Soup is a great way to save time and money, while also improving your diet with vegetables. It can be prepared ahead of time, and often tastes just as good (if not better!) on the second or third day, as the flavors blend.
Soups consistently make great leftovers for meals at school or work.
- Start with what you know. If your family likes chicken, pasta or rice, make a soup that features that ingredient.
- Stock your pantry with soup staples. Stock up on dried beans, canned tomatoes, grains and pasta, as well as stock (chicken, beef or vegetable). Purchase hearty vegetables, such as potatoes, onions, celery, carrots and garlic, which have a relatively long shelf life. You can make several soups with these ingredients.
- Experiment. After you learn how to make a simple soup (bean, chicken, and cream for instance), add whatever ingredients you’d like, or just what you have. Fresh avocado is delicious in some tomato-based soups. Spinach, kale and other greens are great when added to many soups. If you’re not sure what your family will like, steam or microwave some veggies and let everyone add their own.
- Blend it. Many soups are better if you throw them into a blender or food processor. It’s often good to do just half, allowing you to get the benefit of the mingled flavors and thicker broth, while keeping some vegetable chunks and whole beans.
- Most soups can be improved with cheese. Cheese adds substance, flavor and appeal to soup. On hot soup especially, sprinkle grated Parmesan, cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese.
- Serve with a tempting bread. On a pita, put butter and Parmesan, then toast until crispy. You can also bake biscuits, or make croutons by placing slightly stale bread in the oven.
- Make a double batch and freeze half. This allows you to have a wonderful, home-cooked meal at the end of a hectic day. Just pop it in the microwave, or defrost on the stove.
- Save your bones: To make instant stock, throw the bones from chicken, beef or fish into a pot of water and simmer. Add onion, celery or carrots to enhance the flavor. (And if you don’t have time to make stock, you can freeze the bones and make it later).
In my opinion, the most valuable cooking skill is a tolerance for mistakes. You may forget ingredients, do things out of order and leave something on the stove for too long, but that’s okay. The trick is to forgive yourself and see what can be salvaged.
One day, I left a pot of potatoes and leeks simmering on the stove, and closed the door of my office. I managed to emerge before the pan caught fire, but after the water had evaporated. To save the meal, I removed everything that wasn’t charred, added extra milk and stock, and didn’t bother with the food processor. Imagine my delight when, after tasting the soup, my son said, “I loved it. It was really salty and creamy!” – Ramona H.
Ramona’s Creamy Potato Leek Soup Recipe
- 3 medium leeks, white part and 2″ of green, washed and cut in 1/2″ slices
- 2 lbs. potatoes, peeled and diced
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 3 cups chicken stock
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 cup milk
- 3/4 cup grated cheddar cheese
- 2 teaspoons dried parsley
Sauté leeks and potatoes in butter for a few minutes. Add chicken stock and pepper and simmer for 20 minutes. At this point, you can blend the soup in a food processor or mash with a hand held potato masher. Gently reheat, add parsley, slowly add milk and cheese while whisking, and add salt and pepper to taste.