Meal Planning Monday ~ More Soup for You!

          

          One of my favorite things about autumn is having a nice bowl of hot soup on a cool day.  Lately I have been the anti-“Soup Nazi,” declaring, “More soup for you!”  Once every week or so in September, I made large batches of soup and froze the leftovers in individual servings.  One of the reason I did this, besides the fact that I love soup, is to have easy meal options on hand for busy days.  I have eight classes this month that I am scheduled to teach, so it will be great to heat up some soup with a sandwich or grilled cheese on these nights.

            This has also saved me money over buying canned soup.  I am very picky about my canned soup, because so many varieties have too much sodium and other additives that I’m trying to avoid.  Plus, many of the canned soups really don’t taste very good.  My brand of choice is Wolfgang Puck’s organic soup line, which is delicious but expensive.  It’s also a rare thing to find a coupon for that brand.

            This week, I am going to give you several great soup ideas and recipes that you can make and freeze.  If you’ve got a big family, you’ll want to double or triple the recipes so you have plenty of leftovers to stock your freezer.  You may need to add plastic freezer containers to your grocery list this week if you don’t have enough on hand.  Pretty soon, you’ll be able to say to your family (with an accent, of course), “More soup for you!”

 

Tomato Basil Soup ~ In my opinion, there is nothing better than tomato soup with a grilled cheese sandwich when it’s cold and rainy outside.  One of my friends recently turned me on to parmesan-crusted grilled cheese, and it is SO good!  Just sprinkle a little parmesan on top of the buttered bread and make as usual.  I’ve been making mine with turkey, pesto, and sharp cheddar cheese – pure heaven!

Taco Soup ~ This soup is a crowd pleaser, and can be made with either ground beef or turkey.  It’s a nice alternative to chili and perfect for tailgating!

Vegetable Soup ~ I consider myself a vegetable soup connoisseur.  Frisch’s vegetable soup has always been my favorite.  I was completely delighted when one of my Facebook friends, Lori Wagner, shared her homemade version which is even better!  I have a feeling that this soup will be the first one that needs to be replenished.

Chicken Soup ~ There’s something so comforting about a bowl of chicken soup when you’re feeling under the weather!  I was so glad that I had some in the freezer when I got sick with a sinus infection recently.  The recipe, which I got from my Mom, is below.

Black Bean Soup ~ Lately I’ve been adding some shredded chicken to this recipe, which is really good when served with crushed tortilla chips and a sprinkling of cheese.

Chili ~ It freezes very well and it’s so easy to double a chili recipe.  That makes it a no-brainer to make extras for freezing.

 

Mom’s Chicken Soup

  • 2 Large Bone-in Chicken Breasts, or 1 whole chicken
  • 1 cup of sliced carrots
  • ½ cup of sliced celery
  • ¼ cup of diced onions
  • 2 whole cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • 1 – 2 TBS of dried parsley
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • 3 cans of low sodium chicken broth
  • 4 cups of water
  • 4 chicken bouillon cubes
  • ½ package of egg noodles (I use whole wheat egg noodles)

Place all ingredients, except for the egg noodles, in a large stock pot and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and simmer (covered) for 45 minutes.

Remove the chicken from the pot.  Cut into the breast and ensure there’s no pink in the middle.  Peel the skin back from chicken and allow to cool slightly.

While the chicken is cooling, return the broth to a boil and add the egg noodles.  When the egg noodles are tender, turn off the heat.  Remove chicken from the bone, chop and add to the soup.  Remove the bay leaf and garlic cloves from the pot, and serve.

Meal Planning Monday ~ Frozen Dinners

           

 

           Sometimes there is just no time to cook and having a frozen dinner is a valid alternative to the fast food drive-thru.  This does not mean you are a failure as a mom, wife, or a meal planner!  I just stocked up on some Healthy Choice Steamers at Kroger this week.  They were on sale as a part of their Mega Sale, so after coupons I paid between $1.25 and a $1.50 apiece.  I try not eat packaged frozen meals for lunch or dinner more than a few times a week. 

            Although certain frozen meals sound healthy – “only 300 calories!”  – many have too much sodium and sugar, and not enough protein and fiber.  I was surprised the other day when I discovered that the Kashi Sweet & Sour Chicken entrée I had just finished had 25 grams of sugar!  In contrast, Kashi’s Chicken Florentine only has 1 gram of sugar.  If you didn’t know, a teaspoon of sugar is 4 grams, which means there’s over 6 teaspoons of sugar in the Sweet & Sour entrée!  (Yikes!  That’s a lot of sugar for something that’s not dessert!)

            I always make sure that I check the labels to see that I’m getting no more than 600-700 mgs of sodium (you should get no more than 2,100 mgs per day, and some people with health issues should get less than that.)  I also want to make sure that I’m getting 15 grams or more of protein, which ensures that my energy stays high and I’m not hungry an hour later.  I try to pick varieties made with whole grain pasta or brown rice. 

            However, the best frozen meal is the one you make yourself!  This is why I am such a big advocate of freezer cooking.  This way YOU control how much salt and fat goes into your meals.  Just double or triple your favorite recipes and freeze the leftovers in individual serving sizes.  I was wiped out after my trip to Kroger on Friday, so I was happy to have a container of turkey chili to heat up when I got home.  I made homemade chicken soup on Saturday and have several containers in the freezer for future meals.  I’m curious – what’s your favorite (store-bought or homemade) freezer meal?

Here is my Meal Plan for this week:

Monday ~ Meatloaf.  I’ve been searching for the perfect meatloaf.  This will be the third recipe I’ve tried this month.  I’ll serve it with mac and cheese and cauliflower.  I might make two meatloaves and freeze one.

Tuesday ~ Black Bean Soup.  This is a super-easy soup to make, and the leftovers  can be frozen!  (See recipe below.)  

Wednesday ~ Fend For Yourself Night.  I’ll be teaching a class this night, so I’ll either have a Healthy Choice frozen dinner, or maybe one of my freezer cooking meals.

Thursday ~ Coconut Crusted Tilapia

Friday ~ Dinner out with my friend at my favorite Chinese Restaurant, The Oriental Wok!

Saturday ~ Beef stew in the crock pot.  If there are any leftovers, they’ll get frozen as well.

Sunday ~ Oven Fried Chicken with Mashed Potatoes and green beans.  My sister-in-law, Emily, makes her mashed potatoes with a tablespoon or two of ranch dressing in them.  I tried this the other night and it was fantastic!  (Add the same amount of milk and butter that you usually do.) 

 

 

Easy Black Bean Soup

1 can of black beans, drained

1 can of refried black beans

1 can of chicken broth

1 cup of salsa

Shredded cheddar cheese

Crushed tortilla chips

Chopped cilantro, optional

Low Fat Sour Cream to garnish, optional

 

Heat the salsa in a medium-sized pan over medium.  Bring to a gentle boil and let the salsa simmer for 3 – 4 minutes.  Add the black beans, chicken broth, and refried black beans.  Bring to a gentle boil and reduce heat to low.  Allow soup to simmer for 10 minutes.  Ladle soup into bowls and top with shredded cheese and crushed tortilla chips.  Add chopped cilantro and sour cream if desired.