Friday, December 16, 2011

Clean Eating Italian Wedding Soup

Makes 14 servings, 1 cup each (I think…)
I first made this soup when my superbly awesome and wonderful sister, Anthea, was visiting me over the summer. (Hi, Anthea!) We eat a LOT of soups in our house because it’s such a great vessel for throwing a ton of veggies into which my kids will happily eat because they are soft and too hard to pick out. Also, soups freeze exceptionally well which is always a plus in my book. If you search for Italian Wedding Soup you will find literally thousands of different recipes… so naturally I couldn’t follow any of them and had to make my own :)

I poured over the bazillion variations to get a general idea of what the main idea of the soup should be and then made some substitutions and adjustments. It made a HUGE pot… and I'm not totally sure how many servings it was because we ate it so fast I didn’t get a chance to count. All of the kids scarfed it down with little to no coercion, even my super picky nephew. And then we made it again and again and again.

How I “healthified” it:
Many of the recipes used ground beef or fattier types of ground pork for the meatballs. I stuck to ground turkey and added some chopped sundried tomatoes and some other seasonings to tasty them up.

Many of the recipe were basically just broth, eggs, and cheese with little to no veggies. I added carrots and celery to my broth because these tend to do really well in soups and lend a nice texture. Plus I bumped up the greens from a measly ½ or 1 cup to 5 cups and used kale for it’s power packed nutrition profile. It shrivels and gets all soft in the soup anyway so you don’t even really notice it’s in there. I like to get as much greens into my family as possible :)

Many of the recipes used orzo or some other type of pasta. None of my stores carry whole grain orzo and Anthea insisted that big pasta was just not right so we used quinoa instead. Quinoa is great in soups because it softens but doesn’t lose it’s texture and it’s a complete protein all in itself. Plus it gets those curly ribbons when it’s cooked so it’s just fun.

I substituted some of the broth for water because, when we made it with all broth, it was too salty. Plus, I knew for a fact that we were going to sprinkle a little extra parmesan cheese on top before serving which would make it even more salty.

Finally, a LOT of the recipes had an egg or two and a bunch of parmesan cheese stirred into the soup. I felt like the soup was tasty enough and a nice texture without this addition and I like to sprinkle my little bit of parmesan on top at serving so I skipped it. I’m sure this means that this is not an “official” Italian Wedding Soup but I’m cool with that.

The results: Only 143 Calories but it packs a whopping 12g of protein, 2g of dietary fiber, 118% of your daily value of Vitamin A and 51% of your daily value of Vitamin C. In one little bowl of soup… that my kids will happily eat… and tastes delicious while being filling. Yay :)

Soup –
  • 7 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 3 cups water
  • 4 tsp minced garlic
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled and sliced into thin rounds
  • 2 stalks of celery, sliced
  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 5 cups of kale (or other greens)
  • 1 Tbsp dried fennel (Anthea did NOT like this addition and she felt it was a weird taste [not that it stopped her from inhaling two full bowls mind you] so the next time we made it we didn’t put it in. I thought the second batch was missing something and that the fennel really added a nice flavor so, when she’s not here, I always add it. I say, if you have fennel on hand, sniff it and if you think it would be a taste that you’d like, throw it in there. It kind of has a licorice flavor but it worked for me.)
  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 1/3 cup finely diced onion
  • 3 big sundried tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning
  • ¼ cup whole wheat bread crumbs (I use unfrosted miniwheats ground in the blender)
  • ½ cup parmesan cheese
ONE: Add a little drizzle of olive oil to a big pot and toss in the onion, garlic, carrots, celery, fennel (if you’re using it) and quinoa. Cook over medium high for about 5 minutes, stirring regularly, until the onions just start to soften and the quinoa is slightly toasted.

TWO: Add the broth, water, and pepper and bring to a gentle boil. While the soup mixture is heating up, begin cutting the kale into small pieces and adding it into the liquid. I hold a bunch of kale in one hand and use my kitchen scissors to snip the leaves into the pot. Discard any stems or tough pieces.

THREE: Once the soup is boiling, reduce to a simmer. In a medium bowl combine all of the meatball ingredients and mix well. (I use my hands which is totally gross-feeling but does the best mixing job)

FOUR: Using your hands, roll the meatball mixture into mini meatballs and drop them into the pot. (If the mixture seems too dry and the meatballs won’t stick together, add a splash of egg whites.) After about every 10 or so meatballs, use a spoon to push them down into the soup. You might need to add a little extra water or broth if there’s not enough liquid to submerge them all.

FIVE: Once the last meatball is in the pot, increase the heat to medium and let the mixture simmer for 10 minutes or until the meatballs are cooked through, the veggies are tender, and the quinoa has little curls. Serve garnished with a bit of extra parmesan cheese if desired.

Freeze leftovers using the medium/large portions method to feed your freezer stash. Defrost in the microwave or on the stovetop.

Nutrition info:
Per 1-cup serving143 Calories (40 Calories from Fat), 4g Fat, 1g Saturated Fat, 26mg Cholesterol, 160mg Sodium, 14g Carbohydrates, 2g Dietary Fiber, 1.5g Sugar, 12g Protein, 118% DV Vitamin A, 51% DV Vitamin C, 10% DV Calcium, 10% DV Iron.