Soup’s on

Oh baby, it’s been cold outside! It’s definitely January in Minnesota. If you enjoy the outdoor activities of winter, you need to have a plan for staying warm outside. And when you come back inside to warm up, hot liquids like cocoa, tea and soup really hit the spot and help warm us up from the inside out. That’s probably why January is National Soup Month.

Even if you aren’t an outdoor enthusiast, warm and comforting foods like soup can be a tasty option for a variety of reasons. Following are five reasons that soup can fit the bill in this cold, winter month:

• It warms you up — Whether you’ve spent the day outside working or playing or been indoors watching the weather from the window, there’s a chill in the air. Eating foods that are warm can help warm you up.

• It’s a comfort food — The aroma of a pot of soup cooking on the stove and the hearty rich flavors that it has provides that “comfort” food feeling.

• It hits the spot when you’re not feeling well — Whether you’re under the weather with a cold or a stomach bug, soup can taste good when you’re sick. The warm steam can feel good on stuffy nasal passages, the warm liquid can be soothing on a sore throat and simple to digest soups like chicken noodle can be just what you need if your stomach is feeling upset.

• It can be quick to fix — If you’re lazy and don’t want a lot of dishes or prep work, there are many different kinds of soup mixes or canned soups to choose from. Soup can be a quick meal that provides foods from several food groups, depending on which one you choose. If you have more time and like concocting your own variations, you can do that too.

• It can be a healthy option — When you want to eat healthfully, there are lots of options when it comes to making a pot of soup. Some soups can be high in fat and sodium, but you can also make homemade broth or use a low sodium version of a canned broth and include vegetables, lean meats, or whole grains such as barley or wild rice to have a healthy meal in a bowl.

So, what kind of soup do you like? When my kids were home over the holidays, I made a couple of pots of soup that had been our favorites when they were kids and living at home. Now that they are out on their own and have had their own food and cooking experiences they found my recipes for soup and chili rather bland or “Minnesotan.” But that is the nice thing about soup — you can spice it up (or down) and include whatever ingredients are your favorites. My favorite soup is probably Wild Rice Soup. I prefer the version that is a little less creamy and lower in fat, because the part I really like is the wild rice and all the mushrooms that I include.

Following is a basic Minnesotan recipe for Wild Rice Soup. I often add leftover chicken or turkey or other vegetables if I have some to use. I usually increase the amount of mushrooms that I use too! Following is the basic recipe that you can add to or delete as you prefer:

Wild Rice Soup

2 carrots, peeled and sliced

1 medium onion, chopped

1 stalk celery, chopped finely

4 oz fresh mushrooms, sliced or chopped

4 cups chicken stock

1 1/2 cups cooked wild rice

1 cup half-and-half cream

1/2 cup white wine (optional)

Salt and pepper (to taste)

Put chicken stock, chopped onions, celery and carrots in a stock pot and bring to a boil. Boil slowly for approximately 10 minutes. Add mushrooms and boil slowly for another five minutes. Add wild rice, cream and wine, stirring until heated throughout. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Makes six servings. (130 calories per serving)

Cheryl Rude is a registered dietitian at Avera Marshall Regional Medical Center.