Fall is the beginning of soup season. From now through the winter months, a pot of soup is an easy answer to, “What’s for dinner?”

From a cook’s point of view, there are many reasons for making soup. First and foremost, it’s easy to make. Chock full of such ingredients as vegetables, lentils, beans, and perhaps meat, soup can make a hearty entrée, especially if bolstered with a salad and bread, preferably whole-grain. With a little advance planning, soup can last through several meals.

From the diner’s perspective, homemade soup has more flavor and more nutrients than any soup in a can. Homemade soup is also a good way to control weight, especially since you can control the fat, sodium and calorie content. Soup can create a full feeling with a minimum of calories. It can keep you feeling full longer than starchy, higher-calorie foods like potatoes and refined breads, especially if made with hearty ingredients like lentils, beans and whole-grain rice or pasta. . A vegetable soup can make a particularly satisfying dinner. Any recipe can be varied to accommodate what’s available at the market, what you have in the refrigerator and individual tastes. For a purely vegetarian dish, use a vegetable broth; otherwise, a low-sodium, low-fat chicken broth will provide more body. Spinach and other greens add color, crunch and nutrients. Add some leftover meat or tofu for a protein-enriched soup. Hot pepper flakes, a few drops of hot sauce, or some chopped chilies can be added for those who like their soup spicy.

Using a wide variety of vegetables, herbs and spices makes a soup loaded with nutrients yet low in calories. In addition to containing powerful anti-cancer substances called phytochemicals, vegetables will help you reach the ideal goal of nine servings of fruits and vegetables a day.

Use the following recipe as a guide, adding and subtracting for what’s in season and what you like.

Hearty Vegetable Soup

Makes 8 servings Per serving: 119 calories, less than 1 g. total fat (0 g. saturated fat), 24 g. carbohydrate, 6 g. protein, 6 g. dietary fiber, 578 mg. sodium.

Ingredients

  • 2 medium zucchini sliced thin
  • 2 medium carrots sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 10 mushrooms sliced
  • 2 ribs celery sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 1 can 15.5 oz. corn, drained
  • 1 russet potato peeled, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1/2 lb. green beans cut in half diagonally
  • 4 cups 1 qt. reduced-sodium vegetable broth
  • 3 cups canned crushed tomatoes drained
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 Tbsp. chopped garlic
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil or 2 tsp. dried
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh oregano or 2 tsp. dried
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. In a heavy, large pot, place all ingredients except salt and pepper. Bring mixture to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook, checking that contents remain at a simmer, until vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes.
  2. With a slotted spoon, transfer 3 cups of vegetables to a blender or food processor. Add 1 cup cooking liquid. Purée until smooth, then return to the pot of soup.
  3. Stir to incorporate purée into the soup and season to taste with salt and pepper. Heat through and serve.

The Author:

The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) is the cancer charity that fosters research on diet and cancer and educates the public about the results. It has contributed more than $82 million for innovative research conducted at universities, hospitals and research centers across the country. AICR also provides a wide range of educational programs to help millions of Americans learn to make dietary changes for lower cancer risk. Its award-winning New American Plate program is presented in brochures, seminars and on its Web site, http://www.aicr.org. AICR is a member of the World Cancer Research Fund International.

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