Q: My grandmother used to always make soups from different ingredients that she just had on hand. I don’t even know where to begin. Can you help?
A: Because January is National Soup Month and the cold winter winds also gusted in last week, there’s no better time then now to talk about making soup.
Utah State University developed a “Create a Soup” handout, adapted from “How to Cook Without a Book” by Pam Anderson, that uses a mix-and-match approach to making an easy, economical, satisfying and nourishing family meal of soup. Rather than using a specific recipe, you can create a tasty soup from simple foods. Just choose an item from each category below and follow the directions. Use your imagination! Each pot of soup serves four adults.
Step 1: Choose one fat — 2 tablespoons oil (vegetable, canola, olive), butter or margarine
Step 2: Add 1 medium chopped onion
Step 3: Choose one or more vegetables (2-3 cups, chopped) — celery, green pepper, green beans, carrots, peas, corn, zucchini, squash, mushrooms, cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, etc. (fresh, canned, or frozen)
Step 4: Choose one protein — 1 pound beef, chicken, ham, sausage, etc., or 1 (16-ounce) can beef, chicken or ham, or 1 (16-ounce) can beans (pinto, kidney, black, white, chick peas, hominy, etc.), or 1 cup grated cheese.
Step 5: Choose one starch — 3 to 4 cups diced potatoes or 2 (16-ounce) cans beans (pinto, kidney, black, white, chick peas, hominy, etc.) or 4 ounces egg noodles, macaroni or other pasta, or 1/2 cup uncooked rice
Step 6: Choose a broth (you need 4 cups) — 2 (16-ounce) cans chicken, beef, and/or vegetable broth, or 4 cups water and chicken, beef, or vegetable bouillon, or 1 can crushed or diced tomatoes and 3 cups water, or 4 cups milk and chicken bouillon, or any combination to make 1 quart
Step 7: Choose one or more seasonings — 1 to 2 teaspoons dried herbs (oregano, basil, cumin, chili powder, thyme, rosemary, parsley, etc.), bay leaf, 1 to 2 tablespoons fresh herbs, minced garlic
Heat fat in large soup pot. Add onion and cook until tender. Add remaining ingredients (except fresh herbs). Partially cover pot and simmer until meat is cooked and starch and vegetables are tender (about 20 to 30 minutes). Add fresh herbs. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Simmer another 5 minutes. Serve.
- Chicken and rice soup — combine onion, celery, carrots, chicken, rice, chicken broth, rosemary, parsley and garlic.
- Beef and vegetable soup — combine onion, potatoes, carrots, celery, beef, crushed tomatoes, beef broth, oregano, basil, parsley and bay leaf.
- Black bean and corn soup — combine onion, green pepper, corn, green chilies, black beans, rice, crushed tomatoes, chicken broth, oregano, cumin, chili powder, cilantro and garlic.
- Cream of broccoli soup — combine onion, broccoli, celery, cheese, milk, chicken bouillon and garlic. Mash or blend together.
Here’s another soup that my dear friend Sandy Kling, from Belleville, shared with me that is super quick and easy (especially if you already have frozen crumbled hamburger that’s been browned, drained and rinsed.)
In fact, I will often give my college son a “survival bag” of frozen browned, crumbled hamburger that is ready to use in soups, tacos, sloppy joes, spaghetti, etc. I have discovered that if the hamburger is already browned, he is much more likely to make meals at home. I just brown five pounds of crumbled hamburger at a time, drain and rinse it. Then, I spread it out in single layers on two jelly roll pans covered with parchment paper and stick it in the freezer. After it is frozen, I bring it back out and break the crumbles apart and put it in two freezer bags and date them. Then he can scoop out as much as he wants.
It works really well. He’s always telling me “Mom, I’m out of hamburger” (hint, hint). Obviously, you can do the same thing with ground turkey, pork or sausage. To add to the “survival bag,” I will sometimes include the rest of the shelf-ready ingredients below and I’ve instantly become the “Best Mom in the World” — especially during tailgating season.
1 pound ground beef
1 can black beans (drained)
1 can pinto beans (drained)
1 can cream style corn
1 can diced tomatoes and green chilies
12 ounces (or more) vegetable juice
1 package dry ranch salad dressing mix
1 package dry taco seasoning
Brown, drain and rinse ground beef. In a stockpot, combine the browned ground beef with the other ingredients and heat thoroughly. Serve with shredded cheese, sour cream, and corn (or tortilla) chips.