The weather in New Zealand at the beginning of this week gave us a big surprise. Here we are in the middle of spring, and suddenly a wintry blast swept the country, dumping snow on both islands, stranding motorists, dismaying farmers and sending us all scurrying for the winter woollies and heaters.
On Monday evening I made some pumpkin soup for our evening meal. It was yummy and suited the occasion perfectly. Monday is usually a busy day for me; I teach a little class and then I go out in the late afternoon and tutor two different children after school hours. But I still like to try and make sure we eat healthily, so I organise for one of the children to cook or I plan ahead.
This Monday was a “plan ahead” day, and with the cold weather, soup was an obvious choice. Soup is tasty, filling, and good for you anytime, but especially on cooler days. And I like being able to make it ahead of time. You can cook a large quantity and freeze extra meals of soup. And it’s not hard to make.
One thing about homemade food – you know what is and is not in it. Since I am concerned with health and I know you are too, preparing your own soup creations at home is the best way to go. No matter which type of soup you choose to make, be sure to use fresh ingredients. Use a very large pot, one for jam-making is good. If you have a blender or kitchen whizz you will find that useful. And as you will always want to make soup to freeze, make sure you have containers to put the soup into for freezing.
So, to start with, choose your favourite soup. A popular choice for many is the famous chicken noodle soup. There’s nothing better when you are under the weather than the warm chicken broth soothing your throat. A good soup always starts with the stock. For chicken soup, make the broth by boiling the remains of the chicken you had for dinner. Add the herbs and seasonings of your choice and boil until the chicken bones come out clean. Any remaining meat will be included in the broth. Once the broth cools completely, ladle it into air-tight jars or containers for storing.
If you’re more of a beef and vegetable soup lover, you can use commercial broths or bouillon cubes for the base of your soup. I advise you to read the labels carefully so that you know exactly what you are putting into the mouths of your family. Season the stock really well and boil before adding any other ingredients. Once the stock is ready, all that is left to do is toss in your favourite veggies.
When the veggies are cooked, pour some of the soup into the blender and blend until the soup is as smooth or as thick as your family likes to eat it. You can even puree the soup completely if you like. For a thicker texture, add a bit of cream to the soup. Make it a complete meal by adding toast or muffins, and follow with lots of fresh fruit in season.
To freeze soup, wait until the soup is completely cooled before pouring into your freezer containers. Label the soup with type and date. We all know that we plan to remember what we put into the container but we all know that we don’t usually remember.
Then the next time you are busy working with the children, late home from an ‘out of home activity’ or just plain tired, you can pull some delicious home made soup out of your freezer instead of pulling into that fast food drive through.