Feb
01
2011

DIY Soups, Tips for Making Soup From Scratch

Greek yogurt adds additional flavor

Whether you just need a bowl of warm soup on a cold day, or the healing powers of chicken soup to fight that cold, nothing beats homemade. Sure it’s faster to open a can of soup but I challenge you to find any canned soup that can beat the taste of soup from scratch. And the best part is that soup can be the easiest menu item to make. Here are some tips to help your soup making.

Make your own stock.

One of the keys to good soup flavor is starting with its foundation, stock or broth. Now, I must be honest and admit that I often cheat and buy canned, low sodium chicken stock. But I also have to tell you that making your own stock is super easy and you can freeze it for future use. Whenever we make a whole chicken, we simply place the carcass into a large pot, cover the chicken with water and add celery, carrots, onions and perhaps a few herbs. Let it simmer for an hour or so and then strain and store in an air-tight container. It’s that easy. And I promise its just as easy for beef or fish stock too. The flavors from your own stock will make a big difference when used as your base of a soup. Especially any seafood stew.

Plan ahead when soaking beans.

The easiest soup recipes to make are the ones that either don’t call for soaking beans or you can substitute canned beans. I say easiest because you don’t have that extra time component for soaking beans. But that being said, bean soups are some of my favorite soups of all time. White bean soup with bacon reminds me of my Grandmother’s house. And that makes the planning worth it. Just be sure to budget in the time to soak beans overnight. Or sacrifice a little flavor and cheat and buy the canned kind, problem solved!

Don’t throw away the seeds!

Nature's mysterious shapes and beautiful colors

Another fun little soup trick I learned when making soups with winter squash is to save the seeds and use them as a tasty garnish. I like to top our butternut squash soup with toasted seeds just like you would add oyster crackers to chowder. They make all the difference in the world. Plus they give a toasty flavor and contrast the sweetness of a pumpkin or butternut squash soup. Just rinse them in cold water and dry them on a paper towel after scooping them out of the squash. Then toss them in a little olive oil and sea salt and roast them in the oven at 350 degrees F for about 10-15 minutes or until just golden brown. Sprinkle them on your bowl of soup or enjoy them later as a healthy snack!

Plan ahead and make weeknight soup even easier!

Soup is one of the easiest recipes because you mostly just throw everything into one pot and let it simmer. It really is that simple. That’s not to say that there are not more complicated recipes out there, or that even the most simple soups don’t require adding things in a sequence. But it really is a simple recipe. The problem is that for some soups, especially those with a lot of veggies is that you spend so much time chopping and prepping. The actual cooking part is easier than the prep work.

To save on time or to be able to make a quick weeknight soup, I suggest chopping things like butternut squash, carrots, celery, onions, bell peppers etc ahead of time and freezing them in air tight containers in pre-measured quantities, i.e. a cup of chopped onion. That way you just have to thaw what you need that day, not a whole large chunk of frozen onions. And keep your pantry stocked with a couple of cans of chicken stock, dried herbs like thyme, basil and oregano and salt and pepper. I’m not a huge fan of buying the already chopped veggies though for two reasons. One: you pay more for them. Two: they don’t taste the same as fresh veggies you chop yourself. But that being said, they are a double time saver. The bottom line: save yourself time by chopping ahead of time.

Soup definitely falls into that category of “What would Julia Child do?”. Yes, that’s right she would make her own! So I challenge you to try a new soup recipe this winter. Ever tried butternut squash soup? Go for it! Read some tips from my previous post here or try out this easy recipe here:

Butternut Squash Soup

Ingredients

2 lb butternut squash, peeled and diced into 1 inch cubes, seeds set aside
2 shallots
1 tsp dried thyme
1-2 tbsp butter
salt
pepper
fresh sage leaves
4 cups chicken broth, low sodium
1 cup apple cider
1 tsp nutmeg
crème fraeche or Greek yogurt

Preparation

Rinse the seeds from the squash, toss them in olive oil and place them on parchment paper lined baking sheet. Toast seeds until light golden color, about 10-15 minutes at 350 degrees F. Meanwhile in a large pot, saute the diced shallots the thyme in butter until soft. Add salt, pepper, diced butternut squash, apple cider, nutmeg and chicken broth. Simmer until tender, then puree in a blender in batches or by using an immersion blender. In a separate frying pan, fry the sage leaves in butter. Serve the soup warm. Top with creme fraeche or Greek yogurt, toasted seeds and the fried sage.

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