It's the ultimate one-pot meal! It's easy to make, easy to reheat, healthy, hearty, and delicious. Plus, it's a great meal to make with your kids!
Naturally, a great vegetable soup begins with great ingredients. I personally started cooking my own vegetable soup soon after signing up for produce delivery from Full Circle Farms; (Hello Fresh and Amazon Green are good options too.)
I would always try to think of new and inventive ways to use the vegetables that would conveniently arrive on my doorstep every week, but this soup always seemed to be the best way to use EVERYTHING.
Plus, it's incredibly versatile!
In fact, I don't think I've ever made it exactly the same way twice; but there are a few rules that I always abide by.
Always use fresh produce
Always include a protein (typically beans or lentils)
Always include a starch
The combination of vegetables, protein, and starch is what qualifies this soup and a complete and balanced one-pot meal. One bowl is usually enough to leave you feeling full and satisfied.
I always cook this soup using the biggest pot I have so that I can make enough to last the entire week.
It all begins with a Mirepoix (pronounced: Meer-a-PWAH) to vegetables, sauteed in oil.
You can use any type of high-heat oil, canola oil, vegetable oil, grape seed oil, avocado oil, clarified butter, or refined olive oil. Beware NOT to use extra virgin olive oil.
The Mirepoix itself should contain three vegetables; one salty, one acidic, and one sweet. Celery, onion, and carrots are the three most commonly used.
I'll typically include one onion, one bunch of carrots, and four ribs of celery.
Saute the vegetables over medium heat until the onions become translucent; then throw in the tomatoes and let them cook for a few minutes with the mirepoix, then add the herbs.
Now add the stock and/or broth.
Increase the heat to high and bring the pot to a boil while you prep and add the remaining vegetables.
Chop them up and throw them into the pot.
My favorite protein to include is small uncooked red beans, but you can use lentils, pinto beans; or anything else.
Just measure them (I use one heaping cup of dry, uncooked beans) rinse them, and throw them in the pot.
Your options for starches are even more numerous!
They include various kinds of potatoes, rice, corn, barley, and pasta.
Brown rice, barley, and whole wheat pasta are some examples of good healthy starches; but I love using Finn potatoes in the winter months. (Note: If you are going to use potatoes, I recommend choosing an 'all-purpose' potato like the Yukon gold, Russet, or Finn.)
A good ratio to follow is: one cup of uncooked starch or one pound of potatoes per pot of soup.
Then comes the most commonly overlooked step: Seasoning.
Obviously we're going to want to add salt and pepper; but I like to elevate things a few notches and sprinkle in some 'smoke and fire...'
Smoked paprika and cayenne pepper sauce.
The smoked paprika can be omitted if you so choose, but the hot sauce adds an acidic component that shouldn't be ignored.
If heat isn't your thing, you can substitute lemon juice or vinegar; but keep in mind that cayenne pepper has a unique ability to boost metabolism.
Over the years, I've used different combinations of stocks, broths, aromatic herbs, vegetables, proteins, and starches. The recipe below is the one I came up with when lowering my cholesterol became my priority.
All the ingredients were specifically chosen for their ability to lower LDL and/or boost HDL. (Read: Understanding the difference between Good and Bad Cholesterol)
It also meets the underlying requirements for being tasty and filling.
Large pot with a lid
3 Tbsp. Avocado oil
1 Bunch carrots
4 Ribs Celery
1 Large can of whole peeled tomatoes
1 Quart bone broth (unsalted)
3 Quarts vegetable stock (unsalted)
1 Bunch green kale
1 Bunch spinach
3/4 Cup small red beans
3/4 Cup pinto beans
1 Heaping Cup barley (dry, uncooked)
1 Bay leaf
1 Sprig thyme
1 Tbsp. Frank's Red Hot sauce
2 tsp. Smoked paprika
Salt and pepper to taste
Add the oil to the pot and place over medium heat
Coarse chop the onion and add it to the pot once oil is hot
Peel carrots, coarse chop them and add them to the pot
Coarse chop celery and add it to the pot.
Cook for 5-7 minutes and then add bay leaf and thyme.
Add stock and broth
Coarse chop the remaining vegetables and add them to the pot
Rinse and add the beans
Bring the pot to a boil, then cover and simmer on low heat for two hours; or until the beans are tender.
Add seasoning once the beans are cooked through and the heat is off.