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TIP OF THE DAY: Start A Soup Club

In 2011, four friendly neighbors who, among them, have four spouses, 10 kids and jobs, realized that they could benefit from each others’ home cooking.

They simply had to make and share a bigger batch of something.

They decided on tasty, nutritious, filling, relatively inexpensive, and easy to make and transport soup. And the first soup club was born.

In the manner of holiday cookie swaps but once a month, they cooked and shared soup.

The idea was a success, and three years later they produced The Soup Club Cookbook: Feed Your Friends, Feed Your Family, Feed Yourself.

Once a month, each soup club member takes a turns cooking a big pot of soup, making enough to feed all four families. He or she then drops off the soup, along with garnishes and an optional salad or side, at the homes or workplaces of the three other members.

Share once a month and get the large part of a meal once a week? Sounds good to us! Several of us at THE NIBBLE enjoy soup for lunch, and a small container of quality takeout soup can cost $7.

The Soup Club Cookbook includes 150 recipes for soups and sides, and storing tips for stretching those meals across the week. It’s also a guidebook for starting your own soup club: the logistics, the essential tools and stories to caution and inspire.

Whether for family dinner or workplace lunch, give it a try. You can start by getting the book, available in paperback or Kindle.

Cconsider it as a gift for someone you’d like in your club (or who could benefit by starting a club).

Co-workers, gym buddies, book club members, school friends, neighbors—everyone from students to seniors—can participate.

All you need are four people who want more home-cooked food, and who like the same types of ingredients (vegetarians vs. omnivores, for example).

The idea isn’t to eat together, although that could be a pleasant by-product sometimes.

If you prefer to wing it, start here:

  • Find three other co-workers, friends or neighbors who are like-minded.
  • Have a starter meeting and pick a day of the week when soup will be delivered (the “soup day”).
  • Decide on a soup philosophy. Do you want hearty soups that can be light meals? Low calorie? A different theme every month (vegetable, international, etc.)?
  • Establish preferences. Spicy? No garlic? No gluten?
  • Do you want to include some kind of salad as well?
  • Need a whole meal? Consider adding a casserole, wings, etc.

    Soup Club Cookbook

    Miso Soup

    Salad In Container

    [1] Start your own soup club (photo courtesy Clarkson Potter). [2] Miso vegetable soup, an interesting recipe from [3] Your club can choose to add a salad—green, bean, grain, pasta, etc.—or other side (photo courtesy

  • Discuss the containers you’ll deliver the food in. If everyone has the same type, you don’t need to return the empties.
  • Be prepared to test and refine your process, so that it works for everyone.
    One day a week, when thinking about lunch or dinner, you’ll be able to say: Soup’s on!


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    TIP OF THE DAY: Turn Any Soup Into St. Patrick’s Day Soup

    There are plenty of green soups to serve on St. Patrick’s Day. For starters, consider avocado; Caldo Verde (kale, potato, sausage); cream of asparagus, broccoli or spinach; cucumber; green pea; herb; and nettle soups.

    There are also classic Irish soups like Irish Bacon & Cabbage, Potato & Leek and Irish Potato Soup.

    But you can also take your family’s favorite soup and add a green topping, starting with diced avocado.

    Add a sprinkle of freshly chopped green herbs: basil, cilantro, dill, parsley.

    Don’t like avocado? Dice the tops of green onions, or use a chiffonade of basil. If you like, you can toss them on top of a dollop of plain Greek yogurt or sour cream.

    If you’d prefer a cheese garnish, hit a cheese store for Sage Derby, a Cheddar-style cheese from England; or Basiron Pesto, a Gouda turned green with added pesto.

    Now, commence to the eatin’ of the green.


    Bean Soup Avocado Garnish

    Instant St. Patrick’s Day food: soup with an avocado and herb garnish. Photo courtesy

  • Herbs refer to the leafy green parts of a plant. They can be used fresh or dried.
  • Spices are obtained from other parts of a plant: bark, berries, fruits, roots or seeds. They are usually dried.
  • The word “herb”” is pronounced with the “h” in most English-speaking countries, identical to the man’s name, Herb. In North America, the “h” is dropped, so the word sounds like “erb.”
  • There are culinary herbs and medicinal herbs. Culinary herbs are simply called “herbs,” as distinguished from “medicinal herbs.”
  • The difference between herbs and vegetables in that herbs are used in small amounts to enhance flavor (like spices), rather than used as a substantial ingredient.

