2 cups coarsely chopped fresh broccoli florets
1 cup finely chopped fresh carrot
1 celery rib, trimmed and diced
1 cup each shredded sharp cheddar, Emmenthal or Jarlsberg and Gouda cheese
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
In a small skillet sauté the onion in two tablespoons of the melted butter until opaque, about 5 minutes. Set aside. In a large saucepan over medium-low heat whisk together the remaining 4 tablespoons butter and the flour (add a few tablespoons hot water if mixture is too dry) about 3 to 4 minutes, until flour loses its gritty texture. Over medium-low heat and whisking constantly, alternately add the milk and chicken broth until mixture is thickened, about 20 minutes. Add sautéed onions, broccoli, carrot and celery; and stirring frequently, cook uncovered over low heat until veggies are tender, about 20 minutes. Stir cheese into mixture until it is melted; season with salt and pepper. Serve hot with a crunchy salad and bread sticks.
Spicy Butternut Squash and Carrot Soup
YIELD: Makes 6 servings
1 small-medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 2-inch chunks
4 medium carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium onion, diced
4 cups chicken broth or stock
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ cup milk
1½ cups plain Greek yogurt
In a large covered saucepan, steam squash and carrots until very tender, about 10 to 15 minutes. Meanwhile, in a small skillet sauté the onion in the butter until transparent, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer squash, carrots and onion to a large bowl; add about one cup chicken broth. Set aside to cool for 20 to 30 minutes. In a food processor or blender, puree vegetables with a little of the broth in a few batches. Transfer puree to a large saucepan or pot; stir in remaining broth, salt and pepper, nutmeg, ginger and milk and, stirring frequently, cook over medium-low heat until bubbling. Ladle into individual soup bowls and top each one with a dollop of yogurt. Serve hot with a kale salad and veggie chips.