Soup is perceived by just about everyone as the quintessential healthy food. This reputation is well deserved. Soup truly is a wonder food IF it is made traditionally. I will go into how to make soup properly in a moment. But first, let me tell you how NOT to make it.
Restaurants typically make their “homemade” soups by adding water to a powdered soup base or by using bouillon cubes and then adding chopped vegetables, bits of meat etc. Problem is, the powdered soup base and bouillon cubes are chock full of MSG and other fake flavors disguised as “spices” on the label. I was so disappointed to learn that even Bern’s Steak House, the premier Steakhouse in the Tampa Bay area famous for serving organic baby green salad and grassfed beef, uses bouillon cubes in its very popular french onion soup. Lesson here is to not order soup at a restaurant unless you have the opportunity to chat with the chef and ask specific questions as to how the soup was prepared. The key question to ask is how the soup BASE was prepared. If you are told that the base comes from a package or can .. choose something else on the menu unless you would like a nice headache sometime very soon (yes, msg headaches can occur anywhere from immediately after eating to 24-72 hours afterward!) You want to stay as far away from MSG as you can (especially the major doses that you get from processed soups) .. MSG is a neurotoxin that not only kills neurons, it kills neurons in your hypothalamus! What’s your hypothalamus? It’s the part of your brain stem that is the master controller of your metabolism and hormone system. You don’t want any damage in this area unless you want to join the ranks of the metabolism challenged, hormonally disrupted populace that IS Western society today! Sorry for that digression. Back to soup now.
I would like to put a plug in here for Le Eden, a truly authentic French restaurant in downtown Tampa, FL. This restaurant’s french onion soup is made correctly .. I have chatted with the chef myself and he knows what he is doing. He has a bubbling pot of beef broth in the back kitchen which he uses as his soup base. At least there’s one place I can go to eat decent soup besides my own kitchen!
What about store bought soups? I’m sorry to inform you that any soups purchased at the store and this includes the healthfood store, are loaded with MSG. Campbell’s soup is basically just msg and water in a can. This is not the kind of food you want to serve to your sick child! Far from it. Chances are, eating it will make the poor little guy or gal even sicker than he/she already is! Stay away from canned soups. Organic ones aren’t any better.
Now that we’ve established the dangers and total lack of nutrition of canned soups as well as restaurant soups, let’s switch to a positive tone and discuss how to make fabulous, healthy soup yourself at home. The most basic ingredient to any sensational soup is the base. The soup base must be made from scratch. No exceptions and no shortcuts. You must make the soup base (called “broth”) yourself and then the rest of the process is a snap.
There are many types of soup bases. Chicken stock is the most versatile and easily made as is turkey stock (made with your leftover Thanksgiving turkey .. don’t throw out those turkey bones!). To make, simply take the bones of a high quality chicken or turkey (free range, antibiotic/chemical free is a must) and place in a large pot. Fill the pot with filtered water until the water just covers the bones. Add 1/4-1/2 cup raw apple cider vinegar and then bring the mixture to a boil. Skim off whatever foam comes to the top (these are impurities and off flavors) and then turn down the heat to a light simmer. Continue to lightly simmer the bones for approximately 24-36 hours and then remove from heat. Cool and then strain the bones from the liquid. Voila! You have chicken stock! One chicken will produce 3-4 quarts of chicken stock, in my experience. I pour the stock into quart containers and then freeze. This way, if I want to make soup, I can quickly thaw a quart of chicken stock in a pot on the stove and then add my veggies, meat, pasta, to make a very fast, nutritious, and delicious soup. With a few quarts of chicken stock in the freezer at all times, it’s also quickly available if someone in my home comes down with an illness and needs very nutritious, easy to digest, comfort food to help with the healing process. Chicken broth is especially effective for stopping diarrhea. The natural gelatin in the broth binds up the liquid in the colon and gives it bulk, thereby stopping the runs very quickly. Good chicken broth is medicine as well as food!
All this blogging about soup has made me hungry. I’ve got some tomato soup in the frig that I made for dinner a few nights ago. I think I will go and warm up a cup. Before I sign off, I will leave you with the recipe (from “Nourishing Traditions Cookbook” by Sally Fallon .. see the sidebar on this blog for info from Amazon. This book is a must for all Healthy Home Economists):
2 cups homemade chicken stock
2 medium onions , peeled and chopped
3 celery stalks, chopped
3 TBL butter
8 ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped (alternatively, 1 large can of organic tomato puree)
1/2 tsp dried green peppercorns, crushed
sea salt and pepper
1/4 cup snipped dill (or 1-2 tsp of organic powdered dill)
Saute onions and celery in butter until tender. Add tomatoes or tomato puree and chicken stock, bring to a boil and skim. Add crushed peppercorns. Simmer 15 minutes. Puree soup with a handheld blender in the pot. Thin soup with a bit of water if desired. Stir in the dill, sea salt, and pepper to taste. Serve with a dollop of cultured cream.
Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist