It was -14 when I left my house on Friday and it’s supposed to be subzero for the better part of this week. I’ve been joking that I won’t warm up until May, but I’m starting to think that it might be the truth.
One of the few things that temporarily warms my cold, winter soul is a bowl of homemade soup. In addition to the warmth factor, soups can usually be created from whatever you already have in your pantry. When it gets to the end of February and the weather is alternating blizzard like conditions and subzero temperatures, not having to leave the house is a big deal.
My formula for putting together soups and stews is pretty simple. I start with about a pound of whatever meat I happen to have on hand. Usually I can count on my freezer for some smoked or Italian sausage and that becomes the base. If I’m doing a vegetarian soup, like the lentil soup pictured above, I just use beans and grains to give it some heft. You could also use veggie sausage*. Once I have a base for the soup, I choose my spices. If I’m using sausages I use fewer spices since the sausage has plenty of seasoning in it. If I’m using chicken, beans, or a ground meat for my base then I get more creative. Lately I’ve been experimenting with a jar of Berbere (Ethiopian) and some Ras El Hanout (Moroccan) that I acquired on vacation last year. Other good choices include Curry Powder, Cajun Seasoning, and Paprika. Once the spices are picked out, I choose my aromatics (Things like onion, garlic, carrots, celery), my other vegetables, beans if I want them, grains, and any greens I might want. I created a chart that can help you build your own soup.
Once the choices are made the process is pretty easy.
- Start by cooking your aromatics in a little bit of oil
- Add meat and cook until it is browned
- Add spices and vegetables and cook until spices are fragrant (about a minute)
- Add liquid and beans
- Bring to a boil and then lower to a simmer for about 30 minutes
- While it’s simmering cook any grains that you want to add
- Add greens for 5-10 minutes before you’re ready to serve. (If using spinach add that at the very end)
- Add cooked pasta/grains
- Enjoy the warmth of a homemade bowl of soup
- If you don’t have broth, use water. This is especially true if you are using a flavored sausage. You can also add a little bit of Better Than Bouillon to your water to make a quick broth.
- I usually use canned beans and I drain and rinse them to remove excess sodium. If you just pour them from can to pot, then maybe use less liquid.
- The amount of liquid you use depends on how soupy you want it vs. how stewy you want it. I usually use between 2 and 6 cups of liquid. A lot of this depends on how many cans of tomatoes I’m using.
- Cook pasta and grains separately and add it to each serving. I find that for leftovers the grains soak up too much liquid and you are left with not even much of a stew. This is always sad because soup tastes so much better the next day.
Some ideas to get you started
- Taco Soup: Hamburger, Onion, Garlic, Jalapeno Peppers, Black Beans, Taco Seasoning, Diced Tomatoes, Green Chiles
- Cajun Minestrone: Bell Peppers, Celery, Carrots, Onion, Cajun Seasoning, Veggie Broth, Red Beans, Tomatoes, Zucchini, Macaroni
- Sausage Tortellini: Onion, Garlic, Carrots, Italian Sausage, Italian Seasoning, Chicken Broth, White Beans, Tortellini, Spinach
*I think Field Roast makes a few different kinds that are widely available.