When I make soup I will occasionally
follow a recipe, but not always. I have found that often times the most frugal
use of my food can create some yummy soup combinations. Taking a few of last
nights leftovers and adding a few more ingredients from freezer and pantry can
yield a delicious homemade soup. This makes better use of the food you have
(prevents science experiments from taking place in your refrigerator ~smile~)
and is super good on the food budget. Serve these soups with homemade bread or
biscuits and watch your family smile in satisfaction.
If you donít feel you are creative enough to come up with your own soup, think
again. It is easy to do and I will show you how step by step. When I decide it
is soup time I take a look at what I have on hand and then decide what type of
soup to make. I have a basic soup method that serves me well in being creative
and resourceful in feeding my family and making the best use of what I have on
Here is my basic soup from scratch method:
A soup needs to be made up of certain components. The following is a list of
each of these components that I add to a soup.
1. A meat of some sort. This does not have to be a lot. It can be
leftover beef, chicken, pork, etc, or in the absence of leftovers it may be
some fried bacon or sausage or some hamburger or chicken (I purchase boneless,
skinless chicken thighs from Costco to have on hand.). I just look to see what
I already have. A meat is not a must, you can have a very nice meatless soup
as well. When I add meat to soups I tend to look at it more as a way to
flavor the soup than as the main substance of the soup. So a little meat can
go a long way; I recently made a large pot of vegetable soup for my family
using only 3 pieces of cut up bacon.
2. Some type of vegetable. This may be as simple as some onions and
mushrooms to fry up with either my meat or in a little olive oil. Or it may be
any type of veggie I have in my fridge or freezer. If I have not been to the
store in awhile then I may be out of fresh veggies so I rely on frozen peas,
corn, broccoli, etc. Also canned veggies work too. I throw in canned green
beans and/or diced tomatoes. When I do my shopping I try and throw in extra
bags or cans of vegetables so I will have them when I want to make soup.
3. Beans, rice, pasta or potatoes. The first choice for me is to use
leftovers. So if I have already cooked beans, rice, pasta or potatoes sitting
in the fridge I will use whatever it is I have. If I donít have this and know
I want to make soup for dinner then I may soak some beans or rice and then add
them to my soup pot later in the afternoon. If I am short on time and did not
plan well or my soup was Ďspur of the momentí then I will use pasta or
potatoes because they cook much faster than beans and rice do. I find these
types of starchy ingredients will typically be the bulk of the soup, so it is
important to use the best quality possible; whole grain pasta (I recently have
been using brown rice pasta in my soups with good success), and brown rice.
4. Finally some type of seasoning. There are some very basic ways to go
when you are seasoning your soups. First and foremost is salt. I always add
salt to whatever I am cooking. You need to add salt according to your familyís
own taste and a little pepper as well. Usually I add some type of bullion cube
or powder, my preference is chicken flavored or vegetable flavored. I find the
beef flavored broths to be too strong tasting for our familyís taste. I go
very light on this. But if you have seasoned it with salt and pepper and still
find your broth to be lacking. Try adding 2 or 3 bullion cubes (or tablespoons
of powder) and see if that gives you what you are looking for.
After the basic seasoning is done then I may choose what direction to take my
soup. Here are my typical choices:
A. Italian: I will add tomatoes (canned, diced, fresh), and Italian
seasonings. B. Mexican: I add a bit of taco seasoning or spicy canned tomatoes or
salsa. Or chili powder for more of a chili taste. C. Chinese: I add a little soy sauce and maybe some sweet/hot chili
sauce from the Asian market. D. We like hot spicy food so often the only extra ingredient I add to
the basic soup seasoning is Tabasco sauce.
Once you get to the point where making your own soup creations is a simple
thing then you can begin to branch out and try your own seasoning variations
and see what your family would enjoy.
Now that you know what ingredients you want to use what is the next step? It
is time to get cooking! I look at what foods I am using for my batch of soup
and see what I need to start cooking first.
I put the soup pot on the
stove and usually add a little olive oil and let this heat up. While that is
heating up I chop up an onion (most all my soups have onions in them) and add
this to the pot. If I have raw meat I would cook this up along with the onion.
If I have any other veggies I want to make sure are nice and soft, like fresh
mushrooms, celery, peppers, I add those into the pot with the olive oil and
After this is done cooking I add water. For my family I usually add about 12
cups of water. If your family is smaller use less. This is very flexible and
you will soon learn what is just right for your family. After I add water, I
add salt. I find 1 tablespoon of salt for 12 cups of water to be right for us.
Bring this to a boil and add any hard veggies, such as carrots or potatoes,
and beans or rice that would require longer cooking times. Let these cook
until they are soft. Finally add the ingredients that only require short
cooking times. This is when I would add canned green beans, canned tomatoes,
frozen veggies, pasta or any precooked foods such as cooked beans, rice, and
Finally add the extra seasonings listed above and taste. Make taste
adjustments as needed. Serve to your eagerly waiting family!