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Soup Tips

Chili Ingredients

Many soup recipes call for large amounts of fat however, there are a few simple substitutions that you can use to lessen the fat content.

A good first tip is do not precook vegetables, including onions, in any fat. You can reduce the amount of fat in your soup greatly by avoiding this step. Instead, add the vegetables raw to the stock while you are simmering the soup. This will give you just as much flavor - much less fat.

Instead of a heavy cream for thickening, use a vegetable puree. Remove about 1/4 of the vegetables and puree them, then add them back to the soup. This will give you the thickening effect with no added fat - or calories!

If you prefer your soup very thick, just puree a bit more of the vegetables. If you find you still miss the cream flavoring, substitute 1-tablespoon of heavy cream whenever the recipe calls for 1-cup. A little cream can go a long way!

Meaty Soups

Fish and Clam Soup Low-fat soup starts with low-fat broth or stock. Much of the excess fat on meat is stored on the skin. If you purchase your meat with the skin on, remove as much as you can prior to cooking your soup. Be sure to get as much fat off with the skin as you can.

If you are planning to roast an entire chicken instead of searing pieces, disregard the trimming and move forward to the roasting instructions. There will always be a little fat left on your meat, no matter how fussy you are. Do not worry about that little bit.

Thicken Your Soup Not Your Waistline

Soup is sometimes thickened with a cooked mixture of flour and butter - or cheese. This is called a roux. When vegetables are simmered, they release a lot of water, which can make what appeared to be a hearty soup laden with vegetables, a watery soup. You will want to be sure you add plenty of vegetables to compensate for this.

While simmering, leave the cover off to allow some of the water to evaporate. The end result will be thick enough as will contain the liquid you cooked your vegetables in as a nutrition bonus! If you still wind up with a watery soup, there are a couple other non-fat tricks you can try.

Dried mashed potato flakes work well and do not affect the flavor. You could also try real mashed potatoes. Again, do not forget about pureeing your vegetables! That works very well as a way to thicken the soup.

Some professional chef's use a little trick to add body to the base of their soup. They divide the soup into two containers then puree one of the containers and stir the two back together. An immersion blender works well for this trick but you can also use a standard blender or food processor.

Save leftover wine and canned broth. Divide leftovers among ice cube tray compartments. When frozen, transfer cubes to self-sealing bags, label and date. Use in sauces and stews.

Dried Mushrooms for Soups

Mushrooms Cepes or porcini (species Boletus eduli) are extremely flavorful and not particularly difficult to find. Their presence, in a broth or stock, can lend considerable depth and character to a soup, a stew, or a sauce, so it is worth the effort to find them. Check in Italian markets, big delicatessens, specialty foodshops and some supermarkets.

There are generally two grades you can buy. The finest grade, which is naturally the most expensive, consists of mushrooms imported from Italy or France. Not only can these mushrooms be used in stocks, but once soaked, they can be cooked and eaten as well, and should be! The other grade consists of mushrooms from South America. They are also very flavorful, but they have been treated in such a way that their texture is not particularly pleasant to eat. Accordingly, they are much less expensive. They contribute so much to the flavor of broths and stocks, the fact that they have to be discarded after cooking is not that important. But be sure you know what you are getting. The more expensive French and Italian mushrooms will be in small glass jars, behind the counter, not out in huge boxes where you can go through them.

Other dried mushrooms that have good flavor are shiitake, easy to find in the Oriental sections of supermarkets or in any Japanese or Chinese market.

Garnishing Your Soup: The Finishing Touch

Soup Pot and Ladle A bit of garnish can do wonders for any kind of soup. A garnish can add a little texture, enhance flavor and accent a minor ingredient. Following are some ideas for garnishing your soups.

Sprinkle freshly minced herbs on top of each serving. Generally you would want to use the same herbs you used in the soup.

If the soup is spicy and you wish to cool it down a bit, or add a touch of creaminess, stir lime juice, or a little grated ginger, or some finely chopped orange zest, or perhaps a dash of curry powder into some nonfat sour cream. Place a dollop on top of each bowl of soup right before serving.

Toasted bread, unbuttered croutons, crackers, or baked tortilla chips add a satisfying crunch without all the fat and calories. A piece of toasted bread with fat-free, shredded mozzarella sprinkled on top goes with just about any soup. Jazz it up a bit more by sprinkling a little bit of Italian seasoning over the shredded cheese. This looks nice, too.

A spoonful of salsa, a few chopped tomatoes, bell peppers, scallions, or cucumbers add a refreshing taste to your soup.

Dust finely grated hard cheese such as Parmesan, Romano, or Emmenthaler, to add a lot of flavor but not much fat.

Alternatively, you can purchase fat-free or light Parmesan cheese ready to shake over the soup, if you are in a time crunch.

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