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    RECIPES: It’s Cherry Time!

    Fresh cherry season begins in May; but today is George Washington’s Birthday, a traditional occasion for cherry pie and other cherry recipes.

    We started the day with a Cherry Yogurt Parfait. Chobani, Dannon and Yoplait, among others, sell cherry-flavored yogurt; but one can easily make a more festive yogurt parfait. And we did! We prefer our parfait to a cup of cherry yogurt.



  • Yogurt brand of choice, in plain or vanilla; if you can find cherry yogurt, great
  • Cherries: fresh in season, frozen in the off-season
  • Optional: dried cherries (alone or in combination)
    What about canned or jarred cherries or cherry pie filling?

    You can mix cherries in water or light syrup into plain yogurt, but sweet, gloppy pie filling is over the top.

    1. COMBINE the yogurt and cherries in a mixing bowl, in your preferred proportions. Reserve a few cherries as a topping for the parfait. Stir to combine.

    2. SCOOP into a dessert dish, parfait dish, Martini glass or other festive vessel. Garnish with the reserved cherries and serve.

  • In the “normal” way—as a yogurt parfait.
  • Atop dry cereal (we eliminate the milk, and enjoy the cereal at its crunchy best).
  • As a topping for pancakes or waffles.
  • As a garnish for fruit salad.
  • Spooned over pound cake or angel food cake.
  • Atop frozen yogurt.

    Pick up some Welch’s Fruit & Yogurt Snacks in the new Cherry flavor.


    Cherry Yogurt Parfait

    Welch's Fruit 'n Yogurt - Cherry

    Top: Make a Cherry Yogurt Parfait like this one from Bottom: Want something that’s grab-and-go? Have fun with these yogurt-covered cherry snacks from Welch’s.

    Small, round and chewy, they are, alas, addictive. There’s more information on the Welch’s Fruit Snacks website.


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    TIP OF THE DAY: Homemade Lentil Soup

    Lentil Soup With Mustard Greens


    Top: Vegetarian lentil soup with mustard
    greens from Good Eggs. Bottom: Black beluga
    lentils from


    Lentil soup is a winter favorite: hearty, nutritious comfort food. Why make your own? Better lentils, more nuanced flavors and the ability to control the salt.

    Today’s tip is an easy recipe for homemade vegetarian lentil soup, with a variation if you’d like to add smoky ham hocks.

    Lentils are an ancient food, found in Mediterranean archaeological sites up to 13,000 years old. As with all foods, it first grew wild and was then cultivated, sometime around 8,500 years ago. It grows well in rainfall-challenged climates like the Middle East.

    In the Bible (Genesis 25:30-34), Esau, famished after working the fields, gave up his birthright (the rights of the first-born son to inheritance and position) to his younger brother Jacob in exchange for a pot of Jacob’s red lentil soup. The Greek playwright Aristophanes called lentil soup, the “sweetest of delicacies.” [Source]

    Plentiful and inexpensive, through much of history lentils have been considered food for the poor. Marie Antoinette made them fashionable in 18th-century France, although elsewhere, even into the 19th century, they were called “poor man’s meat,” and acceptable during Lent for people who could not afford fish. They became a staple in the Middle East and India.
    In modern times, in Europe and the U.S., lentils and lentil soup have moved up, acquiring a position as a hearty and tasty fall and winter comfort food.

  • Lentil soup can be vegetarian or contain meat. Adding ham hocks or other smoked pork is a popular meat version in Europe and the U.S.
  • Whether meat or vegetarian, the soup can include vegetables such as carrots, celery, onions, potatoes, pumpkin, tomatoes, turnips and yellow squash/zucchini.
  • Aromatics and herbs can include bay leaf, cumin, garlic and parsley, plus olive oil and vinegar or lemon juice. Spices popular in Indian recipes include cardamom, cinnamon and fennel seeds.

