Wednesday, September 7, 2016

It's Soup Time!

One of the many benefits of being retired is discovering - or re-discovering - the kitchen. I always prided myself on being able to put a healthy meal on the table nearly every night after working a full day, back when I was working full time. But some things like homemade soups, stews, chili, spaghetti sauce just weren't possible except on the weekends.

But now I have plenty of time...and inclination! There's just nothing like a hot bowl of healthy, homemade soup for lunch. Having a stash of two or more varieties of soup in the freezer is my perfect "food world."

Split pea and wild rice soup and 10 more servings ready for the freezer

My soup repertoire continues to evolve as I experiment with content and different seasonings and spices. Here, therefore, are some of my favorite soups.

Split pea
The ingredients for this vary, depending on what I have on hand. Usually I make the soup when I have leftover ham, once in a while I use turkey, but my last batch was made with salted, unsmoked pork belly. I removed the rind and trimmed the chunk of pork belly of nearly all visible fat and then diced it up into 1/4" bits. 1 bag of split peas and about a dozen baby carrots, sliced into 1/2" slices. Two scallions, thinly sliced. Garlic powder, finely ground pepper, crushed red pepper, smoked paprika. I rinse the peas and soak them for about 30 minutes, I sometimes use 32 oz unsalted chicken broth plus 1 cup water, and sometimes I use 5 cups of water plus two tablespoons of Penzeys chicken soup base, then combine it all into a pot and simmer for a couple of hours until the split peas are completely softened and the soup becomes a puree. In some batches I've also added brown and wild rice - 1/2 cup uncooked brown and wild rice pre-cooked according to package directions.

Split pea and turkey

Split pea with ham and rice

Turkey and Wild Rice Soup
I don't very often roast a turkey, but when I do, I save the drippings and freeze it along with leftover white and dark meat. I'll portion the leftover turkey meat into separate ziplok bags, which is usually enough for several batches of soup. This makes wonderful soup. I add the defrosted drippings, 32 oz unsalted chicken broth, 1 cup water, diced turkey breast meat, sliced baby carrots, 1 cup frozen chopped spinach, I pre-cook1/2 cup uncooked brown and wild rice according to package directions and then add to the pot. Garlic powder, finely ground black pepper, crushed red pepper, finely diced scallions.

Turkey, rice, and spinach soup

Beef and Barley Soup
I regularly cook a chuck roast in the crockpot, producing a tender, flake-apart beef dinner and at least two cups of beef broth. I freeze the broth and the left-over beef to use in soup. I've tried several different types of beef soup - beef noodle, beef rice, beef vegetable, beef barley - and my favorite is beef barley. I dice up the beef into small cubes, add the saved beef broth, add another 32 ounces of packaged beef broth. I add approximately 1.5 cups frozen mixed vegetables, garlic powder, finely ground black pepper, crushed red pepper, smoked paprika.  I cook 3/4 cup uncooked barley separately according to package instructions and then rinse it thoroughly before adding to the soup. One of my favorite soups!

Beef barley soup

Another batch of beef barley soup

Chicken Noodle
A classic! I periodically buy rotisserie chicken, eat the dark meat, and freeze the breast meat into two separate packages, suitable for making two batches of soup. Wide egg noodles boiled and drained ahead of time, slice baby carrots, finely dice two scallion onions, 32 oz packaged salt-free chicken broth, augmented by 2 cups water and 2 tbsp Penzeys chicken soup base. Garlic powder, finely ground black pepper, crushed red pepper, smoked paprika.

Chicken noodle soup

I portion and freeze my soups into 2-cup Glad containers. I try to have several containers of at least two of these different soups in my freezer at any one time. Nothing like reaching into my freezer, pulling out a 2-cup container, defrosting it and having a healthy, hearty lunch for two days. Sure beats eating crummy fast food for lunch!!

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