Soup, There It Is

Soup is so freakin’ easy to make, but for some reason, it seems very few people know this. Soup saves my butt all the time. It’s great for group meals, can be made in advance and frozen, it’s great for packing in loads of undercover veggies for those less inclined to try new things… and is so delicious and nurturing. As the weather cools, soup is the perfect medium for enjoying a vast array of autumnal produce including winter roots and combining them with warming herbs, spices and broths.

Not only do they keep us warm and cozy but they also keep us hydrated, healthy and feeling homey. When temperatures dip, thermostats go up, windows close, and chapsticks are suddenly in every pocket. Keeping hydrated is key all year round but especially in the cooler months when dreaded winter lurgie bugs are going around. We tend to hibernate indoors more and are less likely to drink the amounts of water we do when our bodies are warm. Enter soup!!

Soups come in all shapes and sizes. You’ve got chunky, stewy type soups, broth based soups, thick & creamy soups, blended soups and combinations thereof.

What makes soup good?

It’s deeply satisfying and beyond easy to make. Sure, there are super complicated and intricate soups out there but this is not the time or place for them!!!

What are the basics to soup making?

Throw a bunch of ingredients into a pot, cover with broth, let simmer and eat as is or blend it up for a smoother consistency and cohesive flavor. Seriously, that’s literally it.

Can you be a little more specific?

Sure thing!

  • Grab a large pot (or instant pot, if you have one). I suggest using at least a 6 quart pasta pot. Soup can me made in large quantities and frozen for later use. If you’re going to spend an hour making soup, why not make a bunch so you can have some tomorrow, or next week or 3 months from now!!

  • Prep your ingredients:

    • “Mirepoix” is in almost every single soup I make. It’s a classic blend of chopped onion, celery and carrots. Chop and sweat those babies. Most people sweat in oil but I try to cook with as little oil as possible so I heat a small amount of vegetable broth until it’s simmering/steaming and then I drop my mirepoix in for 2-3 minutes. The onions should go translucent, not brown! Mirepoix can be bought, pre-chopped in most grocery stores but if you hate single use plastic as much as I do, get chopping!! Once they’re translucent you want to start adding in all of your other ingredients.

    • Chop whatever other veggies you want to go in. There are very few vegetables that don’t make for good soup ingredients.

    • Prep your broth, enough to cover your veggies. Like it thicker, use less, like it thinner, use more. Broth can be homemade, in powder, cube or paste form or already liquified in a tetra-pak. I personally use the pastes when I don’t have time to make from scratch but most are loaded with salt. Broths can be made in advance and frozen for easy later use too! Before throwing veg scraps into the compost, I save the best pieces in a bag in the freezer for making broth at a later time. You can even make highly concentrated broth (less water) and pour into ice trays and then transfer to a freezer safe container for use throughout the season!

    • Do you like grains or legumes in there? Start prepping those. Barley, Rice, Beans, Lentils, Peas…… Note: dried beans should be pre-soaked even when adding to a slow-cooking soup. Beans need time to release their hard to digest starches and to rid themselves of debris and such like. Canned beans can certainly be thrown in at any point but high quality beans like those from Rancho Gordo cannot be beat!

    • What about herbs and spices? Will you use fresh or ground? Ground can be added at the beginning but hold off on adding in fresh herbs until the end. People often load their soups with salt, which I find unnecessary and overwhelming. Many store bought broths are loaded with salt already and adding ingredients like celery can add saltiness without actual salt. I like to add ingredients like celery and sea vegetables that are naturally salty and then offer a nice salt on the table for those that need more!

  • That’s kind of it… Go read a book or lay on the sofa until “soups on”…. Ha! If only. If you can, please do so for all of us but otherwise bring to a soft boil and then reduce to a medium simmer for about 45 minutes (or set the instant pot to soup and go about your day). If you’re blending your soup it’s hard to “overcook” soup but if leaving deliberately chunky, some ingredients will go mushy if cooked too long. Remember grains and legumes can also be cooked separately and added just before serving to keep a more robust texture. I often make simple soups for freezing and then when I thaw I add whatever grains, beans and legumes just before serving.

OK, got it! Where’s the recipe?

So here’s the deal, my whole approach to kitchen confidence and health & wellness is about empowering you to come up with ideas and processes that work for you. Whilst following a recipe makes most people feel relatively comfortable of a desired outcome , I also find it stressful and limiting. As a kid I never liked being told what to do…. still don’t 😂 Below I’ve outlined a few of my favorite soups. There’s no right or wrong way to make soup and trial and error goes a long way. Unless you pour an entire bottle of hot sauce into a pot instead of tomato paste, there are very few soups that cannot be saved by simply adding in a contrasting flavor to whatever is irking you… Heat, Acid, Salt, Aromatics or Booze are often added to balance a soup out.

  • Carrot, White Bean & Ginger (blended)

  • Sweet Potato, Celeriac, Red Lentil (blended) & Fresh Thyme

  • Black Bean, Red Pepper, Sweet Corn (chunky) with blended Cashews (soaked for creaminess) and Fresh Cilantro

  • Not feeling great soup: Broth, Mirepoix, Barley, Ginger, Garlic & Turmeric (chunky/brothy)

  • Cauliflower, Kale & Lentil (chunky/brothy)

  • Lentil, Coconut Milk, Garam Masala, Tomatos & Kale

  • Broccoli, Green Lentil, Spinach, Cashews, Celery (blended)

  • Butternut Squash, Fennel, Red Pepper, Coconut Milk (blended) & Fresh Thyme

  • Roasted Red Pepper & Tomato (cut in half, roast 30 mins on 400, let cool a bit and remove skin) add to Red Lentils, Veg Broth, Cashews, Garlic, Oregano (blended)

  • 2 Cauliflower heads in pieces, 10 chopped Carrots, 1 chopped Onion, 12 cups of Water, 1 tbsp Dried Thyme. Cook. When soft and ready to serve, add 1 cup of Fresh Parsley, stir in and take off heat. Blend! Serves 8.

  • Ginger, Miso, Snap Pea, Bok Choy, Carrot, Lime & Soba Noodles

  • Wild Rice, Chickpeas, Mushrooms, Mirepoix, Veg Broth

Umm, these all sound awesome but I’m still so lost as to what to do…

There’s absolutely no shame in that! Before I knew how to make soups, I didn’t know how to make soups!! As I try to help my daughter with positive mindset thinking, I’ll remind you all that it’s perfectly OK to say “I don’t know how to make soup…. yet!” Please reach out with any questions you may have or schedule a private cooking class where we can arm you with some awesome basics that will transform your relationship with your kitchen. We can even doing these remotely via skype/zoom/facetime!

….and for those of you reading this far (thank you!) - when I’m really in a bind, I totally buy pre-made soups. One of my favorite mixes (that my kid, without fail, asks for seconds of) is a basic Tetra-pak of Tomato Basil Soup (low sodium, animal & dairy free, of course) with a can of Eden Organic Brown Rice & Lentils thrown in. Dinner in 5!! Want bread? Throw a few pieces of low sodium Ezekiel bread (or whatever your bread of choice is) in a toaster and slice dry into soldiers (4-6 vertical pieces) for kid (and adult) friendly dippers. Everyone is happy. Everyone is nourished & cozy. Soup, there it is!