If you have never made vegetable soup from scratch before, the process might be a bit of a mystery. What do you use for the broth? Which vegetables do you use? Does it have to include meat? And what is scratch, anyway?
Making soup from "scratch" is just making soup, instead of opening a can. Some purists feel that all of the elements of the soup should be fresh and homemade. I love making broth, or stock, but I have also found acceptable store bought substitutes. If you love making everything, from the broth to grinding your own spice mix, that is a wonderful thing. My recipe focus is on creating a delicious soup with what you have on hand. I believe in making life easy for myself, while having a delightful soup to eat with my sandwiches.
There are several essential components of this soup. They are broth, vegetables, protein, spices, and tomatoes.
Essential soup components:
Broth, or stock can be made by boiling bones and meat until you have a wonderful soup base. The meat and bones are strained out. Any fat is removed and the resulting liquid is used to make soup. You can also buy various meat broths at the store. Vegetable stock is also available, if you want to make a vegetarian vegetable soup. I use the Kirkland brand of soup stock, when I don't make my own. Swanson has been making soup stock for years, too.
Vegetables can be purchased especially for the soup, or you can use what is in your refrigerator. I prefer to do the latter. Every soup is different, and they are all culinary adventures when you use what is on hand. You know those vegetables that are too good to throw away, but they have lost their crunch? That's right; they are perfect for soup making! The vegetables that I feel are essential for soup are onion and celery. Everything else is up for grabs! Wrinkled peppers? Chop them up and toss them in! You can't use rotten veggies, that's a definite no-no. However, if the veggie is still good, it is fair game for your vegetable soup pot.
Here are vegetable-based foods that work well in vegetable soup:
Low-carb veggies-celery, onion, peppers, carrots, green beans, sugar snap peas, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, cabbage, tomatoes, jicama, yellow squash, zucchini, turnips.
Carbohydrates (from vegetable sources) -potatoes, mixed vegetables, barley, canned or frozen corn kernels, rice, quinoa, and noodles. Except for the potatoes and mixed vegetables, add these ingredients last. Have the barley, frozen corn, rice, quinoa, or noodles already cooked. Potatoes and mixed vegetables can cook with the vegetables.
Protein can be animal or plant based. Chunks of beef, buffalo, pork, chicken, or turkey are all tasty additives to a vegetable soup. However, don't forget plant based protein. Sauteed tofu is a delicious addition. Beans are important sources of protein. Adding a couple of cans of beans improves the protein profile of any vegetable soup. I enjoy garbanzos, pintos, Great Northern, and black beans. Lentils work well, too.
Spices can add zest to your soup. I enjoy adding a couple of bay leaves to any vegetable soup. You can also incorporate any herb or spice that you enjoy. Parsley, thyme, basil, pepper, beau monde, country blend, Italian spices are all good in vegetable soup. Just don't use them all at the same time! I like Old Bay seasoning for my vegetable soup. It gives it a nice kick of flavor and a tiny bit of heat.
Tomatoes are added after the other vegetables have finished cooking. They help cool the soup down. You can use canned diced tomatoes, stewed tomatoes, Italian flavored tomatoes, spicy tomatoes, or crushed tomatoes. I add enough to flavor, but not overwhelm the broth. I also add some old-fashioned V-8. I love what the blend of juices does for my broth. It's okay to buy the store brand of mixed vegetable juice, too.
Easy Vegetable Soup Recipe
6 cups broth
6-10 cups of coarsely chopped vegetables of your choice
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon (more or less to taste) of Old Bay Seasoning
1 can diced tomatoes
16 ounces of V-8 vegetable juice
1 large can of beans (I used pinto beans.
1 can of corn kernels (I used Green Giant because they are crunchy.)
In a large Dutch oven, heat the broth to a fast boil. Add your vegetables. Over high heat, bring the broth and vegetables back up to a boil. Lower the heat until the soup is just simmering. Add the bay leaves and Old Bay Seasoning. Cook until the vegetables are at the texture where you enjoy them. I cooked mine for 25 minutes. Turn the soup off and add the tomato products and any carbohydrates, like the beans and the corn kernels. This helps cool the soup down a little. Let stand for 5-10 minutes, then serve your soup. This is great with grilled cheese sandwiches.
I am finishing a nice bowl of vegetable soup as I am writing this. My fridge had some wilted sweet mini-peppers and zucchini that were in desperate need of a good home. So, I grabbed some of my turkey stock, and put it on to boil. Then, I rough chopped celery, onions, sweet mini-peppers, zucchini, carrots, and some frozen green beans. The whole thing was spiced up with bay leaves and Old Bay Seasoning. After the veggies cooked, I added a can of corn, diced tomatoes, pinto beans, and the V-8. This is soul-satisfying food, and it helps me use what is in my refrigerator.
Being able to make soup from what you have on hand is part of running a frugal household. This recipe makes enough soup to freeze part of it or eat soup for several days. You could also serve it with sandwiches at a gathering, since it will easily serve 8-10 people.
Make a soup that pleases you! Then, share your creativity with us on the BellaOnline Sandwiches Forum. What's your soup du jour?