The COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly interrupted the habits that once comprised our daily routines. This holds especially true when it comes to our eating habits. Most of us are regularly eating at home, which should, in theory, be a good thing. Problem is, during stressful times, we tend to lean towards the more traditional "comfort" foods. More often than not, these foods are laden with unhealthy fats, added sugars and other refined carbohydrates.
Even the most health conscious among us have turned to comfort foods at some point. I know I've had my fair share of homemade fried chicken and baked macaroni & cheese.
Unfortunately, it seems, the pandemic isn't ending anytime soon.
So, what are we going to do?
We all know that constantly eating comfort foods comes with consequences.
Luckily, there are simple ways to put a healthy spin on many of the comfort foods we so enjoy. Soups are high on my list of 'spinnable' options and happen to be one of my top comfort food choices, as they're a great way to get in multiple servings of vegetables at once.
I typically build my own soups completely from scratch. But since I've been taking care of baby Aubrey full-time and tending to Ramsey's 7th grade virtual learning schedule while also working from home, I've been welcoming any shortcuts to get the job done.
Quick and Easy Homemade Soups
I was recently introduced to the Frontier Soups™ brand by Anderson House™ for which I was given the opportunity to try a variety of their Hearty Meals® and Homemade in Minutes® products. If you regularly follow me, you're likely aware that I don't frequently highlight food brands, especially if I don't see any practical nutritional potential in them. It was only after reading a lot of positive reviews that I even decided to try them out.
To my pleasant surprise, it's quite the impressive brand. Frontier Soups™ features a wide assortment of simple, all-natural soup mixes made using wholesome, real ingredients that you'll actually recognize.
The mixes themselves contain dehydrated veggies, which lose very little of their nutritional value during the dehydration process. And, you won't believe how many are housed in each small package. Depending on the soup, ingredients could include anything from broccoli to cauliflower to butternut squash. None of the mixes contain added salt, preservatives or MSG, and all of them are certified gluten-free and non-GMO.
Each soup mix package details a complete list of whole ingredients you'll need to carry out the accompanying recipe. In addition to adding whole ingredients, you'll also have to add your own choice of broth. It's a sort of 'fast-scratch' approach to preparing homemade soup.
Honestly, given my busy schedule—and genuine love for rich, comforting homemade soups—these mixes and soup recipes have been fitting the bill. I've personally prepared nearly a dozen of them at just a fraction of the cost you'd pay for equal portions at a typical restaurant or fast-food chain. And, they're equally as delicious with greater overall nutritional value. Baby Aubrey has even been enjoying many of the soups at lukewarm temperatures as part of his introduction to solid foods.
I've highlighted some of my favorite soup recipes below along with images so you can get a good feel for how Frontier Soups™ work. Obviously, you'll first have to purchase each soup mix in order to carry out the process. The mixes range in cost from around $7 to $8 a package. For each mix, you simply follow the instructions laid out on the package. Most of them require only 4-6 major steps and include variations to suit different eating styles and taste preferences.
OREGON LAKES WILD RICE & MUSHROOM SOUP
The Wild Rice & Mushroom™ soup has a 'classic' vegetable soup flavor that's in the vein of a chicken noodle or ramen soup. But it is much tastier, houses considerably more nutrients, and is way more enjoyable. Along with wild rice and portobello mushroom, the mix contains a savory blend of veggies like carrots, onions and peas along with earthy seasonings like garlic, thyme and peppercorn.
What You Need
- A package of Oregon Lakes Wild Rice & Mushroom™ soup mix
- 8 cups of chicken broth (64 ounces)
- 2-3 cups of cooked chicken breast, chopped (8-12 ounces)
- In a 3 or 4-quart pot bring the broth to a boil. Reduce the heat, stir in the soup mix, and then add the chicken.
- Return to a simmer, cover, and then cook the soup for 40 minutes.
- Let it stand for 5 minutes, and then serve!
