Hot Soup for a Cold Winter Day

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Cozy sweaters, a blazing fireplace, hot cocoa with marshmallow creme, and snow (when we get it) are a few of the reasons why I love the winter months in Southern Maryland. Even when it gets really cold we know it won't be long before the temperatures are more tolerable -- unlike summer's oppressive heat and humidity that seem never-ending. And during summer, it's a certainty there won't be a big pot of soup simmering on the stove. Soup is a big favorite in our home. We love them all. Turkey noodle, creamy potato, butternut squash and leek, corn chowder, and beef pastina are all on our soup hit parade.

There might be a difference of opinion as to what the family favorite is, but my vote is for something we call “ski soup”. It's filling, nutritious, and it reminds me of family time. Most people who enjoy soup probably know some version of this one. Maybe you call it white bean soup, or Tuscan bean soup. To us it's ski soup. My husband is from a family of skiers and passed on his love of that sport to our girls. I have never been, nor will I ever be, a skier. I just go along for the trip. I'm the one in the lodge with the aforementioned cozy sweater, cup of cocoa, and marshmallow cream. And the thermos of ski soup. Though we haven't had a family ski trip for a few years now, those are times we remember as great, big gatherings full of fun and extended family. I enjoy being the "canteen" on these trips. When everyone comes in from the slopes with their red noses, cold fingers, and big appetites, I'm right there with the body-and-soul-warming ski soup. Even when we aren't on a ski trip, ski soup is a go-to winter meal. Try it and see if it becomes a favorite.

Ski Soup
1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
3-5 carrots, peeled and sliced
4 C low-sodium, fat-free chicken broth
2 cans (28 oz each) diced tomatoes, undrained
1 C ditalini or small elbow macaroni
2 Tbsp chopped parsley
2 tsp basil 
2 cans (15 oz each) cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
16 oz fresh spinach, stemmed and cut up
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper

In a large soup pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, and carrots and cook until softened (about 5 minutes), stirring often. Mix in the broth, undrained tomatoes, parsley, basil, beans, spinach, salt, and pepper. Heat to boiling. You may also add the pasta at this time, or you may cook it (al dente) separately and add it to the soup pot once the soup begins to boil. This may keep it from absorbing too much of the soup. When the soup begins to boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 20 minutes. Like most soups, the longer this one "sits", the better the flavors mingle, but at this point it's ready to serve. A little grated Parmesan cheese sprinkled on each serving is a nice addition!