My Gift To You: New Year’s Soup!

95% of the time I see cooking as a necessary evil.

I like to eat, and I’m not a bad cook…love to do things for holidays and other group occasions, but stopping what I’m doing to fix a meal is annoying.

Whatever else I’m doing is almost always more interesting-more rewarding-more important that cooking.  And much of my cooking is by look, and by instinct…which can make some people crazy (but he’s learning to see the error of his ways!).

This  ‘gift’ is it’s easy and flexible: you make it to your own taste;  it’s inexpensive and nutritious, and you won’t be driving all over town to track down a source for any expensive or esoteric ingredients (‘…yes, I’m looking for fresh honey from juvenile, Argentinean honey bees…’).  Chances are you can make this from what you have in the house. Double bonus: it keeps well and re-heats beautifully.

Today I call this New Years’s Soup-because it is filled with GOOD THINGS, and GOOD INTENTIONS-but bottom line, it is the best vegetable soup EVER, feel free to make it your own, and call it what you will.

The beauty of this formula revolves around the lowly crockpot. You probably could do something on the stovetop, but with a crockpot you just assemble, and let it go. Doesn’t have to be fancy, mine is a 2-temperature, 5 quart  model that’s almost 20 years old.  

I like this to feel like a meal, so I prefer it to be be substantial: chunky and with a robust taste, so I start by browning meat. 

Use a deep pot on the stove, about 1 to 1.5 lbs of meat with a good sized chopped onion, minced garlic, cumin and pepper….I use ground turkey-and season meat with Bell’s turkey seasoning, but ground or cubed beef and your favorite seasonings are all fine. Just keep the cumin, it really adds to the flavor.

 Once browned, add tomatoes to the meat.  Use up to 3-28 oz cans of tomatoes, and/or some fresh if you have them. I use two cans whole and one crushed, but again your call. Simmer the tomatoes, meat/onion/garlic for about an hour.

 

You want the whole tomatoes to get soft, so you can start breaking them apart. When whole tomatoes cook, they break down and the fibers make for a nice, thick soup body.  You don’t have to crush them into oblivion, but once sauce is bubbling, about every 10 or 15 minutes smoosh them up a bit with a potato masher. 

Now is the time you will be cutting up the veggies. Fill your crockpot about 1/2 full of chopped hard/crunchy vegetables of choice. Carrots, peppers, squash/zucchini, celery and potatoes; string beans, or peas in pods work well too.

If you’re skipping the meat, throw in some sliced okra for a great smoky taste. Add a semi-drained can of beans (I like dark red kidneys).  Add meat/tomato mixtures, set on low and pretty much forget for the next 10-15 hours, except for the occasional stirring.

It’d be really hard to overcook this, but the first time you make this you will have to play around with the mix, the quantities, and the timimg til you find what works best for you.

It’s perfect for those days where everyone is coming/going/eating at different times, and a great alternative for game-day knoshes (meat and beans lets you sneak lots of veggies into everyone!)-just get it going Saturday night, so it’s ready for kick-off.  YUM! And did I mention, EASY??