I’m a great fan of pre-made packaged soups, and my very favorite pre-made soups are from Trader Joe’s. I love the ability to use these soups as a basis for a more substantial, flavorful meal. They cut down on the time it takes to put dinner on the table, and they are mostly healthy. I love using these soups as a way to stretch leftovers as well! In fact, I cook up about 10 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken breasts on the grill, cut them up, bag them in 3-ounce portion bags and put them in the freezer. Whenever I need a protein for a quick meal, they’re ready to go with a quick zap in the microwave.
Those of you with issues with sodium intake need to keep a close eye on the sodium levels in some of the packaged soups; many manufacturers use sodium (and sugar) to pump up the flavor of their soups. Trader Joe’s has lists of fat-free, low-sodium, vegetarian, vegan, etc. foods on their website.
My current favorites from Trader Joe’s are:
- Organic Low-Sodium Butternut Squash soup
- Garden Vegetable soup
- Carrot and Ginger Soup
- Black Bean Soup
What do I do with these soups? Well, there are already a couple of recipes on this blog, but here are a few ideas:
Carrot and Ginger Soup or Butternut Squash Soup. These soup are slightly sweet, so add things that enhance that sweetness.
- Add sweet curry powder to the soup base and heat the soup. At the same time, steam some cauliflower (frozen or fresh, cut into bite-sized pieces) in the microwave. Cut up some cooked chicken into bite-sized pieces. Drain the steamed cauliflower and add it to the soup along with the chicken. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Dinner!
- Add some spices (I like nutmeg) to the soup to alter the flavor to your tastes. Add some chopped frozen spinach and diced chicken. Add some other vegetables as desired. You can also add some canned beans (drain and rinse well before adding) to this soup to add substance and nutrition.
Garden Vegetable Soup. This is a tomato-based soup that’s very low in fat.
- Add diced tomatoes, fresh steamed vegetables (the microwave is your friend) and some sort of protein (leftover cooked ham would be great here). You can also add cooked pasta or rice, but do so at the end.
- Leftovers go well in this soup. Add a serving of chili or some stew and some vegetables.
- Make a creamy tomato garden veggie soup. Add canned or fresh diced tomatoes, basil, tomato paste and fat-free evaporated milk. If it’s still too thin, add some cut up chunks of stale rustic bread.
Black Bean Soup. Even though this is a bean soup, it’s really a pureed thick broth (like the other soups noted above). The base soup is tasty, but needs a lot to make it satisfying.
- Add more beans, some ham, veggies and cumin to make a standard Cuban black bean soup. Yum!
- Add some corn, spinach and sweet potato (pre-cook in the microwave) plus some spices to make a yummy veggie stew.
These soups have been a staple to my cooking this winter, and I love how quick and easy it is to make dinner. Couple with some home-made high-fiber bread, and you have a hearty and delicious meal.