Published Thursday, November 08, 2012

Veggie soup from scratch in 20 minutes

By DANA JACOBI

American Institute for Cancer Research

Have you noticed that popular magazines repeat the same stories, simply giving them a new slant each time? Whether advising us on how to lose weight, gain a new love or stay on a budget, this repetition is no accident. It’s because, for better or worse, the support is useful.

I know that quick and easy recipes are especially welcome now, when pre-holiday activities added to an already busy life can make meal preparation feel intolerable. Taking time to clean, chop and cook the vegetables essential to keep us healthy often takes the biggest hit.

Grabbing broccoli florets and spinach from the salad bar and a container of cut-up winter squash is the classic solution. But these time-savers also can be budget wreckers. And there are other options for good nutritional choices.

Hitting the freezer aisle can be smarter for three reasons. First, you save money when a package of frozen broccoli florets costs just ninety-nine cents or even a couple of dollars for multiple servings (with no waste from stems). Second, you may get better nutrition from veggies flash-frozen within hours of picking than from the produce stores cut up and sell in a bulk bin or those distributors prep, pack and truck across country. Cook frozen vegetables correctly and you’ll get better flavor, too (we will come back to that). Finally, when you reach into your freezer you can make several meals with everything needed on hand, whatever the hour.

This colorful soup containing eight vegetables is a perfect example. Add the frozen vegetables in steps and they all stay colorful, firm and flavorful. Canned beans provide protein, as does grated cheese, along with some Mediterranean flavor. Consider this: you have dinner in 20 minutes and enough ingredients to make this soup twice over. Then dig in.

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• Quick Eight-Vegetable Soup

Ingredients

1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

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1 small chopped onion

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4 cups vegetable broth or fat-free, reduced-sodium chicken broth

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1/2 cup frozen baby lima beans

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1 (15-oz.) can no salt added black, Great Northern, or navy beans

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1 cup frozen mixed vegetables

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1/2 cup frozen tri-colored bell peppers

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2 tsp. dried oregano or thyme

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Pinch of dried red pepper flakes

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1 cup frozen broccoli florets

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Salt, to taste

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1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

In large saucepan, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook until translucent, 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add broth and bring liquid to boil. Add lima beans, reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 5 minutes.

Add canned beans, mixed vegetables, peppers, oregano and pepper flakes and simmer, covered, for 5 minutes. Add broccoli, cover, and cook for 5 minutes. Add salt to taste. This soup keeps, covered in refrigerator, for 3 days. Reheat in covered pot over medium heat.

To serve, divide soup among deep bowls. Top each serving with 1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese, or pass it separately at table.

Makes 4 servings. Per Serving: 1 cup.

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