As you can see, the recipe itself calls for 8 cups of chicken broth and 2-3 cups of cooked chicken breast—That's it! To save some time, I simply chopped up the breasts from a store-bought rotisserie chicken for which I paid $5. I caught a good sale so the chicken broth was only another $3. To my surprise, I didn't have to change up the recipe at all. I literally made the soup according to the instructions on the package. My total preparation time was about 45 minutes. Definitely a lot faster than many scratch-based soup recipes of its kind.
According to the package, the Wild Rice & Mushroom™ soup mix yields around nine servings per batch. In my house, there was enough for six generous adult-sized portions and two baby portions. This made for a hearty family dinner and delicious leftovers for lunch. The soup is a particularly good post-workout meal choice. It's packed full of quality protein for muscle repair, and contains plenty of liquid and just the right amount of salt to support adequate rehydration.
CALI COASTLINE CREAMY CAULIFLOWER SOUP
I generally recommend broth-based soups over creamy ones, as the calorie counts tend to be a whole lot lower. But, given today's cauliflower craze, I just couldn't resist the opportunity to taste test Frontier Soups™ Creamy Cauliflower™ blend. And, it didn't disappoint! The mix is surprisingly nutritious housing whole ingredients like navy beans, carrots, onions, and a variety of flavorful herbs and spices.
If you're watching your carb intake, it's a great choice. Due to the 4 grams of fiber it contains, a single serving of the fully prepared soup nets just 14 grams of carbohydrates.
Now, unlike the 'cut and dry' nature of the Wild Rice & Mushroom™ soup recipe above, the Creamy Cauliflower™ recipe is one that can go many ways. If you're following a plant-based diet, a certain set of ingredients could apply; whereas, if you're following a high-fat and/or high-protein diet that's more all-inclusive, another set of ingredients might apply.
It all comes down to what works best for your eating style, as well as your general taste preferences. So, for this particular recipe, which is very layered, I'm offering some 'layered' options for ingredients as you'll see in the sections that follow.
What You Need
- A package of Cali Coastline Creamy Cauliflower™ soup mix
- 3 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 small head of cauliflower (white or orange), chopped (about 4 cups)
- 4 cups of vegetable or chicken broth (32 ounces)
- 1 cup of full-fat coconut milk or heavy cream (8 ounces)
- In a 4-quart pot, heat the olive oil over medium high heat.
- Add the cut-up cauliflower and sauté it for 5 minutes, stirring until it's lightly browned.
- Stir in the contents of the soup mix. Add the broth, bring it to a boil, and then cover and reduce it to a simmer for 25 minutes.
- Stir in the milk or cream. Use an immersion blender to puree the soup to your desired consistency (or pour the soup into a blender or food processor and puree it in batches).
- Salt and pepper, if desired.
As you can see, the recipe calls for olive oil along with "vegetable or chicken broth" and "full-fat coconut milk or heavy cream" as liquid options. You can easily convert it to a full vegan soup by using the vegetable broth in place of the chicken broth, and the full-fat coconut milk in place of the heavy cream.
With me being who I am, you might be wondering how heavy cream even made the list? Well, since heavy cream is ultra-low in carbohydrates, it's actually a better choice for carb watchers, which is why I included it as an option. Heavy cream is also a good option for folks looking to gain healthy muscle weight (such as the two male ectomorphs I live with).
Now, on the flip side, coconut milk is a plant-based substitute for heavy cream that houses way less fat and, therefore, fewer calories. This is a better choice for those who aren't necessarily benefiting from the fat-burning effects of ketosis.
Because I already had heavy cream in the fridge, that's what I used. But I've used coconut milk in many other soup recipes. Coconut milk tends to give soups somewhat of a mild coconut flavor, but it's not overpowering. It's actually the basis of most Thai curries. You can pick up a couple of 13.7-ounce cans in the Asian aisle of your local grocery store for around $2-3 each. Be sure to get the unsweetened kind.
Since coconut oil solidifies into coconut cream at room temperature, canned coconut milk generally separates into two distinct layers: liquid water at the bottom and solid white cream at the top. So, don't shake the can before opening it. Simply open it, spoon out the thick cream from the top, and then substitute it, measure for measure, with the heavy cream in this recipe and any other soup recipes.
