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Kick Off the New Year with Healthy Winter Soups

Soup brings coziness and comfort to the winter season and is effortless to heat up for lunch. There’s something warming beyond the temperature about having a bowl of soup on a cold, snowy day. Though they’re often touted as health foods because of their liquid nature and vegetable content, soups can often rack up in saturated fat, sodium and even sugar to achieve creaminess and palatability. Oftentimes, a broccoli cheddar soup doesn’t offer up much health beyond the vitamins from the broccoli.

Making your own soup? Here are some ingredients rich in saturated fat that contribute to creaminess to limit:

  • Heavy cream
  • Full fat coconut milk
  • Butter
  • Crème fraiche
  • Bacon drippings
  • “Cream of” soup bases

When creating a healthy creamy soup, look to do so with these tips in mind:

  • Roast, sauté or simmer vegetables then blend into soup. To maintain some full vegetables, set aside a few from blending
  • Create a roux, a paste created using flour and olive oil olive oil to thicken soups
  • Use milk or lite coconut milk instead of heavy cream or full fat varieties

Curious about these techniques? Try these two vegan soup recipes that doesn’t sacrifice creaminess or taste:

  • Roasted Red Soup
  • Creamy Lemongrass Mushroom and Tofu Soup

Vegan Roasted Red Soup Recipe

This effortlessly delicious recipe takes care of itself roasting the ingredients in the oven. Using whole vegetables and leaving on the skin, this recipe is rich in fiber offering fullness and nutrients. By blending the vegetables after roasting, the vegetables contribute to the creaminess while offering enhanced deep flavors.

Ingredients

  • 5 bell peppers, red, yellow and/or orange
  • 24 oz cherry tomatoes
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 13.5 oz can lite coconut milk (reserve 2 tbsp for drizzling)
  • 2 garlic heads
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp Italian seasoning or oregano
  • ½ tsp red pepper flakes, or to taste
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Garnish, chopped chives, basil or other herb

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F and prepare a large lined baking sheet with spray oil.
  2. Cut bell peppers in half, removing seeds, core and membrane. Add to baking sheet face down.
  3. Cut the top of the garlic head off to expose a small part of the garlic clove. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Wrap garlic heads in aluminum foil and place on baking sheet.
  4. Add tomatoes to baking sheet. Drizzle 2 tbsp olive oil and season all vegetables with salt and pepper.
  5. Bake for 45-60 minutes, or until bell peppers have sunk in and start getting charred marks.
  6. Add roasted contents to a large pot except for the garlic to allow it to cool. Add vegetable broth, Italian seasoning and red pepper flakes. Once garlic is cooled, squeeze garlic clove into pot and add coconut milk, reserving 2 tbsp for drizzling. Blend using immersion blender then allow to simmer. Serve in bowl, drizzle with coconut milk and top with chives.

Vegan Creamy Lemongrass Mushroom and Tofu Soup Recipe

This Asian-inspired recipe is balanced in heat, acid, salt and fat featuring flavors like lemongrass, lime, red pepper flakes, soy sauce and lite coconut milk. Using silken or medium tofu packs in vegan protein for satiety while offering a melty contrast to the chew of the mushrooms and bok choy.

Many cream of mushroom soup bases are loaded in saturated fat. Saturated fat, if consumed in high amounts consistently, can contribute to high cholesterol and heart disease over time. Instead, this recipe cuts down on that by using lite coconut milk and forming a roux to thicken the soup.  

Ingredients

  • 1 lb mushrooms (white, portobello, or other mushroom)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • ¼ cup flour
  • 1 shallot or small onion, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tbsp lemongrass paste
  • 1 tbsp grated ginger or ginger paste
  • Juice from 1 lime or 3 tbsp lime juice
  • 1-13.5 oz can lite coconut milk
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 cup silken or medium tofu, cubed
  • 1 head bok choy, base cut off and leaves removed (or spinach if unable to find)
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce (plus salt to taste if necessary)
  • Garnish – 2 green onion stalks, chopped

Instructions

  1. Thoroughly rinse the mushrooms to remove any debris and dirt, then dry. Slice into thin slices.
  2. In a large saucepan heat 1 tbsp olive oil over medium-low heat. Add shallots and onions and cook until golden and fragrant, about 2-3 minutes.
  3. Increase the temperature to medium and add the mushrooms to sauté for 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Push the mushrooms to the side, add flour and a second tablespoon of olive oil. Stir constantly for 30-45 seconds to allow the mushroom juices, oil and flour form smooth paste forms called a roux.
  5. Add vegetable broth, coconut milk, red pepper flakes, ginger and lemongrass and allow to simmer uncovered for 20-25 minutes. When 10 minutes are remaining, add boy choy leaves and tofu.
  6. When finished simmering, stir in lime juice and soy sauce. Add fresh ground black pepper and additional salt if needed. Serve in a bowl and garnish with chopped green onion.

Shanthi Appelö is a registered dietitian and health and wellness spokesperson for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan based in Detroit. Passionate about the science of nutrition and behavior, Shanthi has experience working in clinical nutrition, public health and teaching in the university setting. In her free time, she enjoys experimenting in the kitchen, exploring the outdoors, working on art and spending time with family. See more at http://www.ahealthiermichigan.org.