(10 seconds each to read and are almost that quick to prepare)
By Lisa Messinger
Food and Cooking at Creators Syndicate
As another busy fall begins to fall into place, once again, hearty soup is one of the most economical, easy and tasty treats of the season. The contents of soup pots, however, don't have to be either homemade or store-bought.
"Halfway homemade" can equal some super spoonfuls that start with a foundation of canned soup, like low-sodium chicken and rice, that gets a kick from quick-cook brown rice, a variety of diced mushrooms, minced scallions and fresh-pressed garlic, and corn chowder to which you add fresh corn kernels, diced red bell pepper, jalapenos and Cajun seasoning blend before topping with crumbles of cornbread.
Chicken and Rice that Rises to the Occasion: To store-bought, preferably low-sodium, chicken and rice soup before heating add quick-cook brown rice, a variety of diced mushrooms, diced celery, diced carrots, minced scallions, freshly ground black pepper and fresh-pressed garlic.
Butternut Squash That's Even Better: Before heating, add canned pumpkin puree to store-bought butternut squash soup, as well as freshly ground cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. Just before serving, top with croutons prepared by cutting cubes of well-toasted cinnamon-raisin bread.
Making Room for Mushroom Barley: Barley is one of the healthiest whole grains, therefore ensuring this popular type of store-bought soup is always a good choice. Improve it even more by adding before heating minced tomatoes, chopped fresh cilantro and dill, from both of which stems have been removed, toasted garlic and a dash of cayenne pepper.
Tomatoes that Will Tickle You: The lycopene that's best released in processed tomato products, like paste, ketchup and canned soups, is an added nutritional bonus to the wonderful flavor of tomatoes. To store-bought tomato soup before heating, add chopped fresh basil and oregano, onions that have been caramelized and vanilla soymilk for a creamy effect.
Turn Up the Heat on Tempting Tortellini: Even some "healthy" brands features tortellini or ravioli in a variety of their soups. To that before heating add small torn pieces of fresh spinach, the leaves of celery, diced mushrooms and chopped sauteed garlic.
Beef Up Vegetable Beef Soup with More Vegetables: Store-bought vegetable beef soup, preferably the low-sodium variety, can be made more vibrant. Before heating, add small chunks of unpeeled sweet potato, zucchini, broccoli, onion, quinoa (the grain-like seed, high in protein that's now widely available at major supermarkets) and a few dashes of powdered barbecue rub spice.
Creative Corn Chowder: Before heating store-bought corn chowder, add fresh or thawed frozen corn kernels, diced red bell pepper, diced, seeded jalapeno that you wear latex gloves to chop and don't touch your eyes during or afterward and Cajun seasoning blend. Just before serving, crumble pieces of store-bought or homemade cornbread on top and drizzle with freshly chopped parsley.
Fun fare like this also proves food preparation can be easy, nutritious, inexpensive, fun - and fast. The creative combinations are delicious proof that everyone has time for creating homemade specialties and, more importantly, the healthy family togetherness that goes along with it!
Another benefit: You effortlessly become a better cook, since these are virtually-can't-go-wrong combinations. They can't help but draw "wows" from family members and guests.
SLOW COOKER CHICKEN TORTILLA SOUP
1 cup store-bought picante sauce
2 cans (10 & 3/4 ounces each) condensed cream of chicken soup
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 cups frozen whole kernel corn
1 can (about 15 ounces) black beans, rinsed and drained
1 soup can water
1 teaspoon ground cumin
4 corn tortillas (6-inch), cut into strips
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese (about 4 ounces)
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
Yields 6 servings.
Stir the picante sauce, soup, chicken, corn, beans, water and cumin in a 4-quart slow cooker.
Cover and cook on low for 4 to 5 hours or until the chicken is cooked through.Stir the tortillas, cheese and cilantro into the cooker. Cover and cook for 15 minutes. Serve with additional cheese, if desired.
-CampbellsKitchen.comAFTER-WORK CHICKEN NOODLE SOUP
2 cups cut-up rotisserie or other cooked chicken
2 medium stalks celery, chopped
2 medium carrots, sliced 1 medium onion, chopped 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley or 1 teaspoon parsley flakes
1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves 1/4 teaspoon pepper 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
7 cups store-bought chicken broth
1 cup uncooked wide egg noodles
Yields 4 servings.
In 3-quart saucepan, heat all ingredients, except noodles, to boiling. Stir in noodles. Heat to boiling; reduce heat.
Simmer uncovered 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until noodles and vegetables are tender.
-Progresso.comQUICK TIP OF THE WEEK:
Sometimes simple tricks can solve age-old problems. In Gluten-Free in Lizard Lock: 100 Gluten-Free Recipes for Finger-Licking Food for Your Soul
, author Amy Shirley
(of TruTV's "Lizard Lick Towing"
) writes, "Okay, is there anyone else out there that feels like they need to wear goggles when they cut or grate onions? They make my eyes run like faucets! One trick I've learned to stave off the waterworks show is to put the onion in the freezer for about 10 minutes just before slicing it up."
is a first-place winner in food and nutrition writing from the Association of Food Journalists and the National Council Against Health Fraud and author of seven food books, including the best-selling The Tofu Book: The New American Cuisine with 150 Recipes
(Avery/Penguin Putnam) and Turn Your Supermarket into a Health Food Store: The Brand-Name Guide to Shopping for a Better Diet
(Pharos/Scripps Howard). She writes two nationally syndicated food and nutrition columns for Creators Syndicate and had been a longtime newspaper food and health section managing editor, as well as managing editor of Gayot/Gault Millau dining review company. Lisa traveled the globe writing about top chefs for Pulitzer Prize-winning Copley News Service and has written about health and nutrition for the Los Angeles Times Syndicate, Reader's Digest, Woman's World and Prevention Magazine Health Books. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com.