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Affordable Gluten-Free Comfort Food: Homemade Soups
Healthy, Affordable Comfort Food
Many people who find it necessary to remove gluten from their diets also report astronomical increases in their weekly grocery bills. When my family had to go gluten-free this past spring, a high jump in grocery bills was not fiscally possible. As I mentioned in my first Hub on gluten-free living, we chose to find ways to change our diet without simply replacing one store-bought product with another, more expensive product.
For years I have welcomed the onset of winter by making soups and stews that can easily be stored in the freezer, then warmed up and enjoyed as necessary. A few minor changes in my soup-making have grown out of the need to cook gluten-free, but the core recipes are primarily the same. In fact, since soups are so handy, inexpensive, and easy to make gluten-free, I’ve actually added a few to my repertoire this year.
Some of the soups I make take significant preparation time. Others, like the lentil soup, require just a day in the crock pot. Finally, soups like my beef stew take about half an hour to prepare. Since I like to have plenty of quick lunches ready in the freezer, I will often make up several soups over a period of two or three days so as to have lunches or quick dinners available for later.
For storage all you really need is a batch of stackable plastic containers in the sizes that fit your needs. I keep both single-serving containers and family-sized containers so that I prepared to take lunch to work or to feed my family quickly before evening activities.
Soup Day Tip
If you make several soups on a single day, begin with preparations for the dishes that require multiple steps or have longer cooking time.
On soup day in my kitchen, I typically prepare three or four different types of soup and stew. One will be consumed with gusto that evening by my family who has been smelling the delicious aromas throughout the day. Leftovers and the other soups will be packed into the freezer for future use. In this article, I'll include four different soup recipes as well as tips for cooking your own gluten-free cups of comfort.
All of the soups presented here should be served hot, but if you are going to store them, be sure to let them cool to near room temperature before sealing the container and placing it in the freezer.
2 to 3 medium to large butternut squashes
4 Tbls butter or olive oil
1 stalk celery
2 teas. chives
½ c. chopped green pepper
4 c. water
½ teas. garlic powder OR 1 clove fresh garlic, pressed
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Cut squashes in half lengthwise and remove seeds. Place on a baking sheet. Distribute butter or olive oil evenly into the empty cavities of each half. Bake for 1 hour.
(Now is a great time to get a few other things done in your kitchen. A beef stew can be prepared and completed while the squash bakes and cools.)
After the squash has baked and cooled, remove flesh from the hull. This can be done either by scooping out the flesh or by cutting the hull away with a knife. Add squash along with all other ingredients to a large pan. Simmer over medium heat for at least half an hour, being careful not to scorch it.
Remove from heat. Using a handheld blender, puree any vegetable chunks. (This can be done by pouring the soup by portions into a regular blender if you don’t have a handheld blender.)
Homemade Tomato Bisque
If you've been gluten-free for long at all, you know that most canned tomato soups are chock full of gluten. Fortunately, this is one comfort food you can prepare quickly and easily in your gluten-free kitchen. We like to eat it with popcorn instead of crackers or grilled cheese. If you still want a cheesy snack to accompany the dish, I would recommend stand-alone slices of sharp cheddar.
2 16-oz cans of gluten-free tomato sauce (Hunts® is my preferred brand.)
3 c milk
1 Tbls sugar
1 Tbls dried basil
½ stick butter
Salt and pepper to taste
Put all ingredients except butter into a pan and begin to heat. Do not boil. Add butter. Stir frequently. When the butter is completely melted, the soup is ready.
This soup can also be prepared in a crock pot to eat later in the day. Again, be very careful not to boil it, but the longer the basil simmers in the soup, the more savory it will be.
Homemade Beef Stew with a Gluten-Free Biscuit
Deliciously Simple Beef Stew
½ large yellow onion, coarsely chopped
2 Tbls butter or olive oil
1 pkg stew meat
2/3 c cornstarch
1 teas salt
½ teas garlic powder
½ teas black pepper
5 or 6 medium-sized potatoes, peeled* and cubed
2 c carrots, peeled and cut
Mix dry ingredients in a shallow bowl. In a large pan, melt butter or warm olive oil over medium heat. Add onions. Coat each piece of stew meat in the dry mixture and brown with the onions. Once onions are translucent and meat has been browned on each side, add potatoes and carrots, along with just enough water to cover them. Cover pan and turn heat to medium-high. Boil until potatoes are tender (20 to 25 minutes).
*I sometimes clean and cube red or golden potatoes without peeling.
This is my family’s favorite way of using up the turkey stock on Thanksgiving and Christmas. If you haven’t prepared a turkey or roasted a chicken lately, a couple quarts of store-bought chicken or turkey stock will work.
16 oz lentils, rinsed
1 c raw chopped or frozen carrots
2 quarts turkey or chicken stock
2 cups water
Rinse lentils. Put all ingredients in a crock pot on high for 1 hour. Turn to low for at least 3 hours. Soup is ready when lentils are tender.
Tips for your favorite soups
Don’t just stick to my recipes. Soup is such a flexible dish that you can make dozens of gluten-free meals inexpensively, without growing weary of a particular one.
If you have generally used wheat flour to thicken your soups, switch to cornstarch or tapioca. Cornstarch has been my usual choice as half the amount of cornstarch is equal to the thickening power of wheat flour. Besides, it’s always available on my grocer’s shelves and an easy staple to keep in my pantry. My mom uses tapioca more, especially in puddings and fruit fillings.
Here in the Midwest, chili is a staple cold-weather food. We have two family recipes that we use, both gluten-free. For the most part you can also continue to use your favorite chili recipe, as long as you keep a few things in mind
- Double check the labels on your cans of tomato products. As I mentioned earlier, Hunt’s® products are safe. Use caution on store-brand anything.
- If you use a thickener of any sort, make sure it is gluten-free.
- Stay away from pre-packaged chili seasonings. Almost all of them have gluten hiding in their pouches. Fresh vegetables, regular chili powder, even cayenne are safe solutions for seasoning your chili.
At the end of soup day, invite the family to sample some of your work. You could even pull out the TV trays and rent a movie to watch together. You’ve earned it, and you’ve just saved enough money on your food budget to afford the treat, too.