Diabetes Forecast

Canned Heat

A simple broth becomes a delicious meal

By Robyn Webb, MS, LN , ,

In terms of flexibility and taste, chicken soup is a terrific—if oft overlooked —base for a range of hearty meals. No wonder it's the food of choice when you're under the weather. It tastes like the distilled essence of good health.

Of course, few of us have idle hours to spend making the fresh stuff. Luckily, canned broth is beyond convenient. It keeps on your pantry shelf for ages, and you can use it as a replacement for oils in cooking; to decrease the amount of oil in salad dressing; to enhance the flavor of vegetables or rice and other grains (used in place of cooking water); or to mash potatoes instead of high-calorie milk and butter. Be sure to buy fat-free, reduced-sodium broth.

It's easy to improve a simple can of broth dramatically without the labor of starting from scratch by simmering it over medium heat along with a diced carrot, a diced stalk of celery, a small bunch of parsley, a coarsely chopped onion, and three whole black peppercorns. Cook for around 25 minutes, strain, and you've got a bowl of soupy perfection.

Associate editor Robyn Webb, MS, LN, is the author of a number of cookbooks, including Italian Diabetic Meals In 30 Minutes— Or Less!, published by the American Diabetes Association. This, as well as other books by Robyn, can be ordered from the Association's online bookstore at http://shopdiabetes.org or by calling 1-800-232-6733.

Dinner for six, 5 ways

Quick meals are easy if you keep a few cans on hand

1. Turkey Ball Soup: Heat 3 cups chicken broth. Take 1 lb. ground turkey breast meat and combine with 1 egg, 3 Tbsp. dry breadcrumbs, 1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce, and fresh ground pepper and salt to taste. Roll into 1-inch meatballs. Drop into boiling broth and cook until turkey is cooked through, about 10 minutes. Add 1 cup leftover cooked rice or pasta. Cook 1 more minute.

2. Clear Asian Soup: Boil 3 cups chicken broth. Add 2 sliced carrots, 1 sliced celery stalk, 1 tsp. ginger, 1 Tbsp. chopped scallions, 2 Tbsp. lite soy sauce, 1 Tbsp. sherry, and 3 cups cooked noodles. Cook for 10 minutes.

3. Rice and Pea Soup: Boil 4 cups chicken broth. Add 3 cups cooked leftover brown rice, 1/2 (10 oz.) package frozen peas, and 1 sprig rosemary. Cook for 5 minutes. Sprinkle with a little grated Parmesan cheese.

4. Tasty Pasta Soup: Take 3 cups leftover cooked macaroni and add it to 4 cups canned chicken broth. Bring to a boil. Add in 1 cup leftover cooked diced chicken and 1/2 cup canned diced tomatoes. Cook for 5 minutes.

5. Fast Onion Soup: In a skillet over medium-high heat, heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil. Add 3 cups sliced onions. Sauté for10 minutes until onions are soft. Add the onions to 6 cups boiling chicken broth. Add 2 Tbsp. dry white wine. Grind in pepper. Serve over toasted bread slices in individual bowls.

Try something new

Lucini Olive Oi

It's smooth and fruity with just a slight hint of bitterness and not as harsh as the heavier Italian olive oils. Great for light sautéing, it can also be used as an all-purpose oil. $7.99, 8.5 fl. oz. www.lucini.com


A light oil with barely a trace of pungency or bitterness, it's terrific for light salad dressings or a drizzle over sliced tomatoes. $10.99, 12.7 fl. oz. www.vea.es


This one is bold, with a slight bitterness and pungency, but a full, fruity taste as well. It works well over cooked white beans and salads that contain hearty greens such as spinach, or drizzled very lightly over tomato-based soups. $14.99, 16.7 fl. oz. www.sprucefoods.com

Ingredients in depth: Olive Oil

Many years ago, on one of my trips to Italy, I overheard a shopkeeper talking about "liquid gold." He was speaking of one of Italy's finest commodities: olive oil. But great olive oils come from many different parts of the world, pairing terrific taste with fabulous nutritional qualities.


A tablespoon of olive oil is about 14 percent saturated fat, 8 percent polyunsaturated fat, and 74 percent monounsaturated fat (the kind considered best for heart health).Olive oils actually have slightly more fat and calories than equal amounts of solid fats, like butter. But butter consists almost entirely of saturated fat, the type most harmful to the heart. (Note that the term "light" in olive oils refers to flavor. Light olive oil contains the same amount of fat and calories as other olive oils.


Olive oils—like fine wines—can have very complex flavor palates. You'll want to look for a certain fruitiness, which may also seem buttery, well rounded, or full. Bitterness and pungency also play a role in the overall taste of an olive oil; try a few to see what balance you most prefer. More yellow- or straw-colored olive oils tend to have less of that bite, as compared to the more robust green oils. You'll see several types of olive oil. Extra virgin, which comes from the first pressing of the olives, has the lowest acidity (0.8 percent) and thus the best flavor. It's best for cold food preparation (like salad dressing) or as a drizzle (say, a drop of olive oil on top of a sauce). Virgin olive oil comes from the second pressing of the olives and has an acidity of less than 2 percent. It's not as tasty as extra virgin, but is useful as a sauté oil. Since you could use extra virgin for light sautéing it is not totally critical to keep both extra virgin and virgin oils on your shelf. Pure olive oil (or just plain "olive oil") can be a blend of virgin oil and refined oil and has an acidity up to 1 percent. It lacks flavor and is typically inexpensive


While it is okay to use it for light sautéing, never use an olive oil for high-heat cooking such as stir frying. The excessive heat destroys the oil's delicate properties, and the oil will begin to smoke and turn black. For high-heat cooking, choose canola oil or vegetable oil blends (or even fat-free broths).


Keep your olive oil in a cool, dry place, preferably in opaque containers. Air, heat, and light can slowly destroy the nutrients and flavor of the oil. You should keep an olive oil no more than a year, and purchase it in small quantities to maintain a fresh supply.

And don't forget...

While olive oil has proven health benefits and is certainly better for you than many other fats, it is still a concentrated source of fat and calories that needs to be used wisely in your overall food plan.


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