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Enjoy Delicious Soups and Stews in This Cold Weather

Almost nothing is more satisfying than staying in and savoring a bowl of warm, rustic soup or stew. Forget the canned stuff and try your hand at one of these comforting homemade creations.

As it continues to be cold, I want something warm and hearty. Almost nothing is more satisfying than staying in and savoring a bowl of warm, rustic soup or stew. Forget the canned stuff, and try your hand at one of these comforting homemade creations.

Soup-based meals that emphasize vegetables, beans, and low-fat bases can be a smart way to eat healthy, while helping stretch your budget. Soups and stews offer a variety of quick and easy ways to prepare and eat more meals at home with your family. Simply add whole-wheat bread or crackers, a fruit or salad and your meal is complete.

Canned soup isn't always healthy

Canned soups are convenient and very popular, but usually they are high in sodium or fat. Most cans contain about two servings, so if you eat the whole can, you have to multiply the amount of sodium, fat, and calories by two. For example, a tomato-based soup, such as ravioli with vegetables, contains about two servings per can, and each serving contains 820 mg sodium. Most adults will eat the entire can of soup, which provides a total amount of 1,640 mg sodium, which is about 71% of the daily recommended intake of sodium … from one meal item!

Save money and calories; make your own stock

Instead, control the amount of fat, sodium, and money you spend by making your own soup stock. Store leftover pieces (including the bones) of beef, ham or chicken in the freezer until you have enough for making stock. Add water, celery, carrots, onions and sodium-free seasonings (such as bay leaf, rosemary, or Italian seasoning) to make stock. Soup stock can then be frozen in small batches and used as needed when making soup.

Many favorite soups are cream and cheese based, which can easily add extra calories. To create a creamy texture without the extra fat, substitute low-fat milk, yogurt or cottage cheese for whole milk, whipping cream and half-n-half. Fat-free half-n-half is also a tasty substitute that works well in soup recipes.

Every tablespoon of fat removed from the surface of soup removes about 120 calories and 13 fat grams. Fat in soups collects on the surface because it is lighter than water. This makes it easy to skim off the surface fat. Fat hardens when soup is chilled and becomes easy to remove from refrigerated soups and stews. If you are in a hurry, add a few ice cubes to the soup. Fat will rise and congeal around the ice, although the ice may dilute the broth or soup slightly.

Save time; freeze your soup

To save time during the busy week, try cooking a batch of soup on the weekend to keep in the freezer. It is important to cool hot soup quickly. Divide hot soup into small containers or shallow pans or place in a bowl set over another bowl filled with ice water. Stir soup as it cools. This method allows for less time for bacteria to grow.

Most of the ingredients you add to soups and stews are very reasonable in price and provide a very nutritious meal for your family. Soups and stews also provide one of the best ways to use up leftover turkey, chicken or beef, preventing waste. You’ll find your soup will have a better flavor if you include the bones along with the meat while cooking. Just remember to remove the bones before serving. The bone marrow gives the soup additional flavor.

The great thing about a soup or stew is that it is a one-dish meal. When you cook vegetables, don’t throw away the water because much of the nutrition is contained there. Simply pour it into a freezable container and freeze. Add it to a soup or stew. With homemade soups & stews, you don’t throw anything away so your family gets the full food value.

This basic chicken stock makes the perfect base for Chicken Noodle Soup. It is easy and flavorful, plus freezes well.


  • 1 lb. chicken parts
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 large onion, quartered
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 3 stalks celery, including some of the leaves
  •  6 cups water
  • 1 large carrot

Chop scrubbed celery and carrot into 1-inch chunks. Place chicken pieces, onion, celery, carrot, salt, and cloves in large soup pot or Dutch oven. Add 6 cups water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 1 hour. Remove chicken & vegetables. Strain stock; skim fat off the surface.