Robin’s Healthy Take: Cold Days, Hot Soups

by in Robin's Healthy Take, February 6, 2012
onion soup
Warm right up with caramelized onion soup, topped with cheesy bread.

I realize it’s doesn’t get really cold in the desert (where I live), but I’m an east coast native, so I know how bone-chilling February can get. Only two things warm me up when I’m chilled to the core: a hot bath and hot soup. This week, I’m sharing three of my favorite hot soups for cold days. The onion soup is my all-time favorite (it has been, since I was like 7). When you make it, take the time to really caramelize the onions until they’re deep golden brown, like they’ve been dipped in caramel. And, use oven-proof soup bowls so you can melt the cheese under the broiler.  For the butternut squash soup, the key is roasting the squash because it caramelizes the flesh and makes it tender and sweet. I also add cumin and ginger before roasting to bring out the warm smokiness of the spices.  The Tuscan soup is a hearty blend of ham, beans, kale and sage. I used white beans, but any bean variety will work. Serve with a wedge of toasted Italian bread with olive oil and you’ll be transported to Italy in under 30 minutes.

Caramelized Onion Soup With Cheesy Ciabatta Toast
Serves 4

1 tablespoon olive oil
4 cups thinly sliced yellow onion (about 3 large onions)
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 bay leaves
5 cups reduced-sodium beef broth
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 slices ciabatta bread, about 1-inch thick
4 (1-ounce) slices Swiss cheese

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and sauté 8-10 minutes, until golden brown and tender. Add thyme and bay leaves and cook 1 minute, until thyme is fragrant. Add broth and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Preheat broiler.

Toast ciabatta slices in a toaster or under the broiler. Remove bay leaves from soup and ladle soup into four oven-proof bowls. Place bread on top of soup and top with Swiss cheese. Place bowls under broiler and broil 1 minute, until cheese is golden brown and bubbly.

Nutrition Info Per Serving
Calories: 231
Total Fat: 12 grams
Saturated Fat: 5.7 grams
Total Carbohydrate: 18 grams
Sugars: 5 grams
Protein: 14 grams
Sodium: 680 milligrams
Cholesterol: 26 milligrams
Fiber: 2 grams

butternut squash soup

Creamy Roasted Butternut Squash Soup with Crispy Shallots
Serves 4

1 butternut squash (about 3 pounds)
3 teaspoons olive oil, divided
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup thinly sliced shallots
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
3/4 cup half and half

Preheat oven to 400ºF.

Halve squash lengthwise and remove the seeds with a spoon. Place squash, skin-side down, on a large baking sheet. Rub 2 teaspoons of the olive oil all over the flesh. Season flesh with salt, pepper, cumin and ginger (it may seem like a generous amount of cumin, but it’s perfect).    Roast 40 minutes. Meanwhile, place shallots in a small bowl, add remaining teaspoon of olive oil and toss to coat. After squash has cooked 40 minutes, add shallots to baking sheet and spread out in a single layer. Roast squash and shallots 10 more minutes, until squash is fork-tender and shallots are golden brown and crisp.

Using a spoon, scrape squash flesh from skin and transfer flesh to a large saucepan (set shallots aside). Add broth to squash and set pan over medium-high heat. Bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 10 minutes. Reduce heat to low and stir in half and half. Remove from heat and puree with an immersion blender or regular blender (when using a regular blender, work in batches to prevent spillover). Season to taste with salt and pepper. Ladle soup into bowls and top with shallots.

Nutrition Info Per Serving
Calories: 230
Total Fat: 9 grams
Saturated Fat: 3.8 grams
Total Carbohydrate: 37 grams
Sugars: 7 grams
Protein: 6 grams
Sodium: 483 milligrams
Cholesterol: 17 milligrams
Fiber: 9 grams

white bean soup

Tuscan White Bean Soup with Ham, Kale and Sage
Serves 4

2 teaspoons olive oil
1 1/2 cups diced ham
1 cup chopped white onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried sage
4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
2 (15-ounce) cans white beans (Great Northern or cannellini), rinsed and drained
1 bunch fresh kale, rinsed well and chopped (about 4 cups chopped)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add ham, onion and garlic and cook 3 minutes, until onion is tender. Add sage and cook 1 minute, until sage is fragrant. Add broth and beans and bring to a simmer.  Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 10 minutes. Add kale and cook 1 minute, until kale wilts. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Nutrition Info Per Serving
Calories: 409
Total Fat: 8 grams
Saturated Fat: 2 grams
Total Carbohydrate: 55 grams
Sugars: 2 grams
Protein: 33 grams
Sodium: 614 milligrams
Cholesterol: 28 milligrams
Fiber: 18 grams

Robin Miller is a nutritionist, host of Quick Fix Meals, author of “Robin Takes 5” and “Robin Rescues Dinner” and the busy mom of two active little boys. Her boys and great food are her passion. Check her out at

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