Sure, you can open a can. (The chunky-style soups, by the way, can often be lengthened out with a half-canful of water or milk. Or the addition of chunked leftover vegetables, potatoes or rice.) It’s almost as easy, though, to make your own custom broth. All it takes is the “Pick ’em” technique.
You’ll need a kettle or a crockpot, and a few hours’ simmering time. Choose one item from each of the following categories: Broth, Veggies, Meat/Protein, Carbs, Spices and Goodies. (Remember: you can add more than one item, especially in veggies and spices.)
Amounts given add up to 6-8 hearty servings. What…you’re cooking for only one or two people? Soup keeps in the refrigerator up to a week, and freezes well.
2 large cans of chicken or beef broth
10-12 cups water plus 4 bouillon cubes
Broth from meat or chicken bones and veggie trimmings, simmered for 4-8 hours (strain the broth, throw away the solids after you strip off any meat)
- 2 cups each of one or more of the following, chopped:
- Onions, celery (these two are always good)
- Carrots, peas, corn, green beans, mushrooms (sliced), cabbage (or 1 cup drained sauerkraut), tomatoes, green chilies
- Spinach, kale, collards or other greens (wait until just before serving to add the spinach)
- 2 cups chopped chicken, beef, ham, pork (cooked or raw)
- 1 small can chunked chicken breast or turkey
- 2 cups shrimp, shelled and chopped
- 1 pound sausage meat — or chopped link-style sausage or bratwurst
- 2 cups (or one standard can) cooked beans (red, kidney, white, Northern, blackeyed peas)
- 2 beaten eggs (add last ten minutes of cooking)
- 2 cups chopped potatoes
- 1 cup cooked or 1/2 cup raw rice
- 2 cups cooked or 1 cup uncooked noodles
- 1 cup cubed squash or pumpkin
- A few teaspoons of marjoram, basil, oregano, garlic, Herbes de Provence, parsley, cilantro (added at the last minute), dry onion soup mix, cajun seasoning, chili or curry powder. (If you’re uncertain about the mix, try one spice at a time. Mix others in, after you know what goes well together.)
- Also nice: a few tablespoons of lime or lemon juice. A teaspoon of Louisiana-style hot sauce. A few tablespoons of salsa — red or verde. (Leftover packets from Taco Bell or elsewhere are great for this.) Beef or pork soups also benefit from a few spoonfuls of Worcestershire or steak sauce.
Top your soup with these just before serving.
- A little extra milk or cream, stirred in
- Grated cheese (don’t forget Parmesan, either)
- Croutons or bread chunks
- Tablespoon chopped cooked bacon
- A sprinkling of chopped fresh green herbs
- Tablespoon of sour cream
- Teaspoon of butter
Dump everything (goodies excepted) in a pot, starting with the broth. (Saute beef or pork in olive oil first, if you like a richer color.) Simmer slowly at least an hour — but up to 8-10 hours on low, or in a crockpot. Add salt and fresh-ground pepper to taste, and a little more spice, if your soup isn’t flavorful enough. Top each steaming bowl with your choice of goodies…and enjoy.
Cindy Brick is a personal property appraiser, judge and national teacher who loves to write about frugality and other personal finance topics. She has written six books and hundreds of articles, but often focuses on quilting, her teaching specialty. She lives in Colorado with her husband, two golden labs and a flock of very suspicious chickens. Find out more at Brickworks, http://www.cindybrick.com, or visit her personal blog: http://www.cindybrick.blogspot.com