Soup's On!

This time of year I love to make soup.  Maybe it's because it's cold and dreary or maybe it's because many of the "soup veggies" (a.k.a. root cellar veggies) - potatoes, onions, dried beans, carrots, squash, cabbage, greens, parsnips - are in season.

Soup is nutritious and inexpensive and a big ole pot goes a long way (leftovers freeze well or make great lunches).  Consequently, we have soup a few times a week.  A big pot of veggie soup and biscuits is one of my favorites.  I start with V8, tomato juice or homemade stock, dried or fresh herbs (usually parsley, thyme and sage - sorry, no rosemary) and start adding an assortment of veggies - stewed tomatoes, corn, carrots, green beans, cabbage, onions, parsnips - I just keep stuffing whatever I have in the pot (this is a great way to get rid of levtovers too), add salt and pepper to taste, and simmer until tender.   

I often use dried legumes for added protein.  I either soak them overnight or simmer them on low all day.  Sometimes I cook double the lentils or beans and scoop out half, cool and freeze for a later date.  

Earlier this week I made navy bean soup.  It was nutritious, delicious and SUPER cheap!  I estimate I paid less than $3 for the whole pot.  $1 for the 28oz can of stewed tomatoes, $1 for the bag of dried beans, and less than $1 for the 1/4 cup of dehydrated onions, salt and pepper, thyme, and the hambone (stashed in the freezer after Christmas).
We also enjoy a big pot of beef and barely soup.  For this, I simmer about two pounds of beef shanks - usually three rounds of beef - in five quarts of water with three bay leaves and 1/4 cube dehydrated onions for several hours until the meat falls off the bone.  Next I skim off the fat and add the barley and cook until tender.  Lastly I add the shredded meat back in along with a 28oz can of stewed tomatoes, a T of worcestershire sauce and salt and pepper to taste (sometimes I add a couple beef or vegetable bullion cubes for a flavor boost).

Tonight, I experimented a little and came up with a real winner.  I started with some ham stock (left from Christmas) and enough water to equal about three quarts, 1/4 cup dehydrated onions and about three pounds (a dozen small) of peeled potatoes sliced into thin rounds.  I let the potatoes cook just until they began to break apart and added the last bit of the Christmas ham from the freezer - maybe 1/2 pound - chopped into small chunks and a pound of chopped mustard greens.  I simmered the soup until the greens were tender but still green and then stirred in 1/2 cup half and half, sprinkled in a little bit of kosher salt and about a t of white pepper.  It was delicious!

Soup is a great way to warm the belly, lighten the grocery bill and make the house smell great!  I say you start with a pot of water, add a little of this and a little of that and end up with a fabulous meal.  Those stone soup guys had it right (just remember to remove the rocks before serving). 

(P.S. I usually pair my soups with either cornbread made in my cast iron skillet handed down to me by my grandmother or drop biscuits that I like to bake in a muffin tin.)

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