  • It can be garnished with butter or olive oil, chopped herbs, cream or yogurt and/or croutons.
  • Any lentils can be used: black beluga, brown, green, red or yellow.
  • The lentils can be cooked with or without the husk. Dehulled red and yellow lentils disintegrate in cooking, losing their shape but making a thick soup. Alternatively, the soup made with husked lentils can be puréed.

    Beluga lentils, also called black beluga lentils and petite beluga lentils, are tiny black lentils that glisten when they’re cooked. Their tiny size and shiny black surface reminded chefs of beluga caviar; hence the name.

    They are preferred by fine chefs for pilafs, salads and sides because they hold their shape when cooked and don’t become mushy. They have the same good nutrition profile as other lentil varieties: protein, dietary fiber, iron, potassium and important minerals.

    If you can’t find beluga lentils, substitute La Puy French green lentils.

    When you cook the lentils, consider making extra lentils to add to a salad or to serve as a side. Start with this recipe for Lentil, Olive & Arugula Salad.

    Mustard greens comprise the leaves and stems of the mustard plant, Brassica juncea. The seeds are used whole as a spice, pressed into mustard oil or ground into mustard powder, which in turn can be mixed with vinegar or wine to create prepared mustard.

    The greens are much more prevalent in Asian cooking than in Western recipes. While they have not received the media attention of kale, mustard greens are being discovered for their flavor and nutrition. Mizuna, a “designer green,” is a Japanese mustard plant, Brassica juncea var. japonica. Tatsoi, another Japanese specialty green, is mustard-like but from a different species: Brassica narinosa.

    Low in calories, mustard greens are high in vitamins A, C, K and folic acid (also known as vitamin B9 and vitamin M).



    This recipe takes 10 minutes of prep time and 45 minutes of cook time. For another vegetarian lentil soup recipe, check out this Red Lentil & Yogurt Soup.

    If you’d like to add a smoky meat flavor, use chicken stock plus 3 to 4 smoked ham hocks.

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 1 celery root or 2 parsnips, peeled and cubed
  • ½ bunch of carrots, diced (about 2 cups)
  • 1 white onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 bunch mustard greens, destemmed and cut into 1” ribbons
  • 2 cups of beluga lentils
  • 8 cups of chicken or vegetable stock*
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice†
  • For meat version: 3-4 ham hocks‡
  • Optional garnishes: chile flakes; croutons; crumbled feta,
    grated Parmesan or similar cheese**; fresh parsley
  • Optional side: toasted baguette or multigrain, whole grain bread
    *You can use any combination of broths, or combine broth with water. You can use all water, but the more broth, the more flavor. For a vegetarian version, of course, use vegetable stock.


    Mustard Greens

    Mustard Greens

    Red Mustard Greens

    Conventional and red mustard greens. As with kale and other vegetables, different varieties will have different leaf styles. Photos courtesy GoodEggs.

    †A medium lemon will yield 2-3 tablespoons of juice; a larger lemon can provide 4 tablespoons (1/4 cup).

    ‡A ham hock, also called the pork knuckle, is the joint where the foot was attached to the hog’s leg.

    **Substitutes for crumbled feta or Parmesan in this recipe include include cotija, goat cheese (lightly aged, so it crumbles), queso fresco or ricotta salata.

    1. PLACE the lentils in a large strainer and rinse them under cold running water. Pick over the lentils and remove any discolored ones, or occasional debris like small pebbles.

    2. HEAT 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a stock pot over high heat. When the oil is hot, add the celery root or parsnips, onions, garlic and carrots and cook over high heat for a few minutes. When the garlic starts to turn golden brown, turn the heat down to medium and continue cooking the mixture for about 7 minutes, until the root vegetables begin to soften.

