The term chowder usually brings to mind a steaming bowl of thick and chunky soup, often enriched with a generous amount of whole milk, or even cream.
It's that last part that can dishearten the diet-conscious diner. Yet there are ways to have a creamy and healthful soup. For instance, consider starting with a base of pureed vegetables. Winter vegetables — such as butternut or buttercup squash, pumpkin or even sweet potatoes — can be roasted to intensify the flavors, then run through a food mill, blender or food processor to make a velvety, creamy base.
Beans, pureed with a bit of broth or water, also make a thick, flavorful soup base. Use convenient canned beans, but be sure to rinse them under cold water to wash away some of the salt that is in the canning liquid.
Even tofu (the soft or silken variety) can be pureed to create a smooth and protein-rich foundation on which you can build a creamy soup with little fat and no dairy.
For this butternut squash and scallop chowder, the secret to low-fat thickening comes from a snack food. Crumbled reduced-fat tortilla chips dissolve in the soup while it's cooking, adding plenty of body along with a layer of toasty corn flavor.
Jarred salsa is another secret to this satisfying chowder, bringing with it prediced vegetables and spicy seasoning, which helps make it possible to get this meal on the table in under 30 minutes on a busy weeknight.
Plump bay scallops are called for here, but you can substitute chunks of almost any white fish and if you like, make the soup vegetarian by omitting the seafood altogether and upping the amount of diced squash.