Soup Revolution

Several years ago while I was staying with my mom in Phoenix, she served me a super yummy Thai Shrimp soup.  I found out that she had gotten a soup base recipe from a magazine like Better Homes and Gardens or Healthy Living or some such place, frozen the base into small batches, and could pull a bag or two out at a time and make something like 15 different recipes from the base.  Sounded interesting, so I copied down the recipe and tucked it away.  I had more or less forgotten about it, when it was rediscovered with the arrival of my cookbooks in the container.  I mixed up a big batch of it last August and canned it in batches, and let me tell you it has revolutionized my life.  Perhaps that’s a dramatic statement, but for a working mama in Burundi who sometimes comes home after 5pm and has no instant meals or takeout available, this is big.  The soup took probably less than 2 hours to prep and cook.  The canning took a bit longer but people who live in locations with constant electricity could freeze instead for a faster process.

So when I need a quick meal, I open up a jar of the soup base and add basically anything we have in the fridge and voila, instant meal.  I’ve added leftover beans and rice, cooked sausage, spaghetti sauce, enchilada sauce, quinoa, noodles, cooked chicken.  It’s tasty by itself too, but nice to add some more “hearty” ingredients.  The kids like it, so in my opinion there’s nothing NOT to like about this.  

Here’s the base recipe (and in my opinion, all quantities are relative...for example, we don’t have celery so I left that out.  Maybe I added extra carrots, who knows) (and of course, all ingredients cut to your desired size):

1 lb carrots 
1 1/2 lb onions (3 medium)
4 stalks of celery
2 cloves garlic
1 lb cabbage (1/2 head)
3/4 lb green beans
1 1/4 lb zucchini (3 small-med)
2-28oz cans tomatos (or about 8 cups diced)
6c chicken broth
6c water
2 bags baby spinach
salt and pepper to taste

Cook carrots, celery, onions, and garlic in water/broth (use 12 qt stockpot) until soft
Add cabbage, green beans, and tomatos, simmer x10min
Add zucchini and spinach, simmer additional 10 min
Freeze/can in 2c portions, makes 28 cups (although I used 4cup portions, better for a family sized meal)  

It also ends up being a very thick soup, and so I’m able to add 2-3 cups of broth to every 4 cup portion for a more regular soup consistency.  You could add more broth ahead of the freezing/canning, but I like the fact that it’s kind of a “space saver” thing.

Some of the recipe suggestions for additions include:
Minestrone (add kidney beans, cooked pasta, parmesan cheese, basil)
Mexican Chicken (add chicken, corn, cumin, lime)
Greek Fish Stew (add potatos, fish, dill, feta)
Thai Shrimp (add rice noodles, shrimp, snow peas, coconut milk, lime juice)
Southwest Chili (add ground meat, chili powder, cumin, black beans, salsa)

Really though, the possibilities are endless.  Looking forward to many variations of this soup in years to come.  If anyone has other low-prep/all natural ingredient/probably vegetarian recipes they love to whip up, feel free to share!  We’re not really organic-y type people, but our life here necessitates such. :)  Unfortunately, most of the low prep stuff or “prepare ahead and freeze” recipes involve a lot of meat (hard to get here) or things like “one jar of alfredo sauce” or “one container of cream cheese.”  Sigh.  Miss those....