As I was preparing to head out and do errands, including my grocery shopping for the rest of the week, it occurred to me that I should probably eat lunch before leaving, so as to avoid impulse purchases (grocery shopping on an empty stomach is always a bad idea and even more so if you’re trying to stick to a budget) and/or hunger while I’m out, which would also possibly lead to poor food choices while out. It’s been a bit chilly here (though nothing like Chicago thank goodness!). I’ve already frozen what was left of the Special Occasion Chili, plus I’ve been eating it all week and, as good as it was, have gotten a little sick of it, so I decided that I needed to make some new soup. Something that would come together very quickly, warm me from the inside out and be filling enough that I could run my afternoon errands without having to worry about getting hungry.
Obviously, the best soup is homemade, from scratch. And while I love making soup from scratch, I do not always have time for that. So I’ve come up with a shortcut to make a soup that certainly tastes homemade and is very adaptable to whatever you may have on hand. I tend to make double batches of the base (broth) ahead of time and freeze it in single-serve batches so that whenever I need a good soup, I’ve always got the most important ingredients at hand, but if you didn’t have that on hand, the soup can also be made with store-bought broth or stock. Really, the soup itself is a non-recipe. Use what you have on hand and sounds good.
First, let’s talk broth. As I said, the entire soup is a shortcut recipe and the broth is not an exception. I did not make my broth from scratch. I mean, I could have, and sometimes I do, but not today. Instead, I start with a box of my favorite store bought broth:
If you have a different brand that you like better, great – use that! I imagine that this would also work with vegetable broth, though I haven’t tried it. And while the broth is pretty good straight out of the box, it’s even better once “doctored” up a bit and here’s how I do that:
“Doctored” Store Bought Chicken Broth
(makes approx. 4-5 cups)
1 box (4-5 cups) of your favorite store bought chicken broth/stock (or homemade if you have that around)
1 whole head garlic, smashed or minced
1 inch piece of ginger, peeled, then either chopped or sliced into very thin strips (if you have patience, you can use your vegetable peeler to make those strips. Or you can put it in the food processor and chop it – either way works)
Salt and Pepper to taste
1. Heat pot over medium heat. Add garlic, ginger and approximately 1 Tablespoon of the broth. Cook over medium-high for about 2 minutes, or until it’s very fragrant.
2. Add remainder of chicken broth and turn heat to medium. Bring to a boil (uncovered), let boil for 1 minute, then cover and simmer over low heat for 20-30 minutes.
3. Add salt and pepper (or other seasonings) to taste.
Now for the soup.
“Homemade” Vegetable Soup with Rice
(makes 1 serving)
1-1 ½ cups of broth (I used the chicken broth from the recipe above. Alternately, you could use homemade broth or stock or just pour it straight from a box/can – whatever works for you)
1 cup frozen vegetables (I used a mix that included green beans, carrots, peas and corn)
½ cup cooked rice*
Salt, pepper and other seasonings to taste.
1. Put vegetables in microwave safe dish and heat, covered, for one minute. Add a teaspoon of water if necessary.
2. Add rice to vegetables (if there’s not a little water still in there from the vegetables, add a little) and heat, covered, for one minute.
3. Add broth to rice & vegetables and heat, covered, for one minute. Stir and taste – it may need another minute in the microwave to be sufficiently hot.
4. Let it sit for a minute in the microwave before you take it out and eat it – the bowl will be very hot! Season with salt and pepper (or other seasonings) to taste.
*(I had leftover cooked basmati rice on hand. Brown rice, or maybe quinoa, probably would have been healthier and tastier but a strict budget and not wanting to waste food mean that I use what I have!)
Additional note: This soup is very adaptable. If I’d had some baby spinach on hand, I might have thrown a bunch in at the same time as the rice so that it could steam before I added the broth (spinach cooks down very quickly – I wouldn’t want to add it too early). Alternately, I could have cooked up some raw vegetables, though that’s a bit more time consuming. You could also add (cooked) chicken (shredded or diced), drained and rinsed canned beans (or homemade cooked beans if you had those on hand) or other forms of protein. I highly encourage experimenting! This is truly just a base upon which to build a more complex soup (or a simple soup, whatever you want!). And while I haven’t yet, play around with other spices that sound good. A few thoughts: paprika (smoked or regular), red pepper, ground adobo chile pepper, seasoned salt… there are no mistakes here – your taste buds (and pantry) are the limit!