Sunday, September 18, 2005

Really Quick, Totally Homemade Vegetable Beef Soup

I love making soup. Soup is yummy and healthy and a good way to use up leftovers (don't tell Giles). It doesn't even take long, and although there are some soups I like to leave cooking in a crockpot all day, most only take about an hour.

I get in trouble a lot when I cook too much and there are leftovers. I'm really trying to amend my evil ways, and come up with strategies to make 'JUST enough' food. Keeping that in mind, I try to measure about a cup of veggies per person, plus a bit for seconds. Since I prepared this for the four of us, I used a 4 quart pan, and just planned to fill it about 1/4 full of veggies before adding the broth.

I make a lot of different variations on my vegetable soup. Tonight, I decided to use fresh pico de gallo as a base, so I also got some 'southwest' veggies to add to it in keeping with the theme.

  • fresh pico de gallo from Safeway (I love cooking with this stuff, so convenient!)
  • frozen peas & carrots
  • frozen chopped spinach
  • frozen green beans (the normal kind, NOT the french-cut kind)
  • frozen 'southwest mix' (corn, red & green bell peppers, and black beans)
  • diced leftover beef from last Thursday's italian smothered steak dinner
  • brown rice (works with the southwest theme, and rory's allergies) Note: I used precooked rice! Use half my quantity for uncooked, and simmer soup for at least an hour. If using uncooked rice, you shouldn't have to thicken the broth at the end.
  • Beef broth
  • Heated up the 4-quart saucepan, then added some vegetable oil. Once hot, I added in the entirety of the smallest package of pico de gallo that they had at Safeway. Onions and tomatoes both cook down a lot, so I don't count them in the 1c/person vegetable count.
  • Once the onions were clear and the tomatoes started to get mushy and caramelize, I added in the veggies in equal proportions until the pot was about 1/4 full. I let those saute for a few minutes, then added in the diced beef. I added rice until the pan was about 1/2 full, then finally added the beef broth to within an inch of the top of the pan.
  • After adding the broth, it was just a matter of letting it simmer for a while. While it was simmering, I got a wild hair to make some biscuits. You know, like the ones at KFC. I googled for 'best biscuits' and used a recipe that seemed pretty plausible, but I still ended up making hockey pucks. Ok, so my biscuits suck, but my soup rocks.
  • I didn't even have to add any additional seasonings or salt--between the pico de gallo and the leftover beef, there was already plenty of seasoning, and the broth was salted. A few turns of the pepper grinder were all that was needed. I did, however, need to add just a wee bit of cornstarch to thicken the soup. After it's been simmering for about 30 minutes, I make a thin cornstarch paste with 1/2c water and a good spoonful of cornstarch. I add it to the soup just a bit at a time, stirring constantly, until the broth is about as thick as milk.
  • After about 60 minutes, the soup was ready and it rocked.

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