I am one of those people who will drink a hot cup of coffee on a sweltering July day and certainly have no problem eating a big bowl of soup even on the hottest, most humid Midwest summer day. But, for most people, soup is relegated to the fall and winter. Soup is a perfect cold weather meal. It is simple to prepare, provides plenty of left-overs and can be a healthy, nutrient-dense meal.
Grab that stock pot and cook up a bowl of comfort!
I am not a recipe follower. I tend to look at a recipe, get an idea of what I am supposed to do, then just freestyle it. I have had great success - and quite a few failures! However, soup is one meal you can make without a recipe. Just a few basics and you will be on your way to whipping together your own tasty creations.
I almost always start with a mirepoix. A what??? Well, just a fancy French term for a mix of celery, carrots and onion. I cook the mixture in a small amount of oil over low heat just until they begin to release some liquid - only a few minutes. This mirepoix, along with a bay leaf or two, is included in nearly every soup recipe I make. In fact, I use it enough that every month or so I make a big batch and divide it up into 1 cup portions then freeze it. When I want to make a soup, I just grab a cup or two and I am ready to go.
With the mirepoix and some broth or stock, the possibilities are really endless. Sometimes I make a soup just to use up leftovers. When I have small portions of chicken, vegetables, and rice that I need to use up, I just add them to the broth and have a warming bowl of soup.
Often my weekly menu includes soup for dinner on Sundays. It is easy to throw together while I am prepping food for the week and I can throw it in the slow cooker and let it cook all day. Some of my favorites include Minestrone, Chicken Tortilla, Chicken with Mushrooms and Wild Rice, Black Bean, and Butternut Squash.
Soup is not a meal you eat quickly. Sitting down to enjoy a bowl of soup relaxes the body and calms your mind. The aroma and warmth of the soup are comforting and, because it is nearly impossible to wolf down a bowl of soup, you are forced to slow down for awhile. Somehow stress seems to slowly melt away and your soul feels happy.
Since we just celebrated Thanksgiving, I have to begin with a turkey soup. I love turkey and wild rice, and a soup with those 2 ingredients is delicious.
Turkey and Wild Rice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
4 chopped carrots
4 stalks celery chopped
1 bay leaf
4 cups chicken broth
2/3 cup wild rice blend
2 ½ cups water
8 ounces cooked, diced leftover turkey (or chicken)
In a large pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion, carrots and celery and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion begins to soften (about 3 minutes) then add garlic and cook for about 1 more minute.
Add chicken broth, bay leaf, rice, and water. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to low and simmer (covered) for about 35 minutes.
Stir in cooked turkey and simmer just until heated through.
Season soup with salt and pepper, to taste.
Serve immediately, or allow to cool completely before storing in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Variations: Use up those Thanksgiving leftovers and toss in some brussels sprouts or green beans. Want to add more veggies? Mushrooms, spinach, zucchini or broccoli (or a combination of them all!) provide lots of nutrients and flavor.
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 large carrots, chopped small
2 ribs of celery, chopped
2 small zucchini, sliced into half rounds
1 large bay leaf
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 teaspoons mixed Italian herbs, or 1½ teaspoons dried basil + ½ teaspoon dried oregano
1 28-ounce can of crushed or diced tomatoes (including juices), preferably San Marzano tomatoes
1 can garbanzo beans (a.k.a. chickpeas), drained and rinsed
1 quart organic chicken stock, bone broth, veggie stock or water
1 quart purified water
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
1 cup frozen greens, such as frozen kale, or 2 cups fresh greens, chopped (this is a great way to use up extra bagged spinach)
Season with salt and pepper to taste
Heat the olive oil in a pan then add the veggies and garlic. Once the veggies have started to release liquid, add the remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and cook until veggies are softened.
Optional: Parmesan cheese is a must for me with minestrone! Add crushed red pepper flakes for a bit of a kick and/or 1 tablespoon pesto. My husband likes this with pasta in it. I cook up some ditalani or any other small pasta I may have. Rather than adding it directly to the soup, he just puts some pasta in the bottom of the bowl and tops it with the soup.
