Easy recipes for chicken soup, lentil soup and more warming winter soups packed with nutrients.

Easy recipes for chicken soup, lentil soup and more warming winter soups packed with nutrients.

I'll never forget the moment in a Weight Watchers meeting when the conversation turned to "The Soup." Everyone in the room, it seemed, owed their success to the Garden Vegetable Soup recipe in the program booklet. Words like "easy," "yummy" and "filling" kept coming up, and the best ones of all: "virtually calorie-free." I practically sprinted home to make it that night.

The soup was simplicity itself: carrots, onions, cabbage, ­tomato and spinach simmered with seasonings in broth. It tasted fantastic. And it worked: I ate the soup for lunch most days (and for dinner some busy nights) and lost 15 pounds in a few months without feeling deprived.

Soon I was experimenting with different vegetables, flavors and recipes, from mulligatawny to menudo. Sometimes I added beans or a little meat to give the soups a shot of protein-rich staying power. I brought them to potlucks, rarely letting on that they were my go-to low-cal staples (and the main reason those 15 pounds stayed off).

Fast-forward to a few years ago, when I spotted a woman loading her cart with canned vegetable soups at the supermarket. "These are my meals for the next month," she joked to the cashier. "I have to lose 10 pounds for my daughter's wedding." Inspiration struck: Why not make my fresher, better-tasting (and far less salty) soups a business?

I started sharing my soups with health-conscious friends, who began to tell their friends-and eventually "Veggilicious Soups to Go" was born. Now I have a small business where I simmer up some 20-odd types of soup, delivering locally to folks like my neighbor Anne who crave what she calls "comfort food without the guilt."

Along the way I've learned something else about soup: it's the best way to serve up vegetables to people who aren't crazy about them. When nutrient-rich kale, spinach or beets are sautéed with aromatics and herbs and napped in a savory broth, they become something altogether different-and irresistible.

See for yourself how Moroccan Lentil, fragrant with cumin and coriander, will keep you full and happy. Or maybe you're in the mood for the simple comforts of Mushroom-Beef Noodle? All of the following soups provide at least two servings of vegetables in every bowlful. Simmer up a batch on a weekend and you'll have healthy meals on tap all week long.

No matter how you dish it up, your own homemade soup is fresher and tastier than the canned stuff. Or to put it another way, it's just veggilicious.

January/February 2013