Well friends, I guess we are officially in the gloomy part of middle winter. The recent dreary skies and cold winds make me want to huddle in my kitchen, where it is always warm and bright! I love the winter months, not because of the cold darkness, but for the great opportunity to keep my stove on. To me there is something magical about transforming a pile of odd ingredients into a hot and hearty meal. Nothing says comfort food on a cold day more than a steaming hot bowl of homemade soup.
This week, my focus will be on creating an amazing soup to enter into the upcoming “SOUP-er Bowl”! This will be the 6th annual event that brings hundreds of people together to spend an afternoon sampling soups from many different caterers and restaurants in the area. As a fund raising event for our local hospital, it is a way to not only support the facility, but to get out and enjoy a fun afternoon with friends!
Variety abounds in the types of soup offered. Numbering near twenty-five varieties in the recent years, I expect a similar number of choices this year. There have been several types of traditional soups, as well as many other unique varieties of soups. From Prime Rib vegetable soup and Roasted Red Pepper Vegetable soup to White Bean Chicken Chili, Rueben Soup and Corn Chowder with smoked sausage, the options have been far from your basic can of chicken noodle! These cooks put thought and flavor together to come up with some of the tastiest concoctions you can imagine.
Soup making can truly be a creative process…you can start with something as simple as a pot of vegetable or meat stock and turn it into a hearty flavor-fest. Soup making is also a great was to make use of left-overs. I love to find all of the “dibs and dabs” I have in my fridge and see how I can turn them into a hearty meal. Left over pot roast, potatoes and veggies, added to a simple stock or thin gravy can become a delicious soup or stew. Have some left over rotisserie chicken and a little brown rice? Simply add it to a carton of chicken broth (I prefer low sodium varieties) and voila! The result is homemade chicken and rice soup that is better, not to mention cheaper, than you will get from a can. A forlorn stuffed pepper and a little V-8 juice can be transformed into a quick and easy stuffed pepper soup. The options can be endless if you are a little daring!
You might be wondering, what the difference is between soups and stew. Soup and stew are similar, yet there are a few significant differences. Soup typically is a “quick cook” food, meaning it is made with a thin broth and can have small pieces of meat, veggies and pastas added. Stew is typically a longer cooked, thicker version. Stew is generally prepared by simmering in a closed vessel (such as a Dutch oven or crock pot) for a long time, typically several hours or more. Because of the longer cook time, some of the liquid will evaporate leaving the broth thicker. Stews also tend to be chunkier, with lots of larger pieces of meat and veggies. The longer cook time allows those larger, frequently tough pieces to become very tender. When time is limited, however, I like to follow Rachel Ray’s example and create a “stoup” or quick cooked soup that is thick and chunky like a stew. By using leftover meats (that have already been cooked until they are tender) you can make a quick stew. I remember an ad from my childhood (yes, it was a long time ago…) for a soup that claimed to be so thick you could eat it with a fork, but you should use a spoon to enjoy every drop. Now that’s my kind of soup!
Back to the “SOUP-er Bowl” for a final thought; I will be there with a wonderful creation for you to sample, so I hope you all will come out to support a great cause and enjoy a wonderful afternoon of food, fun and fellowship! And while you are there, please stop by my table and say HI! I love to meet Gazette readers!
Left-over Pot Roast Soup
The remains of last night dinner:
- About 2 cups of beef roast
- 2 cups left over veggies (carrots, celery, onions… whatever I had cooked with my beef!)
- 1-2 cooked potatoes
- 2 cups gravy + 2 cups water –OR- 4 cups cooking broth
- Salt and pepper to taste
- ½ t thyme
Cut beef, veggies and potatoes into bite sized pieces. Add to liquid and simmer until heated through. Enjoy with a slice of warm buttered crusty bread!
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