Sunday Supper: Beefy Vegetable Soup

In an attempt to continue to expand my culinary horizons, I’m challenging myself to try a new recipe each week.
I’ll relate my triumphs and failures here, just in time for your Sunday supper.
 food collage

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.

Here’s what I used: 10.29.11 095

  • 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.

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  • 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

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  • 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. 

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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. 

Enjoy! 

French Onion Soup: cures what ails ya

Here is what you do when feeling stupidly melancholy about the boyfriend leaving for a measly six weeks: make French Onion Soup! 

I’ve had a stash of this soup in the freezer since I first stumbled across the recipe on The Pioneer Woman. Trust me. It’ll change your life. It’s easy-peasy, it’s cheap as all get out, and it freezes and thaws quite wonderfully. 

French Onion Soup, via The Pioneer Woman

Ingredients

  • 1 stick Butter
  • 4 whole Large (or 6 Medium) Yellow Onions, Halved Root To Tip, And Sliced Thin
  • 1 cup (generous) Dry White Wine
  • 4 cups Low Sodium Chicken Broth
  • 4 cups Beef Broth
  • 2 cloves Minced Garlic
  • Worcestershire Sauce
  • Several Thick Slices Of French Bread Or Baguette
  • 5 ounces, weight (to 7 Ounces) Gruyere Cheese, Grated

Preparation Instructions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Melt butter in a heavy soup pot or Dutch oven over medium-low heat. Add onions and cook, covered, for 20 minutes. Place soup pot into the oven with the lid slightly ajar to ensure the onions will brown. Allow onions to cook in the oven for 1 hour, stirring at least once during the cooking process so onions won’t stick and burn.

Remove pot from oven and place back on stovetop over medium heat. Stir, scraping off all the brown, flavorful bits. Turn off heat and pour in wine. Turn heat back to medium. Cook wine for five minutes, allowing it to reduce. Add broths, Worcestershire Sauce and minced garlic and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 30 to 45 minutes.

Butter one side of the bread slices and broil over low heat, allowing bread to brown and become crispy.
When soup is ready, ladle into bowl or ramekin. Place crispy bread on top, and then sprinkle generously with grated cheese. Broil until cheese is melted and bubbly.

Serve immediately.

So tonight, even though my house is a tad less inhabited than I’d prefer, everything smells delicious, all of that onion chopping gave me a good excuse for the totally unnecessary sniffles whose existence I’ll be adamantly denying tomorrow, and since the recipe called for a glass of wine, I’m absolutely justified in opening that bottle. 

Life is good. Even if it is a little sniffly right now. 

Sunday Supper: Crock Pot Chicken and Corn Chowder

In an attempt to continue to expand my culinary horizons, I’m challenging myself to try a new recipe each week.
I’ll relate my triumphs and failures here, just in time for your Sunday supper. food collage

This chowder might just be easier than my go-to chili recipe, and that’s saying something. Which is good— today I need all the easy I can get. 

books.10.16.11I’m spending the day at my the kitchen table, cranking out annotations for my Victorian Ghosties bibliography. It’s due Tuesday. And I don’t get to leave the table until my homework is done.

My self-imposed imprisonment is being aided and abetted by the chowder that is currently simmering in the crockpot. If I didn’t have to be in the kitchen, I’d probably be in here anyway, just sniffing the air.

Whenever I think about posting a recipe, especially one this easy, I have a totally self-conscious moment in which I imagine someone else reading this, in a magazine-perfect kitchen complete with granite counters and one of those multi-functional islands that always have kid sitting on them in the advertisements, shaking her head and thinking The poor dear. That’s not cooking! That’s just opening cans! Anyone could do that! And then she turns back to the stove to snip some fresh herbs into whatever smells so delicious in that pot on the stove.

And then I give myself a mental slap, tell myself to snap out of it, and chill.

But she’s right—whoever this judgey cook-person is—anyone could do this. And that’s kind of the point. I do a lot of fumbling in the kitchen. I’m still figuring out the best and easiest way to crush garlic, to debone a chicken, to sear a steak. But I’m learning. And if I don’t know what I’m doing, then chances are good that some of you don’t either. Or maybe you are spectacularly brilliant in the kitchen, but are as busy as the rest of us, and could really use a few really simple recipes to alleviate some of the stress. I bet even Miz Stepford in my head could use a little less stress.

So, without further ado, Crock Pot Chicken and Corn Chowder (because I have it on good authority that you don’t get to call it chowdah unless you’re from a somewhat more chilly geographic region.)

Here’s what you need:

  • 2 cans of condensed cream-of soup, 1 chicken, 1 whatever (chicken, onion, mushroom, celery… let the pantry decide)
  • 2 cans of corn, 1 creamed and 1 whole kernel (drain the water out of the whole kernel)
  • 2 big cans (10 oz) chunk chicken, drained (or 2-2 1/2 cups of chopped cooked chicken)
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup roasted red bell pepper (or 1/4 cup chopped bell pepper)
  • salt, pepper, thyme
  • 1 1/2 cup milk

Here’s what you do:

  • Combine everything except the milk in your crock pot
  • Cook on low for 4-5 hours
  • Add milk and cook another half hour or so, until it’s hot.

And voila! Supper’s done. And it was super quick, super easy, and holy mother is it super good. 

ETA- two months later, I just thawed and ate the last serving of this soup. Seriously delicious. It kept getting chosen before other (more complicated and definitely more time-consuming) things in the kitchen. While I thought this was a one-off, just to use up all that corn in the pantry, this is definitely making it into permanent rotation. Can I say again that it’s delicious? Don’t skip the roasted red bell pepper, adds a great kick.