Friday, January 13, 2012
Hey Gillian - Here's Your Vegetable Soup Recipe
You can make vegetable soup vegetarian style with no meat, or you can use beef, chicken, Italian sausage, hamburger, turkey or kielbasa. I have used all of the above.
The most important feature of vegetable soup is the stock you start with. You can make it from scratch (which is a lot of work) by using beef bones, chicken bones, a ham bone, turkey bones - whatever you have available and then you simmer it in water with onions and spices to get a nice, rich broth. Or, you can use "stock in a box" which is so much easier and available in so many flavors at really reasonable prices. Trader Joe's has lot of different flavors and so does Whole Foods. I get mine at Aldis. Theirs is MSG and gluten free and low sodium which is very important to me - especially no MSG! I either use my 12 quart stock pot or my dutch oven, depending on how much soup I am making. This vegetable soup I made in my stock pot. I made it almost full to the top so I could share it with some "sickly" family. That left enough for us to have here at home also.
Here is a sidetrack, which may happen several times during this post. If you are making soup, make a lot! You can put some in zip lock bags and freeze it for later without having to go to the trouble to make it all over again. It keeps very well and is just as good when thawed and reheated as when you first made it. Or, share it with a friend or family - even co workers. Soup is a really budget friendly meal and everyone loves soup!
Okay, back to where I was. If I am making chicken vegetable soup (like in the picture above) I put in two boxes of chicken stock and an equal amount of water. So that is about 8-10 cups of stock and 8-10 cups of water. I add 3 skinless, boneless chicken breasts and cook them for about 30 minutes until done through. Remove the chicken breasts, cut into bite sized pieces and add back to the soup at the end of cooking to heat through.
While the chicken is cooking, I peel and cut up potatoes (about 4-5), carrots (about 4-5 whole carrots), 2 medium sized onions, and 2 ribs of celery. This is the "vegetable" base for my soup. I also add a 32 oz can of whole tomatoes with juice and an 8 ounce can of tomato sauce. (Right now, I am using the quart bags of frozen tomatoes I put up this summer. Yum.) I also like to add a couple of diced turnips or some cabbage that I have cut into bite sized wedges. The turnips and/or cabbage give the soup a really delicious, delicate flavor that we love. Cook all these vegetables first, since they take longer than the frozen vegetables and beans that you may add.
After you have removed the chicken breasts from the pot, add the tomatoes, tomato sauce, onions, celery, potatoes, carrots, and turnips or cabbage. Let them cook until the potatoes and carrots are beginning to get soft.
Now, you can add any vegetables that you want or have on hand. Be imaginative. Use things you like. I added frozen green peas, frozen corn, frozen green beans, a can of kidney beans, and some kale which I had chopped into bite sized pieces. You can use cannellini beans (which are white kidney beans), great northern beans, black beans, butter beans, black eyed peas, or everybody's favorite - lime beans. (not) I also added some zucchini which we love. At this point, it's your vegetable choice in any amounts you choose. You may need to add a little more water as some of it evaporates during cooking.
Sometimes I add spinach toward the end because it cooks very quickly. You can also use some turnip greens or collard greens cut into small pieces. How about some asparagus cut in bite sized pieces? There are so many vegetables to choose from. Be inventive!
Now, here is my secret for really flavorful soup. Add the end piece or "rind" from a parmesan cheese wedge. Don't EVER throw those lovely pieces away. Save them in a baggie in your fridge for special events like soup making!! I learned this trick from my son in love Todd and it is well worth passing on. The parmesan adds a lovely saltiness and flavor without making the soup too salty and you won't really taste the parmesan! The stock in a box is salty (I use low sodium) already so I rarely have to add much additional salt. Salt to your preference. Vegetables can soak up a lot of salt, but be careful and don't over salt. If you do, add a whole potato for a bit and then remove. It will soak up the extra salt. Also, use lots of fresh cracked black pepper.
Now, my other secret. I like to add macaroni or rice to the soup. Usually, I use elbow macaroni. I throw in several hands full and let it cook until done. If you like alphabet soup, use the cute little alphabet pasta you can buy in a box. Your kids will love it! The pasta takes on the wonderful tomato/vegetable flavors and is soooooo good. It may be my favorite part of the soup. If you eat gluten free, just use gluten free pasta. If you want to use rice, add about 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup depending on how much soup you are making.
Now, it's time to add your meat back into the soup. I cut the chicken breasts into 1 inch bite sized pieces and put it back into the pot just to warm it up. Ta dah! You are done. Ladle into a serving bowl and eat. Oh my goodness good!
If you are using left over beef - say from a roast - now is the time to add it back in. If you are using beef bones or beef ribs, use beef stock in place of chicken stock, add the bones or ribs to the stock and cook them until done like the chicken breasts. Remove them from the soup when they are done, dice up the meat and add it back in at the end. If using sausage like kielbasa, it is already cooked, so add it in about halfway through so it flavors the soup. Italian sausage is uncooked. Remove the casing and cut into 1 inch pieces, add it at the beginning with your "core" vegetables and let it cook all the way through. Italian sausage makes a really tasty soup.
This is what I have been trying to say through this whole post. Vegetable soup is an individual thing. Ours is a little different every time I make it, depending on what I have to throw in. The base is always the same - otherwise, who knows? You can add vegetables in any quantity you want - make as little or as much as you want. You always want enough for the second day. because soups always taste better the second day!
If it is as cold where you are as it is here, it's a perfect day for vegetable soup! Allow yourself a couple of hours for the whole process, but it is more than worth it. The chopping and cooking is sort of Zen. It's relaxing and who doesn't love the final outcome? Delicious, nutritious, cost effective vegetable soup. Yum. Yum. Yum. You may want to add some hot, crusty bread, or a grilled cheese sandwich and you are good to go! For me, the soup is all I need!
So Gillian, I don't know if this helps or answers your question, but I hope so. If you make some soup, let me know how it goes and how much you like it! Everyone else, you let me know too. Now, I am dreaming of soup. Oh look, it's lunch time. Yay!
Things to Remember:
Soup is soul satisfying in so many ways. Make some and share it! donna