The month of November becomes a perfect time to explore the wonderful world of simmering soup to savor at any given moment on any given day. This was all prompted by some research that began after visiting my boss in June. When casually asking if there was a particular food item he enjoyed most, his answer, with a smile, was low fat/low sodium soup. I immediately started on a mission to make State Journal editor John Smalley a happy man by providing recipes shared by readers as well as those discovered in exceptional soup cookbooks. Each recipe need to contain nutrition information per serving.

The first person I reached out to was my friend, Tim Lloyd, long time chef and soup connoisseur at Monty’s Blue Plate Diner, one of my all-time favorite Madison neighborhood eating establishments on Atwood Avenue. A call for permission to use a soup recipe was also made to another special friend, Monty Schiro, Madison’s Food Fight dynamo whose future skyrocketed when the diner opened back in 1990.

Lloyd stressed that “making soup is not an exact science” due to different tastes and dislikes. He mentions this in the “Blue Plate Diner Cookbook” authored by Lloyd and James Novak, which I’ve owned and treasured since 1999 when first published, and it is still available at the diner.

Lloyd also reminds us that when making soup in one’s own kitchen, one has complete control of salt and fat ingredients by using olive oil in place of butter, adding herbs and spices for more taste, and using a low sodium soy sauce. A shot or two of hot sauce along the way also works, just as fresh lemon juice at the end of cooking “really perks things up along with lots of garlic.”

Here is Lloyd’s recipe for my boss who now has a few more soup recipes to make and enjoy on any given day.

Barley soup

1 cup barley

¾ or 1 gallon of water

1 small onion, diced

2 celery ribs, diced

2-3 carrots, diced

2 mushrooms, or more, sliced

2-3 cups russet potatoes, unpeeled and cubed

2 tablespoons garlic, finely diced

1 tablespoon olive oil

Kosher salt, black pepper, dry or fresh parsley and Tabasco

Set aside barley and water. In large soup kettle, saute vegetables using 1 tablespoon of olive oil which should begin to “sweat.” Add garlic and saute 5 to 10 minutes, stirring.

Add barley and water and cook for at least one hour over low boil. Barley should be “ big and soft.” At the end of cooking, you would add flavor with just a pinch of kosher salt, black pepper, parsley, and or Tabasco.

According to “The New Food Lover’s Companion,” sweating is a technique by which ingredients, particularly vegetables, are cooked in a small amount of fat over low heat. The ingredients are covered directly with a piece of foil or parchment paper, and the pot is tightly covered. With this method, the ingredients soften without browning, and cook in their own juices.

I was certain that longtime Cooks’ Exchange contributor Mike Repas would respond to Smalley’s request with a recipe, and included was information about Mrs. Dash, a product line with a large variety of salt “substitutes.” Here is a favorite soup he refers to as being a “super recipe to prepare and serve in less than 30 minutes” and is amazing served with either fried or baked fish of choice.

White bean and tomato soup

4 slices of bacon cut into pieces an inch in length

1 medium yellow onion, chopped

3 cups of low or no sodium chicken broth

2 15-ounce cans of either Navy beans or Great Northern beans, drained and rinsed

14 ounce can of diced tomatoes, drain half the juices

½ teaspoon each of dried thyme and ground cumin

Place a large thick-bottomed pot, like a Dutch oven, over medium-high heat until it’s hot. Add bacon and cook until it starts to brown, stirring frequently. Move bacon to one side of the pot and add onions to clear side; cook until onion becomes translucent, stirring occasionally. Remove excess drippings and discard, then stir in broth, beans, tomatoes and spices. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for about 10 minutes so flavors can “marry.”

Serving recommendation: Cut a large hard-crusted bread into slices at least an inch thick. Butter each side, add a wee bit of salt and pepper, and line up on a flat baking sheet in a 400 degree oven until a “toasty brown.” Place a slice of toast in each individual serving bowl and ladle soup over toast. Top with either chopped chives or Italian parsley.

Note: If soup seems too “watery”, mash it a little with a potato masher to thicken. There’s no call for salt or pepper, but you can add either to taste. Just don’t overdo the salt because the soup includes bacon.

Barbara Brasser hopes this works for Mr. Smalley. It is her favorite chicken soup with 3.5 fat, 190 mg. of sodium per serving that she found in a “Cooking Light” magazine.

Chicken noodle soup

  • 1 tablespoon butter

1 cup chopped carrots

1 cup chopped parsnips

½ cup sliced celery

1 tablespoon flour

3 ½ cups low sodium chicken broth

1 cup water

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

2 cups uncooked wide egg noodles (4 oz.)

1 pound skinned, boned chicken breast, cut into 1 inch pieces

2 tablespoons chopped, fresh parsley

Melt butter in large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add carrots, parsnips, celery, and saute 3 minutes. Stir in flour. Gradually add broth, water, salt and pepper, stirring with a whisk. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes. Add noodles and chicken and return to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes. Stir in parsley.

Makes 8 1-cup servings

And, that leaves me with a delicious experiment created in my own kitchen by adding crumbled leftover meatloaf and other sautéed vegetables to a can of reduced sodium Progresso creamy tomato soup with basil.

Creamy tomato basil soup

19-ounce can of low sodium Progresso creamy tomato soup with basil

Small amount of leftover meatloaf, crumbled

Olive oil

¼ cup chopped red pepper

¼ cup chopped green pepper

1 garlic clove, chopped

1/8-1/4 teaspoon fennel seed

½ teaspoon minced fresh Italian parsley

In a small fry pan add a small amount of olive oil, saute chopped red and green pepper, and garlic. Add fennel seed and Italian parsley. Remove ingredients and add to a deep sauce pan with crumbled leftover meatloaf and 19-ounce can of low sodium Progresso creamy tomato soup with basil. Simmer slowly until you are ready to serve soup. Each cup contains about 130 calories, no trans fat, 1 gram of saturated fat, and 408 grams of sodium.

About the Oct. 31 pumpkin cookie recipe: The pumpkin cookie recipe featured in this column calls for 2 1/4 cups of raisins and or nuts not 2 1/4 teaspoons.

Contact the Cooks’ Exchange in care of the Wisconsin State Journal, P.O. Box 8058, Madison, WI, 53708 or by email at greenbush4@aol.com.

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