Soup Is Good Food

Confession: I didn't like soup when I was a kid. It always looked so homely and there was something about not being able to inspect each and every ingredient in my bowl that troubled a fussy eater like me. Who knew what might be hiding at the bottom of the bowl?

Fortunately, I had a friend (a fantastic cook) who forced me to get over it. My change of heart began with a bowl of velvety, nutmeg-spiked pumpkin soup that she fixed for a group of us one cold autumn night.

It was warm, comforting and totally gorgeous. Being big on details, my friend swirled in a perfect dollop of sour cream into each bowl, and topped them with a few toasted pumpkin seeds. I was hooked. Had I really once thought that soup looked unappetizing? Any final misgivings fell away the second I dipped a spoon into a bowl that was as pretty as anything I'd seen in a magazine and tasted better than I would have believed.

I became an instant convert, and I haven't looked back since. I still love the creamy, uniformly pureed soups, but I like hearty, chunky (AKA yucky-looking, the kid-me would have said) soups too.

These days, what I like best about a pot of homemade soup is the bang for your buck. Not only is it economical, but so many great soup recipes revolve around superfoods and ingredients (chicken broth, garlic and ginger) that have long been reputed to restore good health. That's especially important for those of us who avoid salads and things named "iceberg" when the weather gets cold.

It's easy to find recipes to based on nutrition powerhouses, such as spinach, kale, black beans, pumpkin, beets, tomatoes, and broccoli. Start with your favorite cookbook, or find healthy inspiration at the New York Times Recipes for Health food blog. It's based on superfoods, and features recipes like Andean Bean Stew with Winter Squash and Quinoa or Swiss Chard and White Bean Ragout.

The other thing is that soups are usually so easy to make. Most come together brilliantly in a slow-cooker. Just throw in ingredients, add some broth and with very little effort, you can come home to a hearty meal.

For those of who don't always plan ahead, it's usually simple to throw together a soup from ingredients in the pantry. For instance, I keep a can of pumpkin puree handy so that I can whip up a super-simple version of my friend's pumpkin soup whenever a chill sets in.


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