Fortify with bowls of healthy soup

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The chilly weather is the perfect inspiration for cooking meals that will warm our families from the inside out. There are few sights more inviting than a steaming bowl of hearty soup.

Soup is high on my list of foods that are easy to prepare, well received by most family members and stretch the food budget. They can be made from just about everything and close to nothing (remember the story Stone Soup?) and can be 'chucked together' quickly as the Brits say, or left to simmer all day. Soups can be plain or fancy; a bowl of homemade minestrone is looked upon as favorably as a bowl of elegant cioppino. All in all, soups are a perfect winter meal in my book.

For centuries, soups have been credited with having healing qualities. Chicken noodle soup is nicknamed 'Jewish penicillin,' and is the first line of defense of many people for the treatment of the common cold or flu. In her book 'Miracle Soups,' author Amanda Cross contends that soup is beneficial in healing many common ailments.

Cross believes soups can provide all the nutrients you need if you make them with healthy ingredients. She lists foods and their health benefit in the book, along with suggestions of what recipes she suggests for specific ailments.

'Miracle Soups' is divided into sections in which the recipes are focused on a specific benefit. There are sections for boosting the immune system, sustaining high energy, promoting stress reduction and enhanced brain function, restoring a weakened system after a long illness and warding off illness, detoxifying the body, and for promoting weight loss.

She suggests you make your own stock, but when you cannot she suggests using good quality organic stocks. Instructions are included for making chicken, beef, vegetable and fish stocks for easy use at home.

There are a variety of cold and hot soups so you could enjoy soups healing qualities even during the warm weather months.

With an eye on seasonal availability, I've selected a few soups for their unique health benefits. Try these fun recipes and enjoy the health benefits!

Bon Appetit! Wishing you Good Health in 2008!

This first recipe features tropical fruits bursting with beta-carotene and vitamin C. It was included in the Immune Booster section of the book.

Mango, Lime and Ginger Soup

Serves 4

2 large mangoes, peeled and diced

1-cup thick plain yogurt

1-tablespoon honey

Juice of 1 lime

2 ¼ cups unsweetened white grape juice

½ teaspoon ground ginger

Lime slices, pomegranate seeds or edible flowers to garnish

Put the mango, yogurt, honey, lime juice, grape juice and ginger in a food processor and blend until smooth.

Transfer the puree to a bowl, cover and chill. Serve the soup in chilled bowls, and garnish with lime slices, pomegranate seeds or edible flowers.

This recipe came from the Detox section of the book with the disclaimer that it would detoxify your brain as well as your body. You could add rice noodles if you wished.

Scallop and Broccoli Broth

Serves 4

5 cups vegetable or chicken stock

1 inch fresh root ginger, peeled and cut into julienne strips, peel reserved

1-tablespoon soy sauce

3 scallions cut into thin diagonal slices

2 cups trimmed broccoli flowerets

1 small red chili pepper, seeded and thinly sliced (optional)

12 large scallops

Thai fish sauce to taste

Juice from half a lime

Sesame oil, to serve

Put the stock into a large saucepan with the ginger peel and boil for 15 minutes. Set aside and allow to steep for a further 15 minutes.

Strain the stock into a clean saucepan. Add the soy sauce, julienne strips of ginger, scallions, broccoli, and chili pepper, (if using) and simmer for 5 minutes.

Add the scallops, and simmer for a further three minutes, or until the scallops are just cooked through. Season with fish sauce and lime juice.

Remove the scallops from the soup with a slotted spoon and put 3 in each soup bowl. Divide the broccoli among the bowls and pour in the hot soup. Serve immediately with a few drops of sesame oil.

This recipe is included in the Weight Loss section. It is actually two soups, whose artful presentation will help keep your mind off any feelings of denial you may be experiencing.

Two Pepper Duet

Serves 4

Red Soup:

2 red bell peppers

13 ounce can tomatoes

1 garlic clove, crushed

Pinch paprika

¼ teaspoon ground cumin

1 tablespoon lemon juice

Salt and pepper

Yellow Soup:

3 yellow bell peppers

1 small potato, cubed

Around 2 cups chicken stock

½ teaspoon saffron threads, crushed

½ cup thick plain yogurt

Roast the red and yellow bell peppers in a preheated oven at 475°F for 10-20 minutes, or until the skins are blackened. Put them into a plastic bag, leaving for 10 minutes, then peel, seed, core and chop. Keep red and yellow peppers separate.

Combine the red bell peppers, the tomatoes with their juice, garlic, paprika, cumin and salt and pepper in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine the yellow bell peppers, potato, stock, crushed saffron, and salt and pepper in a second saucepan. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes, or until the potato is tender.

Remove both pans from the heat and let cool slightly.

Puree the red bell pepper mixture in a food processor until very smooth then return to the pan, stir in the lemon juice, and keep warm until you are ready to serve.

Puree the yellow bell pepper mixture in the food processor until very smooth, and then mix in the yogurt. Add more stock, if necessary, until the soup is approximately the same consistency as the red soup. Return to the pan and keep warm until ready to serve (alternatively, you can serve these soups cold. Chill both soups in the refrigerator until very cold).

When you are ready to serve, taste both soups for seasoning. Serve in shallow soup plates, pouring the two soups simultaneously from opposite sides of the plate until they meet in the middle. Then, with a sharp knifepoint, slice the red soup a few times into the yellow soup, to make an abstract design.

Recipes adapted from 'Miracle Soups,' by Amanda Cross. 2004

Randall welcomes your food questions and research suggestions. She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by phone at 503-635-8811.