A disclaimer before we begin: if you don’t own a food processor, the only way your soup will be ready in 20 minutes is if you use pre-chopped frozen veggies or went to culinary school and earned the nickname Flash for your chopping ability.
Don’t despair! You can still make homemade soup that is healthy, cheap, and delicious. You just might take a little longer to get it ready. Or you can plan ahead and chop the day before. Or the month before and freeze little baggies of soup-ready veggies. Or the summer before when vegetables are super cheap at the farmer’s market and you start September with three gallon sized Ziplocs full of chopped zucchini and potato and onion. You, too, can live like medieval peasants, working from dawn ‘til dusk during the harvest season and then reaping the benefits during the long cold winter. But I digress.
You have two options. The first option is Clean Out the Fridge Soup, one of my favorites. With a plethora of random leftovers, the resulting soup is different every time and you get to wash twenty little Tupperwares when you’re done. The second option is Planned Soup where you think about it ahead of time and try to match ingredients that will go well together.
Step 1: pull out all of your vegetables and meat, especially the ones that need to be used up because they’re going bad quickly. (Be brave, but not stupid. Pull it out from the back of the produce drawer; if it’s less than 50% mold, you can work with it.)
Step 2: Put the soup pot on the stove and turn the burner on to medium or medium high.
Step 3: Chop up a medium onion and mince 2-3 cloves of garlic. Don’t worry, it’s only raw garlic that make you unkissable; you can still ask your hubby to get you to bed on time! (See post from August 4th) When the soup pot is hot (no, don’t touch it, just let your hand hover and see if it’s hot), add some fat: oil, butter, bacon, your choice, though olive oil is the healthiest. When the fat is hot, sauté the onion and garlic for a minute.
Step 4: Chop your meat up into tiny pieces and throw it in, raw or already cooked. Remember that you can mix your meats…one serving of meatloaf, a chicken leg, half a pork chop, etc.
Step 5: Chop up your veggies; smaller is generally better, but go with whatever you prefer. Sauté the veggies for a minute or two. My dad likes to add the veggies by length of cooking required so that the garlic doesn’t burn while he waits for the carrots to cook. He does carrots, broccoli, potatoes first and onion, pepper, garlic last. Soup is not an exact science; figure out what works for you.
The vegetables in soup are like a contemporary music band; the right combination creates beautiful harmonies. Onion and garlic are your lead vocals and your keyboard or guitar, water and salt/seasoning are the sound wave vibrations that your ears translate into music. Without these, it’s just not a band. (If you’re not a fan of onion and/or garlic, you need remedial eating classes. You can never have too much garlic!)
Celery, carrots, zucchini, spinach, broccoli, kale, etc are your drums. You can make a band without it, but why bother? If the point of soup is to give your body nutrients, don’t leave out the colored plants.
Corn, meat, okra, turnips, etc are the violins and harmonicas. If you like them, they add a special flare to the band. If you don’t like them, don’t add them; no harm done.
Step 6: Add water. Finally, right? You boil your soup just as long as you need to in order to cook everything in it. If you chop your ingredients small, they cook quickly. Ten minutes should do it. (If you add uncooked lentils or beans or rice, you just added 20-30 minutes to the recipe. Not a bad thing to do unless you want to eat in 15 minutes. Leftover cooked lentils or rice? No problem!) I add about eight cups of water. If that feels like too much for your family, start with less. If your soup gets crowded, you can always add more water later.
Step 7: Add the secret ingredient: salt. I used to have trouble making soup. At first I would throw a lot of things into a pot and serve it. My husband got a few nasty surprises since he was generally the first one to taste it, so I started sampling dinner before dishing it. If a soup didn’t taste right, I’d add a little of this or that or those and my husband would ask “did you add salt?” It only took me five years to start listening to him. Before you despair, add a little salt and taste. Add a little more and taste. It’s very hard to take extra salt back out! If you over salt, try adding potato.
The easiest way to do this is to add chicken bullion cubes or packets. Bullion gives you seasoning and salt all in one easy step. Just as with the salt, you should add one, taste. Add one, taste. This is also when you can add herbs, pepper, or spices. When in doubt, let Simon and Garfunkel guide you: add “Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme”. When it tastes good, soup’s done.
Now I know some of you are panicking right now! NO recipe? That’s ludicrous! Anarchy won’t help me, Katie! Calm down and start by clicking here. It will lead you to a recipe for Potato Chicken Cheddar Soup. Experiment when you feel comfortable. Anarchy comes with practice!
The Lord gave this command to Joshua son of Nun: “Be strong and courageous, for … I myself will be with you.” Deuteronomy 31:23 (Taken completely out of context!) Be courageous to change your life!