For all sorts of reasons, soup tops my list of quick and convenient meals.
I love the way it feeds a lot of people easily from one, big pot. I also love that it's easy to make extra to have simple heat-and-eat leftovers.
And you can feel good about eating soup because it's naturally good for you, especially when homemade. When packed with vitamins, nutrients, fiber, protein and carbs, it can pile on more nourishment in a single bowl than many more complex meals.
One of my favorite soups is mushroom miso. I love it all year long.
There are a couple of tricks that make this soup great — and great for your weight. The soup is thick, but it won't thicken your waistline the way most high-fat, creamy mushroom soups will. That's because I use unctuous mushrooms, steeped to pull out all that wonderful flavor.
To build the soup base, I use miso, a traditional Asian ingredient. It's a thick paste that adds body and savory, salty flavor to the soup. Then I can super-charge the soup even more by adding some leafy greens to it, if I want.
To up the protein for an even more complete meal, add peeled shrimp to the soup. It's the perfect pairing, nutritionally and flavorwise. And you won't upset the calorie balance by much. Adding just 3 ounces of shrimp adds only about 100 calories to the soup (25 calories a serving).
This is a great soup base that you can build on. Try grated ginger for some zing, or add thinly sliced snow peas or fresh spinach for more fiber. You even can add some diced tofu or fish for more protein.
Start to finish: 30 minutes
1 quart fat-free, reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 cup water
1 1/4 ounces dried shiitake mushrooms
1 1/2 tablespoons miso paste
1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
10 ounces mixed fresh mushrooms, such as shiitake, oyster and cremini
Ground black pepper, to taste
3 to 4 scallions, thinly sliced
In a large saucepan, combine the chicken broth, water and dried shiitakes. Bring to a boil, then immediately turn off, cover pan and let sit for 10 minutes to reconstitute mushrooms.
Use a slotted spoon to remove softened mushrooms from liquid. Cut off and discard any tough stems, then chop mushrooms into large chunks.
Return saucepan of broth to medium heat. Whisk in the miso and soy sauce, then add both reconstituted and the fresh mushrooms. Bring to a simmer, then cover pot and let sit for 5 minutes.
Remove cover and bring soup back to a simmer. Season with the pepper, then ladle soup into serving bowls. Top each serving with some of the scallions.
Nutrition information per serving (values are rounded to the nearest whole number): 87 calories; 0 g fat (0 percent of total calories, 0 g saturated); 0 mg cholesterol; 17 g carbohydrate; 7 g protein; 3 g fiber; 966 mg sodium.
Rocco DiSpirito is author of the "Now Eat This!" and "Now Eat This! Diet" cookbooks.