I recently found an old can of cream of celery soup buried in the back of my pantry. The first three ingredients were water, flour and celery. The next ten or so ingredients were unpronounceable. This is one reason I prefer making soup from scratch. Besides the preservatives, canned soups are also high in salt. Fortunately, you can create tasty, fresh soups that are highly nutritious on your stove top. The prep time is minimal (about 10 minutes) and cook time is under an hour but mostly unattended.
Cream-of-whatever soups can be made several ways. One way is to make a basic white sauce with butter, flour, heavy cream and/or broth (read as rich and high in calories). For purposes of this post I’m going to concentrate on thickening soups with pureed vegetables so cream, eggs and other high fat ingredients are unnecessary. Potatoes help give these soups a dense, satisfying texture. A food processor, blender or immersion blender are necessary to achieve the correct consistency.
Serve these soups alongside some fresh bread and a tossed salad.
- 1 tablespoon butter, margarine or olive oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 3 cups chicken broth
- 2 medium all purpose potatoes, peeled and cubed (about 10 oz)
- 2 cups chopped vegetables (see variations below)
- 1 cup non-fat or low fat milk
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon white or black pepper
- In a large stock pot, heat butter, margarine or oil until hot but not smoking.
- Add onion and saute about 5 minutes until onions are soft and transluscent
- Add garlic and saute for about 2 minutes
- Add the potatoes and vegetable of choice. Stir to combine with onion mixture.
- Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil over medium high heat
- Cover, reduce heat and simmer until the potatoes and vegetables are tender (about 10 to 20 minutes)
- Remove from heat. With a slotted spoon, carefully transfer the solids to a food processor or blender. Add a little of the broth to the mixture if necessary.
- Carefully puree the soup in batches until you get the consistency you like. Or, use an immersion blender right in the pot.
- Return the puree to a low heat and stir in the milk, salt, pepper and other spices.
- Gently heat through, stirring constantly.
Broccoli – Prepare the soup as directed, but add ½ medium diced red pepper when sautéing the onions. Reserve the other half of the bell pepper for garnish. Add four cups chopped broccoli (fresh or frozen) at Step 4. Add 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme and ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg with salt and pepper. Garnish with broccoli florets, finely diced red pepper and shredded Swiss cheese.
Spinach – Prepare the soup as directed but add four cups of coarsely chopped fresh spinach or 2 cups frozen and thawed (or one 10 oz package) spinach. Add ¼ teaspoon nutmeg with salt and pepper. Garnish with Feta cheese.
Asparagus – Slice 1 inch tip off 24 spears of asparagus (roughly one pound) and reserve for garnish. Cut the remaining spears in ½ inch pieces and sauté along with the onions in Step 2. Complete remaining steps as directed. Add ¼ teaspoon dried dill with salt and pepper. Garnish with sour cream and dill sprigs.
Cauliflower – Prepare the soup as directed but add two diced carrots when sautéing the onions. Complete the steps as directed. Add ¼ teaspoon nutmeg with salt and pepper. Add 1 tablespoon dry sherry once soup is off the heat. Garnish with shredded cheddar cheese fresh parsley.
Celery – Prepare the soup as directed but add 2 to 4 cups of diced celery. Complete the soup as directed. Substitute celery salt for regular salt if you have it. Garnish with celery seed (optional).
Mushroom – Prepare the soup as directed. Add 1 cup of coarsely chopped mushrooms after onions are soft. Sauté the mushrooms until most of the moisture is evaporated. For a different flavor try re-hydrating dried mushrooms in boiling water and added them with the fresh mushrooms. Add ½ teaspoon dried thyme with the salt and pepper.