Saturday, October 14, 2017

Vegetable Soup - The Easiest Ever!

Quick & Easy Vegetable Soup
Have you ever got the hankering for soup but didn't have the time or motivation for a 2-3 hour cooking session? That’s what happened to me a few days ago. I wanted to make a soup that was chock full of vegetables, but I didn’t want to spend time and energy peeling and chopping. What to do? Look to my pantry and freezer, that’s what!

I made the soup. It was fast and easy. And it was another Pull Out wonder – pulled out of my pantry and pulled out of my freezer.

I started with frozen mirepoix – a combination of chopped onions, carrots, and celery. My local supermarkets carry store and name brands with the other frozen vegetables. And many stores also offer freshly prepared mirepoix in their produce sections. I sauted about 1½ cups of the vegetables in a couple tablespoons of olive oil.

Once the mirepoix vegetables were tender, I added a 32 ounce carton of no-salt-added chicken broth along with a can of salt-free petite diced tomatoes. For extra flavor, I added some Penzey’s dried minced garlic, a bay leaf, and several whole black peppercorns (in a tea ball). I sprinkled in about ½ tsp. of savory leaves, and I threw in a sugar cube to combat the tartness of the tomatoes.

I let the broth mixture simmer for 15-20 minutes before adding about 2 cups of frozen mixed vegetables: corn, peas, carrots, lima beans, and green beans. I also included one peeled and cubed Russet potato that needed to be used up. (Peeling and chopping the potato was the hardest bit of work involved in making the soup.) Then everything simmered for another 15-20 minutes until the vegetables were tender and the potato was cooked through.

That was it! Vegetable soup in a flash! And, believe it or not, it was quite tasty. We were in the midst of a busy week and really appreciated having a good tasting and good-for-us soup available for quick snacks or meals.

One nice thing is that the soup can be slightly different each time you make it. Use different herb blends to create different flavor profiles. Use different frozen vegetables rather than the traditional corn, peas, carrots, lima beans, and green beans blend. Try an entirely different blend or perhaps just focus on one or two vegetables. Include a bit of pasta or rice instead of the potato. Or maybe use cubed sweet potatoes for an uniquely different flavor. Maybe leave out the tomatoes altogether.

Most grocery stores carry a lot of pre-prepped vegetables in their produce sections. Same with their freezer sections. Experiment. Who knows what tasty combos you might come up with?

For example, this week, I made a fast corn-potato chowder. Same method but without the tomatoes. I flavored the chowder with poultry seasoning. Once I even stirred in a bit of cream just before serving. Next week I plan to make a minestrone style soup using a frozen Italian vegetable medley (Italian green beans, cauliflower, carrots, red pepper, and zucchini) and seasoned with a NSA Italian herb blend.
Jiffy Corn Chowder
Vegetable Soup in a Flash!

1 - 2 cups frozen mirepoix
2 tbsp olive oil
32 oz salt-free chicken or vegetable broth
14.5 oz can salt-free diced tomatoes
½ - 1 tsp sugar (if desired)
Garlic to taste (fresh, frozen cubes, dried minced, powdered, jarred)
Black pepper to taste
1 bay leaf
Herbs or spices to taste (Examples: Italian herb blend, chili powder, poultry seasoning, curry powder, thyme, basil, chives, etc.)
2 cups frozen vegetables of choice

Optional Add Ins:
1-2 cups peeled and cubed potato (russet, red, Yukon gold, sweet, etc.)
1-2 cups packaged coleslaw
Pasta – small, thin shapes that cook quickly in the soup broth (stars, alphabets, pastina, fideo, etc.)
Rice – quick cooking/instant, ready-to-serve, frozen (my local stores carry a couple of brands of fully cooked NSA white or brown rice in bowls/pouches in the pasta aisle and also in the freezer section)
Beans – NSA canned or frozen (my local stores all carry baby limas and black eyed peas along with a few other choices like black beans, garbanzos, and lentils in the freezer section)
Mushrooms – NSA frozen, canned, dried/freeze dried

Saute the mirepoix in olive oil. Once the vegetables are tender, add no-salt-added broth along with salt-free diced tomatoes. Add garlic, bay leaf, and black pepper. Add herbs of choice and sugar, if desired.

Let mixture simmer for about 15-20 minutes before adding 2 cups of frozen mixed vegetables. Add options of choice. Stir and simmer together for another 15-20 minutes until all vegetables are tender.

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