I’ve always had the dream of being that mom on the block who just always happens to have a big kettle of brothy soup simmering on the stove, on the off-chance that the neighborhood kids playing kickball in the street want to come in out of the cold and warm up to a steamy mug of goodness. Word would spread, and perhaps some neighbors would drop by, lured by the savory smells wafting out of our always-opening front door. I’d smile warmly (I’m certain I wouldn’t be on a work deadline of any sort), and I’d hand them a bowlful of liquid heaven, along with a hunk of crusty bread for dipping.
Turns out, though, my four girls don’t play kickball, and I don’t allow them in the street anyway. Plus, as I type, just days from November, I’m wearing shorts and a T-shirt. Soup is a year-round affair, if you ask me, but even here in San Diego, fall and winter seem to call for it all the more. Everyone loves soup this time of year, right? It makes us feel comforted and cozy. But in case you needed them, here are six more reasons to love soup:
1. Soup’s a no-brainer way to lose weight.
Yes! Did you know there are studies showing that simply starting meals with a healthy soup promotes weight loss? I love habits that do the work for me. All you have to do is adopt the habit. Why not start with my White Gazpacho or the Roasted Tomato Winter Gazpacho in my cookbook?
2. A soup course feels fancy for company.
Just starting off a meal with a soup course makes me feel like I’m in the first-class dining room of the Queen Elizabeth (in my imagination’s version of the dining room, anyway). For a fun entertaining idea, serve soup in large teapots, and allow guests (or just your family) to pour their own.
3. Soup is a bargain.
Soup is cheap to make, packed with nutrition and a quick meal in a bowl, perfect for busy weeknights or a weekend lunch. Brothy soups can be a lovely start to a meal (add crusty bread and you have a light meal), while hearty chilis and creamy soups packed with protein from beans or meat are a meal on their own. Try my Slow-Cooker Tortilla Soup (pictured right) for a satisfying, inexpensive meal.
4. Soup is a great way to leverage whatever’s in the fridge.
Check your crisper drawer. Do you have any veggies that are heading a tiny bit south? If so, then you have soup. Plus, soup recipes are so forgiving, easily adjusting to whatever ingredients are in the fridge or pantry. If I’m out of black beans, I’ll use cannellini beans or pinto beans; scallions, leeks and shallots are fine stand-ins for garlic or onion. You can make a delicious veggie soup with almost anything. Just follow the recipe in my cookbook for Creamy Any Veggie Soup.
5. Soup is great to make ahead.
Make larger batches of soup, then freeze. To save freezer space, freeze soups in gallon-size resealable freezer bags (or use quart-size bags for individual servings). Try to get as much air out of the bag as possible, then seal (remember to label the bag). Freeze the bags flat on a baking sheet or plate; once they are completely frozen, stack one on top of another. If a recipe calls for finishing touches of cream or fresh herbs, don’t add them until after the soup is thawed and reheated.
6. Getting your kids to love soup is a fantastic way to combat picky eating.
If you have picky eaters at home, try to get them to fall in love with soup. To do this, start with a soup recipe that you think they will love (maybe my Rich Roasted Tomato Soup alongside some grilled cheese sandwiches?). Once they like soups in general, then you can experiment with other options, like Orange-Scented Carrot Soup or mild White Chicken Chili. (And make leftovers to put in their thermoses for lunch!)
Maybe one day I will be the soup center of my neighborhood. If so, I’ll be ready, with soup recipes, and stacks of bowls and cups — and lots of extra spoons I bought from the dollar store. For now, I’m whipping up a batch of chili just for my family tonight. But I’m keeping the dream alive.
WATCH: Melissa shares why, and how, she’s tackling her family’s picky eating — and yours — on her new Web series, The Picky Eaters Project.