Simple Chicken Soup
7 cups chicken stock
2 chicken breasts
2 bay leaves
1 onion, chopped
3 celery stalks, chopped
2 large carrots, chopped
1 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbsp fresh parsley or 1 tsp dried parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
2 cups noodles if desired or 1 cup cooked rice
Heat small amount of oil in large soup pan. Add onions, celery, carrots, and garlic and cook until just beginning to release moisture. Add the chicken stock, chicken, and bay leaves to a large pot. Bring to a boil, lower the heat and cook on medium for 25 minutes or until the carrots are soft. Remove the chicken breasts from the pot and shred with a fork. *You can add noodles to the pot and let them cook in the soup. Bring the soup back to a boil then lower the heat until the noodles are cooked. Add the chicken back to the soup. If needed, thin soup with additional stock or water. Season with salt and pepper and enjoy piping hot.
If you are adding cooked rice, add at the end and continue cooking for 5-10 minutes or until heated through. *I prefer to cook noodles separately then add them to the soup. Once cooked, I drain the starch liquid from the noodles and add them to the soup.
Variations: Add a thumb-size piece of grated ginger along with the veggies and garlic. Add chopped spinach and white beans. Add some fresh or frozen green beans and season with dill.
Chicken Tortilla Soup
Use the simple chicken noodle soup recipe but with a few changes. Heat green bell peppers or chili peppers along with the onions, celery and carrots. Forget the pasta or rice and add a can of black beans along with a can of petite diced tomatoes once the carrots are soft. A cup of frozen corn is a tasty addition. Season with chili powder, hot sauce, or salsa - you determine the level of heat. Top with sliced avocado, cilantro and some crunch tortilla strips.
Butternut Squash Soup
I love butternut squash soup - it tastes like a splurge, but it is really healthy! Yes, you can add some cream to it, but the soup has a creamy texture of its own. There are many variations you can try. Spice it up with some Red Curry Paste, freshly grated ginger and coconut milk for a tasty Thai variation. Or highlight the flavors of fall by sprinkling with cinnamon and a touch of ground cloves. A dollop of Greek yogurt, a drizzle of maple syrup and a few chopped walnuts transforms this into a rich and creamy bowl of comfort.
Oil for pan
1/2 small onion chopped
3 celery stalks chopped
2 carrots chopped
1 tblsp grated fresh ginger, if desired
1 2-3 pound butternut squash, peeled and cut into cubes
3-4 cups vegetable stock
Quick version: Heat onions, celery and carrots in small amount of oil until slightly softened. Add ginger and continue to cook or 1 more minute. Add butternut squash and vegetable stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer (covered) until squash I tender.
Working in batches: Carefully ladle squash and broth into blender container and blend until creamy. Pour into large bowl and repeat with remaining squash and broth until it is all blended. ** When blending hot liquids, always make sure the lid is vented to allow steam to escape; carefully cover opening with a towel to avoid splatters.
Variations: Top with a swirl of sour cream or Greek yogurt; sprinkle with cinnamon; top with pepitas and/or chopped apple; for a bit of sweet-heat, add some cayenne pepper then top with a sprinkling of Aleppo pepper or smoked paprika.
Roasted version - I actually prefer to make this soup with roasted butternut squash. This usually happens near the end of a week when I have roasted too much squash. I make the soup broth as above, but just toss the roasted squash directly into the blender. Then I add some hot broth to it and blend away. Roasting brings out such a wonderful flavor in many veggies and butternut squash definitely benefits from the carmelization and the soup has more depth of flavor.
Making soup does not require long hours over a stove. Chop up a mirepoix, heat slowly until it releases some liquid, and broth and your favorite ingredients and in about 30 minutes
you can sit down with a big bowl of soup that nourishes your body and feeds your soul!
Thanks for reading! I hope these recipes inspire your own creations.