Making Soup without a Recipe
Crystal Miller


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 hand.

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 onion.

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 so on.

Finally add the extra seasonings listed above and taste. Make taste adjustments as needed. Serve to your eagerly waiting family!

Bread recipes to serve with your soup:


Garlic Cheese Dinner Rolls
Emily's Garlic Cheese Bread
Potato Bread
Whole Wheat Oat Dinner Rolls

 

Other options to serve with soup are: crackers, tortilla chips, corn bread or biscuits.

 

 

 

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