It’s June, but it’s also a blustery. and cold. Soup required. There is nothing faster, or more comforting than a bowl of hot soup. Good pre-made soup is very expensive. Cheap soup is not good. All but the premium-priced, organic, canned or packaged soups have an ingredients list that would test a professional chemist’s knowledge. And if you think you are doing yourself a favor to buy a ready-made version from a large grocery store, really do yourself a favor and request a nutrition statement.
There is a real-food option. In fact, homemade soup is a very simple meal. This post will just cover my cream soup method, but just increase the broth, and you have a non-cream version.
This method works for any vegetable, or any combination. I’m featuring mushrooms here, but check the variation ideas at the bottom of the post.
Start with 1 cup of vegetables per serving (more if using mushrooms, or other veggies that shrink). With mushroom soup, I tend to keep it pure mushrooms. With other veggies, like cauliflower, broccoli, etc., I almost always add a little onion and garlic. Let your own tastes guide the base ingredients.
This next part is important: Add your choice to a pot with a little oil, and brown the veggies. You don’t need to saute for a long time, just enough to get a little color and flavor into the mix.
While the vegetables are browning, mix ½ cup of milk (I use 1% milk) with 1 tablespoon of flour for each serving. Stir, or put in a container or jar and shake. It’s important to get the flour into the milk a few minutes before you use it. If the flour has time to moisten evenly, you won’t have trouble with lumps.
Once the vegetables are browned, add just enough broth (your choice) to see it through the vegetables. You do not want to cover the vegetables, because you will be adding more liquid. Add salt and pepper, as well as any other spice or herb to your taste. For mushroom soup, hot salt and pepper is my norm. For mixed vegetable soup, I will usually add oregano and basil. Carrots and dill are a great match. Have some fun with this part.
Simmer until the vegetables are cooked to your liking, usually just a few minutes.You can cover the pot to speed up the cooking, though I usually don’t bother.
Add the milk/flour mixture to the vegetables. Simmer for a couple of minutes to allow the flour to thicken and flavor to blend into the milk. Add more milk if your soup is too thick.
Hint: You can use Carnation milk to replace some of the milk in this recipe for a creamier, slightly sweet variation. This does add to the calorie count, but if you use 2% evaporated milk, it will still be very healthy.
That’s it. a cup of vegetables, milk, broth and a bit of flour. That’s a healthy ingredients list. Now compare that list to a can of soup.
Smooth Soup: You may prefer a soup that is less chunky. If so, you can puree the cooked vegetable mixture in a blender or food processor, then return to the pan and add the milk and flour. Carrot and squash are especially suited to this method. Or, take the easy, halfway route and remove the pan from the heat when the vegetables are cooked and mash the mixture with a fork, or even a small potato masher. Note: If I am going to dirty an appliance, it has to be a net gain for me in time. Six servings, worth it. One, I use a fork.
Chowder: You can use the same basic recipe to make a creamy chowder soup. Most chowders have potatoes. I raised my kids on clam chowder and corn chowder made just like the mushroom soup. I added the clam juice to the cooking liquid, and the clams at the end. For corn chowder, I used about half and half corn and potatoes, a little onion and one slice of bacon (easy to always have a slice if you freeze it separately).
Add protein: You can add raw, chopped meat to the vegetable mixture to brown. If you have cooked meat, you can add that to the soup at the end, unless you think the meat would benefit from the flavor-boost with browning. Because this soup does not cook for long, you won’t overcook any added meat.
Toppings: A bowl of soup is just a bowl of soup unless you put a little surprise on top. You’ll be amazed by how you feel about your meal when you take a minute to dress up your soup. Here’s a starter list of ideas:
- grated cheese
- sour cream or yogurt
- chopped tomato or green onion, or cucumber …
- chopped fresh herbs
- crumpled, crisp bacon
- a ball of rice (wet your hands)
- roasted red pepper