Like Mother Hubbard, my cupboard is apparently on the bare side. I thought some soup would be an easy thing to make to eat today, and then assessed my “soup makings” situation. Soup can be made from a lot of things, but potential ingredients today was rather on the spare side.
It seems we have potatoes, onions, and brown rice.
Okay, I’m trying hard to eat less meat, less processed foods, less sodium, and less fat…and potato-onion-brown rice soup would probably meet all of that criteria…but somehow, that doesn’t sound very appetizing. It sounds like something you would make when the cupboard is bare and the grocery stores gone the way of the dinosaur. It would be what my Granddad would have called “gut wadding”.
Gut wadding isn’t high on my list of things I want to eat for dinner tonight.
I also don’t have the energy or inclination to go to the grocery store for more ingredients. That’s part of my overall budget slimming operation–fewer trips to the store and combined trips when possible. That also means we’re going to pass on the entire soup thing tonight, and go with something else, as tomorrow will be shopping on the list of errands to accomplish.
When the cupboard is bare is also the best time to really assess your shopping list, ensuring that the options we prefer this time of year are in the pantry for future “soup makings” needs. So what ARE typical soup makings?
Vegetables are an obvious choice, and frozen vegetables mean that we can create soup fast. With fresh vegetables, having them on hand means they have to be used within their time frame, which is fine…but soup inspiration often arrives on a different time schedule. Meat is usually nothing more than a flavoring, one of many ingredients, in the soups we make. Whether its beef, pork, poultry, or sausage…a pot with six servings is usually not going to contain more than about what one serving usually turns out to be, regardless of what the food pyramid says one serving really is. That translates to about a cup of raw prepared meat (boneless and cut into small pieces.)
Other additions that are appealing are the legume family and wild or brown rice. Beans and peas add protein, as well as body, to any broth based soup. Typically, they are going to require more than an hour to cook as well, making them good candidates for your slow cooker. Brown rice will need about 40 minutes of cooking, and about an hour for wild rice. Rice also adds body and texture to soups.
Other grains can also be used, creating much more interesting textures than the typical bland and pasty white rice used by commercial soups. Wheat berries, quinoa, barley, etc. are all good candidates. Just remember, what seems like a very small amount of grain can often swell to many times its original size, and that pot of broth can quickly become a pot of porridge if you use too much. The first time I used barley, I got a huge surprise…and a huge pot of beef barley soup that was nearly beef barley casserole!
And it is beef barley soup that will be on our agenda tomorrow. Here is my favorite basic recipe–just remember, soup is made for adjusting and innovation!
Beef Barley Soup
- 1-2 c. small cubes beef
- 2 medium onions, finely chopped
- 1 c. finely chopped celery
- 1 c. sliced carrots
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- salt & pepper to taste
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- 1 c. barley
- 1 gallon water
Saute garlic in olive oil in heavy soup pot over medium heat about 2 minutes. Add onions, and cook until onions are translucent. Add celery and cook for about 2-3 minutes more. Stir in beef cubes and increase heat, cooking for about 3 minutes or until meat is browned. Add about a gallon of water and carrots. Salt & pepper to taste. Bring water to boil over medium high heat and add barley. Reduce heat to simmer, and cook for about 2 hours or until barley is done. Serve with biscuits or cornbread.