Thursday, November 22, 2012

Vegetable Beef Soup - For Thanksgiving?

Today is Thanksgiving Day. Our big, traditional family feast won't happen until next weekend, so three of us will go to a restaurant to eat later today. I guess I was feeling a little left out of the cooking that usually happens today.

So...I decided to make a big pot of soup and clean out the freezer at the same time.

I pulled everything out of the freezer and took a "soup" inventory.

First, I had one lonely hamburger patty and a couple of packages of filet beef tips that I cut into small pieces.

I put the meat down into the bottom of my 8-quart pot and turned it up to high.

It was already browning when I realized I had not added any fat to the pan. Oh well. It turned out fine anyway!

Then I found some packages, some open, some not, of various veggies: corn, chopped spinach, butter peas, and mixed vegetables.

(I tried to chop the spinach even finer. but my immersion blender did not appreciate that effort...)

Once the meat was browned, I dumped all of these in the pot.

I found some little packages of leftovers: a couple bags of chopped onions and several slices of cooked bacon that I chopped up. 

I also found a parmesan cheese rind. I had tossed it in the freezer some time ago, because I heard a TV chef say you could add it to soups. Here goes!

In my refrigerator were a few tablespoons each of sauteed vegetables I used earlier this week: mushrooms, zucchini, and more onions.  Why not throw those in too? 

Also in my refrigerator was half of a small onion. I chopped it up and added it.

Then I checked the pantry for more possibilities. I used the tomatoes after blending them up, and also the black beans, rinsed. I didn't end up using the white beans. 

For me, vegetable soup is all about adding things until it just looks right. It looked right to me without the beans!

I also used a whole 32-ounce box of low sodium chicken broth. I didn't have beef, or I would have used that instead.

I still wanted a little more liquid, so I found some chicken broth I had made and frozen last week and added it as well. A great thing about a simmering pot of soup is that you can just dump stuff in even while it's still frozen.

I added a few cloves of chopped fresh garlic, a little salt and some crushed red pepper flakes.

I wanted the soup to have more of a tomato flavor, so I went to the refrigerator to pull out my tube of tomato paste only to find out I didn't have any. I remembered running across a cup of leftover marinara sauce in the freezer, so I pulled it out and added it to the pot. Since I added marinara, I decided to also add some dried oregano, a few springs of fresh thyme, and two bay leaves.

Now it looked yummy!

After it simmered about 25 minutes, I tasted it for seasoning.  It tasted good, but it still needed something.

I used a trick I borrowed from a Cincinnati Chili recipe I made years ago. I added a teaspoon of unsweetened cocoa. It sounds weird, but just adds a little more flavor without any hint of chocolate.

After an hour of simmering, I cooled the soup. Of course, it's best to cool it completely before freezing, so I used this contraption a friend introduced me to a few years ago.

You fill it with water then freeze it, and put it in a pot of soup (or whatever) to cool it quickly.

I put the pot in the sink, surrounded it with ice water, and added the frozen "thingy." I don't know what it's really called, and even if I did, I bet not many other people would know what I was talking about anyway!

Now I have lots of delicious soup, and my freezer is newly organized!

We have supper for later tonight after our restaurant lunch, two small packages for my mother-in-law's freezer, and two larger ones for ours. 

A good morning's work, and something else for which to be thankful.

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