Friday, December 11, 2009

Soup Exchange Party: Soup's On!

Is there a better lunch than soup?  Especially in the fall and winter.  Especially when homemade.  Especially in a mug.  Soup satisfies every lunch need I have.  It's filling, yet doesn't induce a food-coma the way, say, a giant shrimp burrito from Nico's does.  When homemade, soup is nourishing -- often full of veggies and always rehydrating.  Plus, a mug of piping-hot soup is simply an enormously pleasant lunch experience. The wonderful aromas float up on the steam, the mug gives your hands a satisfying warmth, and the heat forces you to take tiny spoonfuls, slowing down your lunch to a leisurely pace.

I make myself a giant pot of soup at least once a month, eating some and freezing the rest in individual portions for lunches.  Trouble is, I get bored eating the same lunch all month.  I recently made a delicious pot of butternut squash and pear soup that was flavored with a vanilla bean steeped in cream.  Amazing.  Awesome. Ambrosial.  . . . Until I had to eat that sweet soup for the 8th time.  (As you may know by now, I'm not a huge fan of sweetness as a dish's main taste experience.)  I was so over that soup by the end of that month. 

So what's a soup-loving, variety-craving girl to do?  Two words:  Soup Party!  Inspired by all the holiday cookie exchanges this time of year, I recently hosted a soup exchange with other moms.  It was wondeful!  Eleven moms participated, so we all ended up with eleven servings of -- here's the exciting part! -- different types of soup!  And, wow, did we have variety!  We had tomato-basil, thai coconut, black bean, lentil tandoori, butternut squash, potato leek, Moroccan chickpea, Thai peanut/sweetpotato/ pumpkin, black bean and pumpkin, southwestern "taco," and sweet corn with chili oil and mint.  Ooh-la-la.  The party itself was a lovely way to spend a morning, and my freezer is now stocked with quick, healthful, satisfying lunches in a rainbow of colors and flavors.  I've been eating like a queen every lunch since.  (I even took the corn soup to SeaWorld with me, in my daughter's Scooby Doo thermos.  Much better than amusement park food!  And probably the most sophisticated food ever packaged in a Scooby Doo thermos.)  What a gift, especially during this busy -- and junk-food-filled -- time of the year. 

Want to host a soup exchange party for yourself?  (Trust me:  you do!)  Here's how:

1.  Invite your friends.  Aim to have at least 5 friends and probably not more than about 12.  (If you have too few, you won't get much variety;  if you have too many, you'll have to make too much soup for one pot -- which means more effort than most people will want to invest.)  Send an Evite, so that everyone can easily see what types of soup others are making.

2.  Set the rules.  Since we had one vegan and many who don't eat much meat, we choose to make only vegetable-based soups.  I recommend going meatless, as it makes for a lighter lunch.  Either way, consider your guests' dietary restrictions (vegetarian, Kosher, allergies, etc.).

3.  Make and package your soup.  After you prepare your soup, put aside 2-3 cups for the soup party (see below).  Then package individual, 1 1/2 cup portions for each guest in plastic, zip-top freezer bags.  Label your bags of soup.  If you need to make your soup in advance, freeze the bags, laying them flat (to save space).  Print out a copy of your recipe for each guest. 

4.  Taste the soups.  At the party, have a "soup tasting" for lunch.  As mentioned, each mom brought about 2-3 cups of her soup for the others to taste.  I set out mugs and spoons and we tasted as many as we could.  A salad and some cheese rounded out the lunch. 

5.  Trade.  We found it was best to set up a sort of "soup assembly line" at the end of the party.  Most moms had brought their soups in a small, soft cooler, so we set those all out on my kitchen counter.  Then each guest just needs to walk by, taking a bag from each cooler.  It worked well, but I might recommend that you try to have boxes/large tupperware containers on hand, instead of using the coolers, so that your guests can immediately put their newly collected soups into their coolers.  (We had to do some shuffling to get the coolers free.)

A tip for defrosting your soups:  If you forget to move a bag of soup to your fridge the night before (or to your counter in the morning), just put the frozen bag into a bowl of warm tap water for a few minutes, until it softens up.  Then snip the corner of the bag, squeeze out the soup, and warm in the microwave as usual. 

1 comment:

  1. Such a fun event and yummy lunches for weeks to come!