The additional ingredients for the soup, including the white cauliflower and the chicken broth, only cost me about $3.50. As with all Frontier Soups™, this Creamy Cauliflower™ blend required very little hands-on preparation time. Following the instructions, as described, this one took me all of 50 minutes to make.
With the Creamy Cauliflower™ mix you can enjoy a rich, creamy soup without the calorie bomb. I've actually added this one to my personal short list of nutritious creamy soup recipes. I enjoyed a couple of bowls topped with crushed walnuts for added flavor and texture. My guys, including the baby, enjoyed theirs on a bed of brown rice. If you're a wine drinker, I highly recommend pairing this one with an off-dry or semi-sweet white wine as my husband and I did. Absolute perfection!
SPICED & SWEET BUTTERNUT SQUASH & LENTIL SOUP
Nothing says comfort like a big bowl of hearty butternut squash soup. And, Frontier Soups™ puts a really healthy spin on it with their unique Spiced & Sweet Butternut Squash & Lentil Soup Mix™. This one's a huge leap in nutrition from the 'bisque-like' versions generally served at restaurants and fast-food chains. It's markedly low in calories and sugar, virtually fat-free, packed full of health-promoting vitamins and minerals, high in fiber, and rather low in sodium.
Just about all the major ingredients for this soup are housed in the mix. Due to the sizeable presence of butternut squash and other orange/reddish ingredients like carrots and bell peppers, this particular blend delivers a heaping dose of beta-carotene. Beta-carotene is a potent antioxidant known to help protect against heart disease and various forms of cancer.
Other ingredients that add good nutrition and multi-dimensional flavor and texture to the mix include lentils, navy beans, quinoa, and a sweet and savory blend of spices including garlic, ginger and cayenne. Notably, the spices contain thermogenic chemicals that can help speed up your metabolism and decrease your appetite, thereby supporting weight loss.
What You Need
- A package of Spiced & Sweet Butternut Squash & Lentil Soup Mix™
- 1 tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 large onion, chopped (1 1/2 cup)
- 4 cups of butternut squash, diced
- 8 cups of vegetable broth (64 ounces)
- 1/2 cup orange juice (4 ounces)
- In a 4-quart pot, sauté the onion in oil for 10 minutes.
- Stir in the contents of the soup mix, butternut squash, and vegetable broth.
- Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat, and then simmer it, covered for 45 minutes.
- Stir in the orange juice, and serve.
You've probably noticed that, unlike the other soup recipes I've highlighted, this particular recipe calls solely for vegetable broth. So, it's naturally vegan-friendly. It took me just under an hour to make, which is a little longer than many of the other Frontier Soups™ I've made. But it was well worth the time. My only out-of-pocket cost was $3.50 for the squash, as all the additional ingredients were already stocked in my kitchen.
The Spiced & Sweet Butternut Squash & Lentil Soup Mix™ is not only a metabolism-boosting blend, but it's also bursting with great flavor. I definitely recommend this one as a comfort food staple for weight loss seekers and health enthusiasts alike. Baby Aubrey really seemed to enjoy the overall texture of the soup and it was certified delicious by Ramsey and the hubby.
Hearty, Comforting Soups in Minutes
With all my family being at home amid the COVID-19 pandemic, quick and easy food options remain in high demand, as we're constantly trying to squeeze in lunches between video conferencing for work and school. I can honestly say these Frontier Soups™ have been a godsend. While I've highlighted just a few of the soup recipes here, trust that I enjoyed them all, especially other guilt-free varieties like the Mississippi Delta Tomato Basil Soup™, the Southwestern Chickpea Soup Mix™, and the Kale & Quinoa Soup Mix™.
Frontier Soups™ are very satisfying to prepare, serve and eat, as the recipes are incredibly versatile. Whether you follow a vegan, vegetarian or low-carb diet, you'll find a variety of soup recipes to suit your unique eating style and taste preferences. You can purchase your own soup mixes at AndersonHouseFoods.com and be sure to follow them on Facebook and Instagram.
Blog post by: Dr. Nina Cherie Franklin