Thursday, November 24, 2011

Vegetable Beef Soup

 [click to enlarge]

One of my favorite recipes is a good basic vegetable beef soup that combines a few very basic ingredients added to a simple tomato and beef based broth! This recipe was designed especially for anyone who is on a strict monetary budget (that would be me). If you shop around, you shouldn’t be paying much over three or four dollars for enough soup to make six good sized servings! Note: If you have a garden, you can grow most everything and the cost will be that much less! 2nd note: if you are missing an ingredient, then substitute another or merely forge right on. You might come up with something even better as a result! The pot I'm using BTW is a 2 quart Le Crueset.

Ingredients:                                                                            Comments

7 oz. beef stew meat or similar                    I hope to be making this recipe with deer meat soon! Whatever, I try and keep the meat limited to a small amount! Which =’s lower LDL (bad) cholesterol as a result!               
15 oz. can of diced tomatoes                       Use a generic, the cheaper the better!
2 stalks of celery, chopped
1 med. Russet potato, peeled & cubed        Make sure you’re using a baker or similar potato that can stand prolonged cooking!
¼ white onion, chopped                              Yellow onions work too!
1/4 c. peas, rinsed
1 carrot, peeled and sliced
1 small wedge of green cabbage                  I’ve done this with red cabbage too! As an alternative, I’ve thrown in a peeled and chopped turnip! Don’t listen to me! Get creative! You are the chef here, aren’t you?
15 oz. can green beans                                 Use canned here, but rinse first!

2 tbsp chives, chopped                                 Use em if you got em! I grow some all year long in my garden!

1 tbsp dried oregano                                    This herb sharpens the taste up just a bit!         
1 tsp dried basil                                            Basil and tomatoes are a great match!
1 tsp dried garlic

1 tsp beef powder                                        Optional. But, it does make up the small amount of real beef used here!

1 tbsp vegetable oil

Fake salt to taste                                          Use the real stuff if your heart can take it!
Cayenne pepper, just a dash                        Adds just a spark of heat, which I like!
Black pepper to taste
Garlic powder, use as much as you dare      1 to three cloves, mashed.


Getting that broth going!

Note: if you have a hard time with proportions, just remember that most all the ingredients to make 2 quarts of soup are about 1/4 cup! I'll begin this dish with a small amount of oil at the bottom of a 2 quart pot over medium heat. Add the (room temperature) cubed beef and sauté for a few minutes until brown and then dump into the pot. Next, add a can of diced tomatoes along with 2 cans of water. Stir, bring to a brief boil, then reduce heat and allow everything to come to a slow simmer while you prepare the veggies.

The Vegetables

Prep anything on the counter that looks like a vegetable, making sure to cut them all into fairly equal sizes as this will help to ensure even cooking. Everything goes in with the exception of the cabbage, peas and green beans. I'll hold those back for inclusion in the last thirty minutes of cooking!

Houston we have a problem!

OK! Anyone can make a mistake! My pot only has a few of the ingredients and it already looks almost full! What's going on here? Ah, it turns out this is a 1 1/2 quart pot not a 2 quart one. My bad! No real biggie. I can elect to just move everything to a larger pot OR I could throw it into a SLOW COOKER. Think I'll just go ahead and do that! Slow cookers are cool because you don't have to watch them. Since it's a holiday today, that means I'll have that much more time to watch parades and football!

The Herbs

Now, here is where things can get tricky, depending on what kind of sly culinary fox you are. Herbs contain volatile oils which means that the earlier they are introduced to heat, the more likely their flavor (and smell) will be lost. So, use your judgment as to when they get introduced into the mix. I like to wait until the last thirty minutes of cooking before adding the garlic, oregano and basil. The other guys (pepper and salt) can swim pretty much on their own! Watch out for that cayenne powder! A very little bit of this stuff will affect the overall heat of the finished soup!

That’s it! If you're using a pot on the stove, simmer the soup covered (mostly) for about an hour and a half over low heat, sampling the result anytime after the first hour to judge for doneness. If you're using a slow cooker, leave it at low and cook for 6 to 7 hours. I like to fish out a carrot slice as a good indicator of just how close to the finish it is….

A word on nutrition

Any basic homemade vegetable beef soup is an immune system strengthener to the ninth degree! Not to disparage the ‘chicken soup mindset crowd’; a good vegetable based offering like this will blow the ‘chicken lick’n homeies’ completely out of the water, nutrition-wise. So, if you find yourself in the ‘stressed out holiday season, make sure to keep a batch in the fridge for frequent therapeutic use. And OK yes, a batch of chicken soup wouldn’t hurt to have around either!

A final word about making this recipe. It's a whole lot simpler to do  than I think I portrayed it here.  If you find you're in a hurry with limited time to mess around, just throw everything all at one into a slow cooker, turn it onto low and get out! Shouldn't take much over ten minutes that way!

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