I’m not the most organized person in the world. Or let me put that in a less self-critical way—I have a lot going on right now. Things like planned-out trips to the grocery, complete with shopping list, don’t always make it from the ideal to the actual. I tend to run in to the store for a bottle of Diet Coke, remember I’m out of ranch dressing, decide I need a few cans of soup halfway down aisle four and walk out with three bags full of things that may or may actually make a meal. Which is fine—I live less than a minute from the corner shop. It’s not like I’m going to starve if I don’t lay in provisions for the long, hard winter. Or that we really have long, hard winters here in South Carolina.
Because of my slightly random method of shopping, I often end up with multiples of things I use frequently. Which would be lovely, if space were unlimited. Since is definitely not unlimited, the four bags of frozen peas in the freezer are kind of cramping my style.
I’m getting braver in the kitchen (yay!), and I’ve had a bit of a revelation: all of the recipes for, say, chicken dumplings are essentially the same. If I can learn to do the basics—and those are really basic and seem to be more about proper tools than anything else—then it’s just a matter of finding the recipes that I prefer. Recipes that go together quickly, that don’t require things not usually in my pantry, that taste good to me, and that do what I need them to do (like freeze and thaw well or use up extra stuff in the freezer)–that’s really all I need.
So instead of framing this cooking thing I’m doing as a learning experience—me as the acolyte to some god of cooking—I’m actually just interviewing the recipes. Some work, some don’t, some are a bit too high-maintenance to be happy here, some will be used fourteen more times before Christmas. I’m not sure why that seems such an important distinction—but it shifts the power back to me. And hey, I’m in favor of anything that makes me feel more in control of my life.
This Beefy Vegetable Soup was sort of a start out with this, let’s throw that in, and oh, that’s about to go bad so throw that in too type recipe. And it was delicious. I’ll tell you what I did—just in case you want a detailed recipe–but you could easily switch out the veggies for whatever you have too much of, switch the ground beef for that bit of ground turkey that’s been hanging out in your freezer for too long… whatever. Make it up as you go. It’ll be delicious, you’ll see.
- 1 pound of ground meat (I used 1/2 a pound of breakfast sausage and 1/2 a pound of ground beef.)
- an onion
- a few potatoes
- 1 large can of crushed tomatoes (28 oz size)
- veggies: I used half a bag of baby carrots, chopped into medallions; a 16 oz bag of frozen corn; a can of diced tomatoes; and about 20 oz (a bag and a half) of frozen peas.
- a clove of garlic, salt, pepper
Here’s what I did:
- Sautee onion and garlic together, until onion is soft and translucent, in a large soup pot.
- Add meat and brown it.
- Add can of crushed tomatoes to pot, then fill the can with water and add that to pot as well. (This is the base of the soup—add more water as you’re cooking if it seems too thick. The more veggies I added, the more water I added. Since we’re not working with precise quantities, it’s more of a how it looks to you kind of thing.)
- If you’re using any other cans of tomatoes (I did, because I wanted a few tomato chunks in the soup) go ahead and add that now.
- Add the solid vegetables: carrots and potatoes
- Simmer for 20 minutes. Grab a spoon and check the carrots and potatoes at the end of that time. They shouldn’t be crunchy—depending on how big your pieces were, you might need to add a bit more time.
- While the soup is simmering, thaw any frozen vegetables you’re using. I had 2 steamer bags, so I could put them straight in the microwave. If you’ve got traditional bags, then put the vegetables in a microwave safe bowl, add enough water to cover, 10 minutes in the microwave (or look at the instructions on the back of the bag) and drain. Canned vegetables? just drain and add to soup.
- Add the frozen veggies as soon as they aren’t frozen anymore.
- Soup is done when the vegetables are done.
And good god, is it delicious. I think I’ve eaten four bowls of it in the past 24 hours. The tomato base makes it really tangy, the meat kind of mellows it out and all of those vegetables just make you feel invincible.
This took about 40 minutes—maybe 15 minutes actually standing at the stove or chopping, the rest just waiting on things to simmer, and it made so much soup that I’m pretty sure I could feed the entire resistance. If, you know, that’s what I needed to do.