Soup is the ultimate comfort food that often evokes warm memories of childhood and home cooking. Many soups also pack a nutritional punch. While some soups can cook for hours, it's very easy to whip up a tasty, satisfying 30-minute soup. Although you'll want to keep your kids away from sharp knives and the hot stove, involve them by asking them to come up with flavor combinations and act as your taste testers.
Most pureed soups take 30 minutes or even less from first preparation to the table. Simply cook your preferred vegetables in a broth until soft, then puree in a blender. For an even quicker method, use an immersion blender right in the pot. Allow the soup to cool for a few minutes before blending, and be especially careful with a traditional blender. Do not close the lid all the way, or heat will build up and the soup can explode out of the blender.
Chunky 30-minute soups are best accomplished by using frozen or precooked vegetables, which are both quicker to prepare and just as healthy as raw vegetables. Avoid using dried beans, which take longer to cook than canned varieties. Simply rinse off the beans in a colander to cut back on the sodium levels. The result is an ingredient just as flavorful and healthy as dried beans. Leftover pasta and rice also make perfect additions to chunky 30-minute soups. Toss in the pasta or rice during the last minutes of cooking to avoid overcooking them to the point of mushiness.
Soups that take hours to prepare usually involve slow-cooking a meat bone to create a flavorful broth. But there's no reason a 30-minute soup should be bland. If you know you'll use chicken broth as a base, throw some herbs, like sprigs of rosemary and thyme, into the container in the morning, allowing the broth to infuse with the flavor. While cooking, use fresh herbs, available in small packets in the supermarket, because dried herbs may not have time to infiltrate the broth during such a short cooking time. Throw in several dashes of prepared sauces or dressings for an immediate flavor enhancer.
Use precut, prewashed vegetables whenever possible. This cuts down on the tedious preparation work that can push your soup-making adventure to more than 30 minutes. Many stores sell fresh vegetables precut, but use frozen vegetables for a quicker, less-expensive soup. Also, use precooked meat whenever possible. Instead of cooking chicken, shred it from a precooked rotisserie chicken. Use mini frozen, precooked meatballs in your soup -- the hot broth will warm them through as the soup cooks.
Extend Your Soup
A big pot of soup is nutritious and delicious, and can last for many meals. Extend the life of your creation by freezing portions for later use. Pour cooled soup into individual, freezer-safe containers, leaving about 1 inch of space between the soup and lid to give the frozen soup room to expand. Thaw the soup in a microwave or in the refrigerator for a fast meal.
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