Inhaling the aroma of a steaming bowl of canned tomato soup, while gazing at its velvety orange-red color, recalls for many people comforting childhood memories. In fact, tomato soup ranks high on the list of American comfort foods.

It warms our psyches as much as our bodies, and has the natural sweetness of tomatoes – which are, as everyone by now knows, a fruit.One of the greatest culinary challenges is achieving a home-made version of favorite comfort foods. Mother’s recipe for chocolate chip cookies, for example, is better than any commercial brand – and a lot more healthful. Similarly, I enjoy the challenge of creating a tastier and more healthful tomato soup in my own kitchen.

Unfortunately, food manufacturers rely mostly on salt and sweeteners to provide flavor – relatively cheap additions for the producer, but often high in health risks for the consumer. Happily, it is not difficult or time-consuming to make tomato soup at home that is low in sodium but still offers a satisfying flavor.

There are smart, healthful ways to add flavor to foods without adding unnecessary calories or excessive sodium levels. Onion, garlic, herbs and spices, for example, add valuable nutrients, and the phytochemicals that help protect us from serious chronic diseases, as well as rich and robust flavor.

So make good on your New Year’s resolution to eat more healthful foods, and give yourself an added treat: enticing aromas that fill the kitchen and the satisfying flavor of homemade tomato soup.

This classic tomato soup uses just enough butter and fat-free cream to ensure rich creaminess, and a very modest amount of sugar to bring out the natural sweetness and flavor of tomatoes.

Old-Fashioned Tomato Soup – Makes 4 servings.

1 Tbsp. butter
1 onion, finely chopped
2 large garlic cloves, chopped
1 can (28-oz.) diced tomatoes
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. dried thyme
1/8 tsp. ground mace
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1/2 cup fat-free half-and-half cream
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 Tbsp. snipped dill, for garnish (optional)

Melt the butter in a small Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Sauté the onion until translucent, 4 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté until the onions are golden, 5 to 6 minutes. Add the tomatoes with their juices, the sugar, thyme, mace and cayenne. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer the soup until the tomatoes and onion are soft, about 15 minutes.

Let the soup sit 20 minutes, uncovered. Transfer it to a blender (or use an immersion blender) and reduce the mixture to a purée, either pulpy or completely smooth, as desired. Blend in the half-and-half. Season the soup to taste with salt and pepper.

Serve the soup hot, sprinkling one-fourth of the dill over each bowl, if using.

Per serving: 105 calories, 3 g. total fat (2 g. saturated fat), 18 g. carbohydrate, 3 g. protein, less than 1 g. dietary fiber, 586 mg. sodium.

The Author:

“Something Different” is written by Dana Jacobi, author of 12 Best Foods Cookbook and contributor to AICR’s New American Plate Cookbook: Recipes for a Healthy Weight and a Healthy Life.

The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) is the cancer charity that fosters research on the relationship of nutrition, physical activity and weight management to cancer risk, interprets the scientific literature and educates the public about the results. It has contributed more than $86 million for innovative research conducted at universities, hospitals and research centers across the country. AICR has published two landmark reports that interpret the accumulated research in the field, and is committed to a process of continuous review. 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 website, AICR is a member of the World Cancer Research Fund International.

Article Posted: February 6, 2006

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