Thursday, February 17, 2011

Righetous "Everything But the Kitchen Sink" Soup

So, I'm a "Moms' Group" which is really exactly what it sounds like-- a bunch of moms who get together, hang out to socialize their kids and themselves, and generally help each other out.  Its pretty awesome, and God bless the Internet which makes these groups so easy!

One of the activities I have recently offered to host is a "Dinner Swap".  Its a simple idea that I hope you steal and use with your friends.  The idea is that you cook once, and get up to five meals.  You know I'm a fan of anything that requires a little more work for a HUGE payoff!  I'm constantly making twice the dinner and freezing it for ourselves, so this idea appealed to me instantly.  We limit our meetup to five people total, since making more than that at one cooking session can really start to be a LOT of extra work.  When we respond that we're going we also respond with what we're making (this way we don't end up with five people making lasagna).  Then you commit to cooking a little extra one night, keep one meal for yourself, and bring the other four family sized portions of the meal to the meetup.  When you leave, you've got four other meals to take home and use or freeze.  I've made things like Chicken Pot Pie, Thai Chicken Curry, and today, soup and Homemade Beer Bread (see tomorrow's recipe).

So, why soup?  Well, the weather still warrants it-- its warming up during the day, but is cooling off considerably in the evenings.  Plus, I forgot that the meetup was today, (in my head I was sure it was next week), so I needed something I could make a lot of quickly out of the contents of my fridge before people started arriving.

My philosophy on soup is this: its a comfort food.  I don't make soup as a "starter" at home-- who has time to make a "starter" and then a real meal?  So I want my soup to be hearty.  And because its a comfort food, it has to be easy to make; it loses some of its comfort if its super complicated to prepare.  So, unless I'm making something for a special occasion or I'm craving something specific (say, Sausage and Lentil Soup), I apply my philosophy of "Everything But the Kitchen Sink" to my soup making.  This means a recipe is hard to come up with, but can be a lot of fun.  Plus its easy.  We like easy.

Today, in my fridge/freezer, I had 3/4 of a whole, cooked, free-range chicken, homemade chicken stock, cooked brown rice, onions & garlic, and frozen spinach, corn and carrots and frozen wine cubes.  (Yes, you CAN freeze leftover wine, if you're the kind of people who have wine left over, it keeps really well in the freezer for occasions just like this!)

I also had green beans, red potatoes, a wide variety of canned beans (black, kidney, garbanzo, navy etc...) and dry lentils.  I left those things out, because my pot is only so big.  Things I might have added if I'd had them were leaks, fennel, celery, whole or even stewed tomatoes.

The thing to remember when you're applying the "Everything but the Kitchen Sink" philosophy to soup making is that no matter what kind of veggies/protein you use, you'll want them to be pre-cooked just a little bit before you add the broth.  If I were to have used the fresh carrots I have in the fridge, I would have sauteed them first, before adding the stock.  Same with the fennel and leaks.  I would probably have done something similar with fresh tomatoes or even canned tomatoes, to break them down a little bit.  Frozen veggies can go right in the soup-- they've already been started. The proteins you want to be cooked, but if you're going to stick this sauce in the crockpot and let it get happy all day, your chicken doesn't have to be cooked all the way through, just get it started, the heat will take it home.

But today, I'm going to give you a recipe for my "Chicken and Rice" Soup, since that IS what I made.  Or at least my best estimation of seasonings, etc.  Keep in mind when I cook for others, I tend to under-salt foods, since I don't really know what others' tolerance for salt is.  It might seem a little bland, but I tell people they can always add salt themselves to their own tastes.  Also-- keep in mind that you're going to use a lot more salt if you use homemade stock versus store-bought or using chicken base and water.

I'd love to hear what would go into your "Everything but the Kitchen Sink" Soup.  'Cause mine is currently on the stove and smells delicious!

Chicken and Brown Rice Soup
(Otherwise known as "What I had in the Kitchen in a Moment of Panic Soup")

2 T olive oil
1 small onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 small can tomato paste
1/4 cup white wine (or two frozen wine cubes)
8-10 cups chicken stock
1 lb cooked chicken meat-- (whatever you have left off that whole chicken you roasted for dinner last night)
1 lb frozen carrots (or 3-4 fresh, peeled, cut into coins)
1 lb chopped spinach
1 cup frozen corn
2 cups cooked brown rice
1 sprig fresh rosemary (1 tsp dried rosemary)
3 Tablespoons cumin
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (or less to taste, to start-- keep in mind the blandness of the veggies and stock)
1 teaspoon sage
1 teaspoon sea salt (more or less to taste)
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Preparation Instructions
Heat oil in deep soup pot (unless you're transferring everything to the crockpot, then you just need a large skillet).  Saute onions and garlic on medium until translucent (not brown).  (Now is when you saute up fresh veggies if you have them-- otherwise save the frozen ones for later).  Add tomato paste and wine, stir and reduce for 4-5 min over medium-low.  If making entire soup on the stove, add the stock, veggies, chicken, rice and spices, and bring to a simmer, turn down to low and cover, stirring occasionally.  Otherwise, transfer all the tomatoey goodness to your crock pot, THEN add the stock, veggies, chicken, rice and spices, and let sit on low being happy happy until its time to eat.  I cannot stress, though, how important it is to test the flavor of the soup before you want to serve it.  If its bland, play around with the spices and flavors.  But remember that especially with soup, it takes a little while for the soup to fully take on the flavor of added spices, so I like to do it about 1/2 hour before I serve it.

See how easy that was??  I totally have time to make Beer Bread and take a shower before my guests arrive.  And that's WITH our munchkin running around!  :)


  1. I love this meetup idea. What confused me? "Left Over Wine"

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  3. Ha! I usually am not able to finish the bottles I open these days to cook with, so I was super excited to find that I can freeze it!!

  4. I will give you a 9 month pass ;-) I was going to make this really easy recipe I found for steak and mushroom sauce last night - but the recipe called for 1/2 c of dry red wine, and I didn't have enough to make the recipe AND drink a glass with dinner.

  5. Thanks for the ideas. Just stumbled across your site tonight and have really enjoyed your ideas. Going to try the spaghetti Sunday this coming Sunday. I'll let you know how it goes. I think we have a very similar approach to soup. We have soup only when we see lots of leftovers that demand a soup. I never just 'make' soup or buy ingredients thinking I'm going to make soup. Soup just sort of develops from our leftovers. Well I take that back... I occasionally make chicken noodle for the sick ones in our family and others and I adore homemade french onion soup so I guess I do sometimes. I, too, am a big Pioneer Woman fan!

  6. Christy- I would love to hear how you make french onion soup. I don't like to order it when we go out, I often find it too salty, but would like to try to make it at home!