Nothing beats a hot bowl of homemade soup or stew at the end of a cold day, but sometimes “homemade” can seem like a tall order. As the holidays approach we all seem to get a lot busier, which makes takeout menus and frozen meals extra tempting. Here are three simple tricks from bettereats.com to make your healthy, homemade soups quick and easy enough for even the most harried days.
USE WHAT YOU’VE GOT
Often when we think of cooking something at home, we think of going out and picking all fresh ingredients from the store to prepare our meal. In our fantasyland, that would be fabulous, but in reality we rarely have time to dedicate a shopping trip to each dinner. To save money and time, use what is already in the kitchen!
Leftover meat – maybe you made a roast chicken earlier in the week, or sautéed ground turkey for tacos, but whatever you have leftover might make the perfect addition to your soup! Next time you make a meaty meal, think of what you’ll have going on later in the week and make enough to include the leftovers in your soups and stews.
Extra grains – did the family enjoy couscous, rice, pasta, or quinoa earlier in the week? All of these make a great add-in to your soups, plus they make any soup that much heartier. If you don’t have any left over, quinoa cooks quickly in soups and makes the perfect addition to any soup (especially tomato!) Not into quinoa? Our Chinese Pork and Vegetable Hot Pot would be the perfect recipe to noodles to.
BETTER EATS TIP!
Have leftover broccoli or potatoes? Puree veggies and add them to your broth! Not only does this make use of your leftovers, but the kids won’t even notice the extra veggies. Our Garden-Fresh Asparagus Soup is a great example of a soup that uses the pureeing technique!
COOK WHILE YOU’RE OUT
We’ve told you before how much we love slow cooking, so if you haven’t brought the Crock-Pot out of storage yet, you just might want to start now. If you know your evening is going to be nuts, plan ahead by throwing in ingredients before you leave the house. A general rule, if you are totally stumped, throw in one liquid (try chicken broth, veggie broth, or a creamy tomato base), one protein, one starch (we love using black beans) and tons of veggies!
Another way to plan ahead with a Crock-Pot is to set aside a little time at the start of the week to divide chicken, potatoes, veggies, beansŠ anything else you want in your soups, and divide into resealable freezer bags. This prepares you for any last minute hectic days, so if Tuesday turns out to be nuts, just dump the bag into your slow cooker and enjoy the yumminess when the craziness of your day is over.
CHEAT JUST A LITTLE
If you are totally stumped for ideas or just feel like there just isn’t enough time, we have an extra easy trick – stretch a can of premade soup by adding to it. People often shy away from canned soup because it can be loaded with sodium, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be a good starting point! Not only will adding in your own ingredients make way more soup than the can alone would, it also reduces the sodium per serving. We like taking canned chicken soup and adding in extra chicken and vegetables to make a more filling meal. You can do the same to chili by adding extra beans, carrots, and ground turkey.