Ask my sister – I have not yet mastered soup making. I made a huge pot of soup earlier this week with a beautiful array of colored beans, but I over used the rosemary, creating something you could handle a bite of, but you knew it wasn’t going to go beyond that. “Please enjoy this soup, Garbage Disposal.” I can always count on him to take what I make, regardless of how good or not good, rather, it is. Yes, it was wasteful and sad, but it was over. I will say, however, that I can make a mean tortilla soup (thanks to a modified chicken tortilla soup recipe from my friend, Tammy), and I can chowder with the best of them, but chowders are typically not the most figure-friendly meals. So, I guess, really, I just have yet to master a delicious healthy soup.
The good news is there are many ready-made options. The grocery store has yummy hot soups you can ladle into a bowl, but the calorie counts are absurd, and the vegetarian choices are limited. Lots of, “Oh this looks vegetarian….wait, wait, bacon bits…” Consequently, I am on a perpetual search for healthy and scrumptious and vegetarian soups. I also need meals to be quick (hence the appeal of the ready-made hot soups) because as much as I love to cook, I don’t want to spend every night when I get home cooking and doing dishes.
One recent night, I made a lovely salad and planned on a soup accompaniment. Without the inclination to make it myself, I went to Trader Joe’s, and I found these boxed soups. There was a generous variety of them, actually, with plenty of organic vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free choices (like twenty). I went with creamy tomato, black bean, and butternut squash. That night, I had the black bean, and at this point, I’ve tried them all.
The black bean is my favorite. It’s spicy, silky, and vegan. I added some actual black beans to it myself, giving it some extra heartiness, which helped it feel more like a complete meal, especially when eaten with a salad. You could easily sprinkle some cheese, chives, and a dollop of sour cream on it, pass it out in brightly colored bowls, and make people think you are a master of soup making yourself.
The butternut squash and the tomato were also good, but I’ve had better. The butternut squash was a little too sweet for my taste, but the texture was like velvet-lite, and despite it not being the best I’ve ever had, it was still good. The tomato soup was a touch bland, but I know I have a particular fondness for strong tomato flavor . It poured out thick, but tasted watered down. Perhaps that is why it was healthy. With some additions, like light sour cream, you can amp up the flavor without adding many calories.
Despite not being a complete win, I intend to try the other flavors. I especially like what I know about Trader Joe’s private label products: no artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives, no MSG, no genetically modified ingredients, and no added trans fats. For me, knowing my food is pretty pure makes it taste better!