It’s a cold, grey and rainy fall evening at the end of a very long day, and you’re on your way home from work in a sea of angry red brake lights. Your windshield wipers are dragging across the glass, thudding — b-lump, b-lump, b-lump. (Didn’t you just have them fixed last month?) Traffic is an absolute bear. Your stomach growls and all of a sudden it seems like lunch was a million years ago. Ah, yes. Dinner. The most dreaded question of any busy weeknight — “What’s for dinner?”— screams through your mind. You don’t want to stop at the store and you know the fridge is empty, save for a bottle of wine, a collection of condiments and the bare essentials. “Ah, wine, I want a glass of wine,” you think. … Ok, wait, dinner. We have to eat dinner. Stay focused.
Turn Away from Take Out
You ponder, “Hmm…we could order Chinese? Pizza?” You already know the answer. Even if you actually wanted bland, mediocre delivery you know it will take absolutely forever because, well, it’s a cold, grey and rainy fall evening, and traffic is bad. Your stomach grumbles. A sheet of rain pounds the roof of your car. The dual combination of misery and soul-withering despair starts to tighten their icy grip — b-lump, b-lump, b-lump.
Then, you gasp. Slowly you begin to smile. You remember you have a collection of ready-to-go homemade soups to choose from in the freezer. Despair begins to slink away. In your mind you can see a bowls of steaming hot soup and your joyful family, happy and laughing around the dining room table. Suddenly, your lane opens up, red lights transfigure to gleaming white, the rain stops, and the skies clear.
Ok, so maybe it won’t quite play out like that, but I know I’ve been in a very similar situation. I keep a soup in the freezer for days just like what I’ve described.
Make Ahead Meals
One great way to fill your freezer with soup is to make it into a party — a soup swap party. The premise behind a soup swap is that you invite some friends to come together and bring several containers of soup to share. Then you taste and swap, and everyone goes home with different soup than what they brought. It is a great way to bring people together to have a little fun and fill the freezer. The more folks you invite, the greater the variety, ultimately meaning more soup for everyone to take home.
Is your first thought accompanied by an eye roll? “Well, Virginia, if I had time to cook soup all day I wouldn’t need to host a soup swap.” Don’t worry. I’ve got you covered with a trio of classic Southern soups that I’ve tweaked just a tad to help with the workload.
My Quick Herb Chicken and Dumplings is Southern comfort in a bowl, made with an easy drop dumpling dough and a rotisserie chicken. My Vegan Vegetable Soup doesn’t require hours of simmering ham bones or pots of homemade vegetable stock. It is what is ingloriously referred to in the parlance of food writers as a “dump-and-stir” — but it is absolutely packed with flavor. (The secret is a shot of umami-packed miso.) Lastly, my homemade Baked Potato Soup can be ready in less than 30 minutes without resorting to cans of salt-laden “cream of” soups, copious amounts of heavy cream, or bags of preservative-bathed ready-made hashbrowns. Throw in an array of toppings, such as scallions, bacon, and cheese, to allow everyone to customize.
These three great homemade soups below are quick and easy, and made with healthy, wholesome ingredients. In fact, they might all be too good to giveaway!
Bon Appétit Y’all!
PS — I’ve got one more for you! Here’s my recipe for “Cream of Anything Soup” — and not a red and white can in sight!
Homemade Cream of Mushroom Soup
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 onion chopped
- 2 pounds mixed fresh mushrooms such as white button, cremini, shiitake, morel, and chanterelle, sliced
- 3 cups homemade vegetable or chicken stock class or reduced fat low sodium chicken or vegetable stock
- Bouquet Garni 5 sprigs thyme; 4 sprigs flat-leaf parsley;2 bay leaves, preferably fresh; and 10 whole black peppercorns, tied together in cheesecloth
- Heavy cream optional
- Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat and add the onion. Cook until the onion is translucent, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the fresh mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are tender, 5 to 7 minutes.
- Add the stock and bouquet garni. Bring to a boil, decrease the heat to simmer. Cook until the mushrooms are very soft, about 30 minutes.
- Remove the bouquet garni. Purée the soup with an immersion blender.Leave it coarse for a more rustic soup, or purée it until smooth for a more elegant soup. Add the cream and stir to combine. Taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper. Ladle into warmed bowls and serve immediately.
Sopa De Lima
- For the Tortilla Strips
- Canola oil for frying
- 6 corn tortillas about 51/2 in [14 cm] in diameter, cut into 1/2-in- [12-mm-] thick strips
- Sea salt
- For the Soup
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 large onion chopped
- 3 garlic cloves finely chopped
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 jalapeño chile cored, seeded, and finely chopped, plus more as needed
- 1 cup [240 g] diced tomatoes fresh or canned
- 1 Tbsp chopped fresh oregano
- 4 cups [960 ml] Roasted Chicken Stock or canned low-sodium broth
- 1 cup [110 g] cooked shredded chicken
- 1/4 cup [60 ml] fresh lime juice plus more as needed
- For the Garnishes
- 1 poblano chile seeded and chopped
- 1 ripe but not overly ripe or mushy avocado cut into 1/2-in [12-mm] cubes
- 1/4 cup [10 g] finely chopped fresh cilantro
- 1 cup [80 g] cotija Mexican cheese or feta grated or finely chopped
- 1 lime cut into wedges
- In a medium skillet over medium-high heat, add enough canola oil to reach a depth of 1/2 in [12 mm] and heat until a small piece of tortilla or a speck of salt immediately sizzles on contact. Cook the tortillas, one at a time, for 1 to 2 minutes on each side, or until golden brown and slightly puffed. Using tongs, transfer the tortillas to paper towels to drain; sprinkle with salt.
- In a large stockpot over low heat, warm the olive oil. Add the onion and garlic and cook for 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, stir in the jalapeño, and cook for another 2 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and oregano and cook for 5 minutes more. Turn the heat to high, add the chicken stock, and bring to a boil. Turn the heat to low, cover, and cook for 30 minutes. Add the chicken and cook for another 5 minutes.
- Just before serving, add the lime juice to the soup. Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding more salt, pepper, jalapeño, or lime juice if needed.
- Ladle the soup into mugs or bowls, top each with two or three tortilla strips, and serve. Have all the garnishes arranged decoratively on a large serving plate and let guests add their own.
Chunky Chicken Noodle Soup
- 2 teaspoons pure olive oil
- 1 sweet onion chopped
- 1 carrot chopped
- 1 celery stalk chopped
- 1 garlic clove very finely chopped
- 8 ounces sliced cremini mushrooms
- Coarse kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 12 cups homemade chicken stock or reduced-fat low-sodium chicken broth
- Bouquet garni see note, below
- 1 medium sweet potato peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes (about 2 cups)
- 6 ounces green beans stem ends trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces (about 1 1/3 cups)
- 2 ounces 1 cup uncooked egg noodles
- 3 cups shredded rotisserie chicken about 12 ounces, from 1 (4- to 5-pound) rotisserie chicken
- Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, and celery and cook until the onion is soft and translucent, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, 45 to 60 seconds. Add the mushrooms and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms start to wilt and brown, about 5 minutes. Add the chicken stock and stir to combine. Add the bouquet garni and sweet potato. Bring to a boil over high heat. Decrease the heat to simmer and cook until the sweet potato is just tender, 15 to 17 minutes.
- Add the green beans, egg noodles, and chicken. Stir to combine and poke with your spoon to make sure the beans and noodles are submerged. Simmer until the noodles and green beans are tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper. Ladle into warmed bowls and serve immediately.
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