Monday, January 16, 2012

From Cart to Pot to Belly

To a novice cook, cooking can be quite the task.  People sometimes get overwhelmed with the myriad of fancy tools, the assortment of spices...not to mention the thousands of food themed books that presently exist.  What should be a relaxing, enjoyable way to spend an hour turns into a stressful, frenzy-filled day for some.  Well, I hope if you have been reading my blog you realize that cooking and baking does not have to be complicated.  In fact, today I am going to show you how a few simple, easy to find ingredients can create a delightful soup that will last you days, if not weeks!

I must credit my mother for this...yet another delicious recipe from her kitchen, to mine, to yours!

First, a trip to the grocery store is probably necessary, unless you are a bean hoarder!

Notice that I did not buy a HUGE amount of food today, just a few key ingredients that will go quite far.  I cannot stress how important it is to read food labels...not just for the fat, sugar, and salt content, but also for the ingredients.  It is important to know what you are putting into your body.

For most soups, you can follow a pretty basic formula:

Soup base (vegetable, meat, or both) + liquid (water, broth, veggie juice or combo) (+ pasta, rice, other grain) + spices + time to simmer = delicious soup.

For my soup today, I combined a vegetable base with chicken broth, vegetable juice, pasta, and an assortment of spices.  You will need:

-1 yellow onion,
-1-2 carrots
-1/2 green, red, or both peppers
-1/2 cup baby spinach (or more if you like)
-1/2 sweet potato
-1/2 bunch green onions, use 1/3 of the greens
-1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes (mine were soaked in olive oil)
-3 mushrooms (optional)

-2 cans 15 oz black beans
-1 can pinto beans
-1 can refried beans (mine were canned with lime juice and chilis!)
-1/2 or whole can of golden hominy or corn
-1/2 can sliced water chestnuts (found with the Asian food!)
-1/2 cup Acini de Pepe pasta (a tapioca-shaped pasta)
-3/4 cups vegetable juice
-a box or 2-3 cans of chicken broth (low sodium, fat free)

Chop all vegetables and saute in a large pot with olive oil and seasonings (black/red pepper, basil, name it) until soft.  While you are waiting, put pinto beans and 1 can of black beans in a food processor with a touch of lime juice (optional, if you want a smoother soup).  When vegetables are ready...

...add beans and other ingredients.  Bring to a boil, stirring often because the beans sink to the bottom.  Cook on medium low and simmer for 45 minutes.  Taste for spices.  I threw in some extra garlic and red pepper at the end.

You can add pork if you like!  Brown it off and add it to your veggies. 

See? A quick trip to the store and a few simple steps will give you a soup that is fresh tasting and delicious.  And this recipe makes A LOT of soup.  I now have some in the freezer, some in the fridge, and some ready to go for Mr. PT's lunch tomorrow.

If you are a novice cook, start simple with soup.  You will be pleasantly surprised how simple and sumptuous the outcome will be.

Combine with walking rather than driving.  If the store is a short distance and you only need a few ingredients, step to it!  If your favorite coffee shop is less than a mile away, walk there and reward yourself with a green tea and magazine!  Save the planet and strengthen your body by using your body for what it was intended for.

What is your favorite formula for soup? Leave a comment!

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