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A healthy obsession with soup

Soup, an easy and simple dish for the lazy student, is back in season as the temperature outside drops and winter rolls in. Photo Illustration by Unique Rodriguez | The Signal

Fall is here, rudely bleak after a bright and sweltering summer. Soup is the perfect culinary compliment to the damp drearies of fall. Economical, environmental and easy to make, soup saves time and waste like no other dish.

SOUP IS FOR THE LAZY

Soup is the lazy person’s healthy friend. You only have to use one pot, reducing what needs to be prepared and what needs to be cleaned. On top of that, it is incredibly versatile, as soup is a dish that can be made in a variety of ways and containers.

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Leslie Knapp is a dietician for Georgia State. She loves the convenience soup offers for eating healthy without an intimidating amount of planning.

“There are options for stovetop preparation, or a crockpot, Instapot style. Soups are a great opportunity to load up on a variety of veggies like kale, carrots, celery, mushrooms, cauliflower – and lean or plant-based proteins like chicken or chickpeas, white beans, black beans,” Knapp said.

Soup can serve a lot of people, too. It’s the go-to meal for Food Not Bombs, a service organization that gives out food to people in need. The Atlanta chapter has met every Sunday for nine years in Woodruff park at 11 a.m. Adele MacLean is a longtime member and often takes responsibility for a lot of the cooking.

“We make soup every week, it’s easy because whatever veggies we get donated, we can chop up and put in the stew. We add beans to make sure people get some protein,” MacLean said. “We make like 8 or 10 gallons each meal and have been running out every time. 50-100 people show up.”

Soup can also be a way to try new foods you’d otherwise skip. Throw an unfamiliar vegetable in the pot with stuff you like and you might just discover a new favorite. Variety is very important in your veggie consumption, according to Knapp.

“Different veggies have different compositions of fiber, carbohydrates, and proteins, vitamins, and minerals … It’s very common for each of us to have vegetables that we like and dislike. Try to find some you enjoy – you can always switch up the way you prepare them,” Knapp said.

SEASONAL FAIR

Contemporary commercial life isolates many people from the seasons. Large networks of agriculture and trade mean vegetables are produced and shipped to and from everywhere at all times of year. Traditionally, fall is a season for harvesting all the many vegetables you put in the ground in early to late spring. Root vegetables like beets, potatoes and carrots are ready in early fall and into winter. Tasty greens like cabbage and broccoli come up early fall and offer their vitamin-filled crunch to our broths.

Food Not Bombs gets their food from a variety of sources, some varying more seasonally than others.

“Some things are harder to find when a season ends in Florida and has not yet begun in California. But soup is easy, you throw in whatever you get. And you can use canned stuff if you don’t get fresh,” MacLean said.

GETTING STARTED

Cooking can be harsh to the unfamiliar and an initial fear is understandable. The fear of embarrassment if we set off an unkind fire alarm will stop many from trying something new. Food Not Bombs works with a high turnover of volunteers. Not every cook in the kitchen will be the most experienced. They benefit from a collaborative approach that helps newcomers adjust and participate.

“We all kind of do it together. Everyone chops the veggies and throws them in,” MacLean said. “It’s a non-hierarchical organization so if there’s a disagreement about whether to put something in, we talk about it and come to an agreement.”

Another thing that stops people from cooking at home is fear of the time commitment and want for convenience. But soup is the kind of cooking you can leave and do other things. You don’t have to keep a constant watch on your pot. It’s okay to leave and write a paper or two. There are plenty of cooking tricks you can use to speed up the process, and Knapp has a good tip.

“First tip to speed up cooking is cutting the veggies into small sizes. The smaller the item, the faster it will cook,” Knapp said.

So what are you waiting for? Go make so much soup you’ve got meals prepped for a week.

STARTER SOUP RECIPES:

  • Mujadara soup: A beautifully simple lentil soup. All you need is lentils, rice and onions. Begin by browning your onion, which should be chopped long. Once browned, add the lentils and then the rice. Add enough water or vegetable stock to keep the rice and lentils covered. You can make this your own by adding any extra veggies or spices you want, but a solid place to start is with kale and bay leaves (don’t eat the bay leaves).
  • Butternut squash soup: Begin by cubing potatoes, carrots and one butternut squash. Finely chop an onion, celery stalks and a garlic clove. Sauté everything until beginning to brown and break down, then add vegetable or chicken stock. After simmering for 40 minutes, this beauty should be ready.
  • Napa and chickpea soup: This one begins with an almost universal combination. Simmer an onion, celery and garlic in a pan until they soften. Then stir in the cabbage and cover till it cooks down. Add beef or vegetable stock and bring the pot to a boil, then pour in a can of chickpeas. Let simmer for half an hour then serve.

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