chili

There is nothing like a warm bowl of homemade soup during the winter months. I like to make large quantities of soups to freeze, and then I simply re-heat for an easy dinner. Soups and stews are quick and easy to prepare and are a great way to pack in healthy foods such as veggies, herbs and beans.

If you are new to making stews and soups, just stick to the basics and what you have in your pantry. For a basic recipe start with:

1. Protein of choice such as ground turkey, chicken, beef or beans. Cook protein thoroughly before adding it to the soup (unless you are using canned beans).

2. Next, add in your vegetables. Add as many vegetables as you desire, this is really what makes soups and stews such a healthy meal. Some of my favorite veggie additions include kale, onions, corn, broccoli, celery, sweet potatoes and spinach.

3. Add the liquid. If you are making a chili, a can of diced tomatoes with some additional water makes a great liquid option. For soups, you can use vegetable broth, bone broth or just water.

4. Finish with herbs & spices. For chili, try spices such as chili powder, garlic, paprika, cayenne pepper salt and pepper. For soups, try oregano, basil, thyme, garlic, cumin, salt and pepper.

5. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer 25-35 minutes.

Check out my favorite healthy soup and chili recipes.

Healthier chicken noodle soup.

Instead of using refined carbohydrate noodles made with white flour for chicken noodle soup, try using spaghetti squash noodles, black bean noodles, quinoa noodles, buckwheat noodles, sprouted grain noodles or chickpea noodles. Some of my brand recommendations include Ezekial sprouted noodles, Banza chickpea noodles and Ancient Harvest quinoa noodles. You can find alternative healthier noodles at most grocery stores.

1 cup carrots, diced

1 cup celery, diced

1 cup onion, diced

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 tablespoon butter, optional

1 cup shredded chicken (cooked)

5 cups vegetable broth or bone broth

5 cups water

Salt and pepper, to taste

1 bay leaf

1 medium spaghetti squash or noodle alternative of your choice.

In a large pot on the stove, stir together all ingredients except the spaghetti squash. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cover. Simmer for 20-30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. If using spaghetti squash, poke holes in the spaghetti squash. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 40-60 minutes. (Don't overcook or the noodles will be mushy.) When the spaghetti squash is finished baking and cool enough to handle, slice it in half and use a fork to scoop out the strands. Right before serving, remove the bay leaf and stir in half of the spaghetti squash strands. *For other noodle options, cook in separate pot according to package directions and then add to the soup.

Sweet potato and bean chili

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 large sweet potato (peeled & diced)

1 large onion, diced

1 bell pepper, diced, optional

2 cloves garlic, mined

1 tablespoons chili powder

2 teaspoons cumin

¼ teaspoon cayenne, optional, to taste

¼ teaspoon salt

2 cups water or vegetable broth

1 15- ounce cans black beans

1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes

½ cup chopped fresh cilantro to garnish, optional

In large pot, sauté the onions and garlic in the olive oil for 1-2 minutes. Add the chopped sweet potatoes, and optional bell pepper and cook until the onions are soft, approximately 5-6 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add in the all of the remaining ingredients, stirring to combine well. Let the chili simmer, partially covered and stirring occasionally over medium-low heat, for approximately 20-25 minutes.

Chickpea pasta and kale minestrone soup (from Banza.com)

1 8 oz. box of Banza Elbows

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 cup chopped celery

1 cup chopped carrots

1 cup chopped onion

1 large garlic clove, minced

1 teaspoon salt

32 ounces low-sodium chicken stock or vegetable broth

15 oz. canned diced tomatoes

½ cup chopped tomatoes

1 parmesan cheese rind

1 teaspoon dried basil

1 15 oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

2 cups chopped kale

In a large stock pot, heat olive oil to a medium heat. Add celery, carrots, onion, garlic and salt.

Sauté until vegetables become slightly soft, about 3-4 minutes. Add chicken stock, canned tomatoes, chopped tomatoes, cheese rind and dried basil. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer for 20 minutes. Add chickpeas, kale and pasta. Cook until pasta is cooked, another 5-6 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Mandy Nix is a registered dietitian in Morganton who writes a weekly nutrition column for The News Herald. For questions, contact her at mandynix85@gmail.com.

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