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Joni Woolf: Light soups perfect during the pause between feasts

When I’m not writing for the Americus Times-Recorder, I may be found with the Silver Sneakers at Southwest Georgia Fitness Gym. Three days a week, 30 or more older adults meet there for exercise and socialization. Socialization plays a large part. Eventually we get to know each other, and after a while, we are sharing recipes. Some of the women there read this column regularly; some ask for advice while others give it. One recent suggestion was for low-fat recipes (my recipes do tend to be heavy with butter and flour) and I listened. Many of us tend to over-eat during the holiday season. Beginning at Thanksgiving, every time we get together with family or friends, it’s around a table laden with rich goodies. We bake more cakes, make more cookies and candies (saying that we are giving them away, but we eat our share), and add a few pounds.
The soup recipes below are not non-fat. But they are lower in calories than many of our soup recipes, they are not difficult to prepare, they require few ingredients, and they are easy. The first, for the Chicken-Corn Chowder, was given me by Susan Guynn, at the gym. The second is an adaptation from “The Joy of Cooking,” (and one of my favorite soups) and the third comes from a book called “The Soup Bible,” given me by Beth Alston.

Easy Chicken-Corn Chowder
2 tablespoons butter
¼ cup chopped onion
¼ cup chopped celery
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 cups 2 percent reduced fat milk
2 cups roasted, skinless, boneless chicken breasts (about 2 breast halves)
1 ½ cups fresh or frozen corn kernels (about 3 ears)
1 teaspoon chopped fresh or ¼ teaspoon dried thyme
¼ teaspoon ground red pepper
½ to 1 teaspoon salt (depending on taste)
1 14 ¾-ounce can cream-style corn
Melt the butter in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion, celery and jalapeno; cook for 3 minutes or until tender, stirring frequently. Add flour; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir in milk and remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil; cook until thick (about 5 minutes).

Potato Leek Soup
Melt in a soup pot, over low heat
3 tablespoons butter, or 1 tablespoon butter and ¼ cup water.
Add and cook, stirring until tender (about 20 minutes) 8 leeks, white parts only, cleaned thoroughly and chopped
Stir in 3 medium or 2 large baking potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced,
5 cups low-fat chicken stock, vegetable stock or water.
Bring to a boil and simmer until potatoes are soft. Puree until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste
(Note: I use an immersion blender to puree potatoes and onions. Also, if you want to make this a richer soup, add 2 cups half-and-half. But that defeats the purpose of lower calorie.)

Meatball and Pasta Soup
2 11-ounce cans condensed beef consommé
¾ cup very thin pasta, such as spaghettini
Chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, to garnish
Grated Parmesan cheese, to serve
For the meatballs:
1 very thick slice white bread, crusts removed
2 tablespoons milk
8 ounces ground beef
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
2 to 3 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, coarsely chopped
1 egg
A generous pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Make the meatballs: Break the bread into a small bowl and add the milk. Set aside to soak. Meanwhile, put the ground beef, garlic, Parmesan, parsley and egg in a large bowl. Grate the nutmeg liberally over the top and add salt and pepper to taste. Squeeze the bread with your hands to remove as much milk as possible. Add the bread to the meatball mixture and mix everything together well with your hands. Wash your hands, rinse them under the cold tap, and form the mixture into tiny balls about the size of small marbles. Tip both cans of consommé into a large saucepan. Add water as directed on the labels and add an extra can of water. Season to taste, bring to a boil and add the meatballs. Break the pasta into small pieces and add it to the soup. Bring to a boil, stirring gently. Lower the heat, simmer, stirring frequently for 7 to 8 minutes, until the pasta is al dente. Ladle into warm bowls and garnish with chopped parsley and freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
Postscript: Last year after Thanksgiving I wrote about a soup called Turkey Carcass Soup (the name is enough to drive you away). This year I had a carcass left and saved, and yesterday I made soup from it. The carcass wasn’t pretty, but once it was disposed of and the soup was created, it became tasty and attractive, and the creation used every last ounce of that turkey.

Joni Woolf, a writer and editor, now lives in Schley County, having moved from her home in Macon several years ago. Contact her at indigojoni@windstream.net.