Homemade soups and stews can be a healthy option for meals. Including vegetables, whole grains and lean protein into one dish is an easy way to get a balanced meal. By making and freezing batches of stews and soups, you can save time and have a healthy dish whenever you want.
It is easy to make stews and soups healthier simply by adding more vegetables to them. Vegetables such as carrots, green beans, broccoli, onions and cauliflower are colorful and flavorful additions to any dish. Choose lean protein such as chicken, pork and beans. If you want to use beef, trim any visible fat from the meat before using. Explore options of soup that do not use heavy cream. Try low-fat cream recipes or low-sodium broth-based soups. Add spices such as thyme, marjoram or basil to your recipes to get more flavor without adding salt. Use whole grains such as barley or brown rice instead of refined grains such as egg noodles or white rice.
There are some foods that you might use in soups and stews that do not freeze well. Potatoes, for example, become mealy, crumbly and water-logged after thawing. Celery, parsley and radishes develop an odd flavor, become limp and water-logged. Cream separates and becomes watery and lumpy. The nutritional quality of the product will be the same if you do not mind the altered texture. If you plan on freezing the soup or stew ahead of time, try to leave these ingredients out. To avoid any textural quality alterations, try making soups that are pureed or mashed. Also, seasonings can either increase or decrease in flavor during freezing, so season lightly before freezing and add addition spices before eating.
Preparing for Freezing
Preparing soups and stews for freezing is simple. For stews, prepare them as usual but keep the fat to a minimum and do not use potatoes. Slightly under-cook the vegetables to avoid having mushy vegetables after thawing. For soups, try to use less liquid to concentrate the soup. You can add more liquid when you reheat it. For both stews and soups, it is important to cool them quickly and put them into small containers that can be eaten at one time. Reheating and refreezing over and over again will ruin the quality of the product. Be sure to leave space between the stew or soup and the lid of the container because the liquid will expand. Both stews and soups can be frozen for four to six months.
Stews should be thawed in the refrigerator. Soups can be heated without thawing. Cream soups should be heated over a double boiler to prevent scalding the cream. Because cream can curdle and separate upon thawing, stir continually or add waxy corn flour to help thicken the product. Stews and soups should be heated to 165 degrees Fahrenheit within two hours to avoid spoilage.