Wednesday, March 31, 2010


There is nothing that says simple living like a pot of soup on the stove. I realize many people only eat soup in the winter, but it is a cheap, healthy and yes – simple way to eat well any time of the year. My view of soup is very practical. Give me anything and I can turn it into soup. Add chicken stock to leftover chicken and rice – you have soup. Steak and potato leftover from dinner out – add beef stock and onions – soup. Well, you get the idea, I like soup and I have broad views on what it is and when to eat it.

To keep it short (I’ll try) I am not going to post any recipes, or theories, science or history of soup. No, I just want to pass on three simple tricks I use to really make the most of ingredients. Waste not – want not is probably a very good maxim to be relearning as we head into another year of economic fear and loss. As I said before – if living well is the best revenge, the best way to live well is to eat well. So to keep my word and be brief, here are three tips to prevent waste and make awesome soup. 

#1) Keep a lidded container in your freezer.

Any time you cut more veggies than you need toss the extra into the container. The next time you need to make soup or the container is full, toss them into your broth and voila – you have homestead vegetable soup. The random mix of veggies makes this soup taste like a surprise from the garden – each time it is a little different. If you want to do this with leftover cooked vegetables you certainly can, but use a separate container. You may not always want to use them together since obviously the precooked ones won’t have the same texture or need any real cooking time.

#2) Never throw away any hard cheese.

What to do with that thick waxy rind you get from cheeses like hard Swiss, parmesan or Romano? Or the nice piece of cheddar you let turn into a hard brick in your fridge? Save them – wrap them in foil and they will keep forever. Next time you are making soup – just throw large chunks in while simmering and remove them just before you finish. It will impart a rich complex flavor to any soup. It is really amazing how good it is. It really supercharges the flavor.  Do not turn up your noses – Julia Childs did it.

#3) Never throw away soup

We all tend to make too much soup at one time. Huge batches of chili or lentil soup just appear. Where we had planned on a quart – we make a gallon. It happens to us all. We get tired of eating it and so often people toss the excess. No, no, no – once you realize you have made too much soup divide it right away and freeze the extra. Most soups handle freezing well. If you still end up with more soup than you can eat – don’t toss it. Take the leftovers and puree them with a hand mixer. This puree is great to put in the freezer and use it later as a starter for a new batch of soup. It can also be used fresh as a thick sauce to pour over vegetables like potatoes or asparagus.

Wow, I did it - I kept this post short. To be more self sufficient we do not necessarily need to find ways to get more, often we just need to find ways to use what we have. That is the essential trick to simple living.

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