    3. ADD the lentils and 8 cups of liquid—this can be any combination of water, stock or just one or the other. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to a simmer, cover the pot and cook for 25 minutes, until the lentils are tender. When the lentils are fully cooked…

    4. GENTLY STIR stir in the mustard greens and cover the pot. Cook the lentils and greens together for about 5 minutes—just enough for the greens to soften, but still maintain some of their bite. To finish, stir in the lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste. Ladle into bowls and garnish as desired.
    Variation With Ham Hocks

    1. FOLLOW steps 1 and 2, above.

    3. Add the ham hocks (instead of the lentils) and chicken stock. Bring the liquid to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 1 hour, or until the hocks are tender. Then add the lentils and continue cook for 25 minutes, or until the lentils are tender.

    4. REMOVE the ham hocks and stir in the mustard greens; allow to cook for 5 minutes, or until the greens soften. While the greens cook, cut the meat from the ham hocks and cube or julienne as desired. Stir the lemon juice into the soup and add the ham. Taste and adjust salt and pepper to taste. Garnish and serve.


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    TIP OF THE DAY: Soup In A Tea Cup

    It’s zero degrees here right now, with a wind chill below zero—the coldest February day since 1963. It’s a good day to focus on soup.

    We prefer to consume soup in a mug instead of a bowl. It can be easily sipped, and we never drip soup on ourselves. Our ability to avoid spilling some soup as it travels from bowl to spoon to mouth is not exactly enviable.

    Italian chef Stefano Ciotti showed us a more elegant way to sip soup: from a porcelain tea cup.

    All you need is an old-fashioned shallow tea cup (no mugs!), the soup and some beautiful garnishes.

    There are garnish options made from bread, dairy, herbs & spices, seeds, fruits and cooked or raw vegetables.

    Here’s a guide to pairing the right garnish with your soup.

    You still need to serve a spoon for eating the garnish (an espresso spoon works for us). While you can use a spoon to eat the soup, it’s acceptable to drink it from the cup.

    Mankind is some 200,000 years old. For the majority of our existence, we had no soup.

    The earliest humans had no cookware—nothing in which to boil water (or anything else). Boiling was not easy to do until the invention of waterproof containers, probably pouches made of clay or animal skin, about 9,000 years ago. Archaeologists have dated the first soups to about 6,000 B.C.E., some 8,000 years ago.

    You can trace the origin of our modern word soup from the French soupe, which derived from the Vulgar Latin suppa, which in turn came from the post-classical Latin verb suppare, to soak. This referred to bread soaked in broth, or a liquid poured onto a piece of bread. The bread added heft to the meal.

    In Germanic languages, the word sop referred to the piece of bread—often a use for stale bread—used to soak up soup or stew. The word entered the English language in the 17th century exactly as that: soup poured over sops of bread or toast. Eating the soaked bread with one’s fingers often served as an alternative to using a spoon (flatware was costly).

    Today’s soup croutons evolved from sops. Prior to sop/soup, soups were called broth or pottage.


    /home/content/p3pnexwpnas01_data02/07/2891007/html/wp content/uploads/butternut soup in a cup stefanioCiotti italy 230sq

    Soup With Jumbo Crouton

    Top: Croutons, crème fraîche and pumpkin seeds garnish butternut squash soup. We’d add a sprig of green herb for contrast—and fill the cup with more soup! Photo courtesy Stefano Ciotti. Bottom: Soup gets its name from sop, a large piece of bread used to sop (soak) up the soup. It evolved into the modern crouton. Photo courtesy Castello Cheese.

    Soups For The Rich, Soups For The Poor

    While the rich enjoyed elaborate soup courses (think of modern bouillabaisse, chicken in the pot, cioppino or pho, Vietnamese beef and noodle soup), a simple bowl of soup might be a poor man’s entire dinner.

    Until recent times, the evening meal was the lighter of the two meals of the day. Soup/sop would be a typical evening dish. The name of the meal evolved to souper, than supper.

    It began to be fashionable to serve the liquid broth without the sop (bread); and in the early 18th century, soup became a first course.

    Since it’s a liquid, why do we “eat” a bowl of soup? Because it’s served in a dish, not a cup.

    If you consume soup from a mug or cup, then you can be deemed to be drinking your soup.

    So many soups, so little time! Check out the photos in our Soup Glossary and pick out a type of soup you haven’t tried yet.


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