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Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Soup Tales

"I love soup," a roommate of mine said a few years ago.  I had just moved to the Chicago area from Southern California and it had yet to get cold. I thought it was kind of a weird thing to say.  I mean, soup, right?  That food we feed to the elderly and the sick?
Then it got cold.  I got it a little more.
Then I had a family to feed.  I got it a little more.
Then I had to start to watching my weight a little closer, because I turned 30.  I got it a little more.

I love soup.
Especially when it's cold.  Here in New England it's cold for a good six to eight months of the year.  I give soup a break in the warmer months, but about October that hot brothy food starts to sound good again.  Then I stop again in April when I am a bit tired of eating dinner from a bowl.  Probably my family is as well.

Soup is also a great 'dump' meal.  You just take what you have in the kitchen, throw it in the pot, and throw broth over it.
There is a basic recipe for soup starting with a mirepoix; chopped up carrots, onions, and celery.  If you are cooking a creole, latin, or southwestern soup swap out the celery for red or green peppers; onions, carrots, and peppers are referred to as the 'holy trinity' of creole cooking.  Celery gives the soup a more French or European base.  I always keep carrots, celery, and onions around in the winter.  They're a good staple to have on hand in general.
How big should I chop them?
That is a whole sweet onion, four stalks of celery,
and about four carrots.
Keep in mind when chopping that you will be eating
with a spoon, so whatever size looks
 good in a spoon.  So, fairly small.

After you've assembled your mirepoix which you can throw in the bottom of a crock pot or saute in the bottom of a stock pot, you can consider what you want the rest of the soup to be, including a carbohydrate, a protein, and more vegetables.  You can add those to the pot keeping in mind how long they need to cook.  A trick I have learned recently is that you can throw meat raw and whole into the crock pot or stock pot and then just 'pull' it before serving.  That way you save the step of sauteing or chopping it separately.  Who likes to chop raw chicken?  I am not enamored of it.
The plastic containers with green lids are frozen
homemade chicken broth.
These are the ingredients for a basic lentil soup.  After I threw my mirepoix in the crock pot, I added a couple of chopped potatoes, two cans of broth, some garlic, and two cans of diced tomatoes.
Turn on high, stir a few times throughout the day, come back about 6-8 hours later, there is supper.

I did have to add a bit more water, which if you throw in a bouillon cube that water essentially turns into broth.  Bouillon is not as good as homemade broth, but watery soup is terrible.


And dinner.

I choose to use homemade broth whenever I can, because there are health benefits to real broth.  I try to avoid processed foods whenever I can, and canned broth is a processed food.  As is bouillon.  You will never add as much sodium as is contained in these foods, because you are concerned about your heart health.  Manufacturers are not concerned about your heart health, they are concerned that you will buy their product again, so they add lots more salt than you would.  (This same principle works with sugar.)

At the end of the cooking time I added a link of kielbasa.
But Lara that's processed!
I know, it's also tasty.  And one link added to a doubled recipe of lentil soup probably isn't going to kill me.  Or maybe it is.
I have started to double soup whenever I make it, and then freezing the leftovers.  I love it for lunch.  Soup feels like a nutritional magic bullet.  Especially in winter.  Broth based soups can be low in calories,  high in nutrition, and hot.  Hot is important when you have just had three feet of snow land on your house.
I would love to hear your favorite soup recipes!  After six to eight months of soups I find myself repeating my recipes a lot.  I'd love some new ideas!

Basic Lentil Soup
Feeds 4-6
Half sweet onion (chopped small)
2 carrots (chopped small)
2 stalks celery (chopped small)
1 cup lentils
2 potatoes (chopped into one inch chunks)
2 cups chicken, veggie, or beef broth
1 can diced tomatoes
1/2 - whole kielbasa link (optional)
Layer onions, carrots, and celery in the bottom of a crock pot.  Add potatoes, and lentils.  Add your broth and tomatoes.  Turn the crock pot on high.  Come back in 4-5 hours and add kielbasa.  Come back in 1-2 hours and eat it.

You might want to check on your simmering stew more if it's your first time using a crock pot.  Crock pots vary.  A general rule is High for 4-6 hours or Low for 8-10 hours.  My lentils have a hard time cooking in time, I think I am starting them too late in the morning.  Like at 10am rather than 8am or 7am.  Earlier the better.

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