Nothing says warm, filling dinner in the winter quite like a nice soup. Soup is pretty easy to set up, extremely versatile with ingredients, and best of all - very few dishes to wash!
One of my favorites is this vegetable beef soup. It is great protein (the meat) AND fiber (lots of veggies!), and you very likely have most ingredients already on hand.
I am typically able to get 1 dinner as well as 3-4 lunches (for myself and my husband) out of this recipe. It stores well and we have even frozen it with good results!
Step 1: Ingredients
This recipe is very easy going. You can tweak just about any of the ingredients to suit your tastes, but the basics are:
Meat (1-2 pounds stew meat)
Oil for browning the meat
Salt and pepper to taste
Spices (Italian seasoning mix goes well, as does pickling spice. Go with what you like!)
Dry red wine, balsamic vinegar, Worcestershire sauce ... to flavor the broth. You may also want some sort of stock if you like a very rich broth for your soup, but water works fine as well.
Tomato paste to thicken the broth
Cutting board, knives, measuring cup, measuring spoons
Step 2: Brown the Meat
First off you will need to brown your meat. I usually go through the pack of meat and make sure all the pieces are what I consider bite sized - so of course start with that if you feel so inclined!
I prefer to use some oil while I brown the meat, since I find stew meat to generally be on the lean side. I do not drain this off - if you are concerned about fat content in your finished product skip the oil.
I use coconut oil for this as it is my choice of cooking oil. By all means use what makes you happy though!
While your meat is browning, add in a little salt and pepper. If you are using any canned veggie, or using tomatoes at all, go easy on the salt. You can always add more later! I used 1 tsp salt and 5 or 6 good grinds of peppercorns.
For reference, I am using a 6 quart stock pot to make this soup.
Step 3: Set Up Spices, Broth and Tomatoes
Now add your canned tomatoes, liquid and all. I like to get the tomatoes that already have herbs in them (coincidentally they have the fewest additives, at least of the brands I have available to choose from),
If you are going to use pickling spice, which I highly recommend if you have it available, make it into a packet. It adds a wonderful flavor, since there is so much good stuff in it, but it is rather unpleasant to come across the large pieces when you are trying to eat the finished product. A fill-your-own loose leaf tea back or some cheesecloth would both work fine I am sure. I used a coffee filter and some kitchen twine.
If you do go the coffee filter method, I would recommend doubling up. I only used one and once it got wet I realized it was more delicate than I anticipated. Mine did not burst but I felt I had to be more careful stirring than I would have otherwise.
I also added a generous pinch of a dried Italian herb mix (not pictured).
This is also the time to add any liquid broth enhancers if you are going to use any. I added 2 tablespoons of Worcestershire (1/8 cup if your measuring cup is that detailed), 1/4 cup merlot and 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar.
Do not add any other liquid at this time!
Step 4: Veggie Time!
Now is the time to add all your veggie goodness!
In this batch I used 1 small-ish celery heart, 6 carrots, 2 potatoes, 1 red bell pepper, 1 yellow bell pepper, a very large turnip, half a clove of garlic, and a very generous shake of dried chopped onion. Parsnips are excellent if you have some, and spinach (added closer to the end of cooking) adds something nice as well.
Really this step is very forgiving! If you like the flavor of something there is no reason not to include it - this is also a great soup if you want to use up some veggies in the fridge!
Basically there is no "set" amount of vegetables to add. The amount is determined by how coarse or fine you chop them and how large your pot is. You want to get your pot very full.
Do leave at least 2 inches clearance between the top of your veggie layer and the top of your pot. You will need to add water to cover the veggies and you don't want it to boil over.
Step 5: Add Tomato Paste and Water
If you have some tomato paste, now is the time to add it. I happened to have half a can left over from my dinner the previous night, so I used it. The soup turns out perfectly fine without using it too, so don't feel like you HAVE to go buy some if it is not something you normally use.
Now that you have all your solid ingredients in the pot, you know how much room you have for water. Add enough water to completely cover your vegetables by at least 1/4 inch and give everything a good stir.
If you want a richer broth, feel free to use some sort of stock rather than water at this point.
Step 6: Simmer Simmer Simmer!
Now bring your soup to a boil and reduce heat to a nice simmer. Once it gets to the simmering point, give it another stir.
At this point it just needs time, preferably at least an hour and a half, for the veggies to cook through and the flavors to get all meldy. Do give it a good stir every half hour to 45 minutes, but other than that you can pretty much ignore it.
I like to actually keep my partly covered as it simmers, but I have done it both ways and the result has been fine.
This batch simmered for just shy of 2 hours.
Step 7: Serve!
When you are happy with the done-ness of your vegetables and the flavor of your broth, you can remove your soup from heat! Your broth may be thinner than this depending on your veggie choices and whether or not you added tomato paste. That is fine! It will still taste great :)
You can serve up into bowls for immediate gratification at this point! Or, you can work on this on your day off and package it up to have hearty, home made soup for lunches or dinners through the week. Of course, if you made a big enough batch you can do both!
This is a great, easy one-pot meal that will give you good mileage as leftovers - and I think one of the best parts is it generates very few prep dishes! In addition to the pot/lid and stirring spoon, all I dirtied was 2 knives and 2 plates (plates were used as "cutting boards") [1 set for the meat and 1 set for the veggies], 2 measuring spoons, a regular spoon, and a measuring cup. Everything except the pot itself fits easily in the dishwasher so no big mess in the kitchen!
I hope you enjoy! If you have any great veggie combos please share in the comments!