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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Frugality (Part IV): Soup

This week's entry is not going to be as long as my others have been. I'm stepping away from general practices and principles to a specific area. I'm going to expand on the whole stock pot theme from last week. Soup is a great way to avoid waste and to stretch a food budget. It is quite tasty, too.

Eating soup for dinner at least once a week is not only good for you, but it will cut your food budget by quite a bit. You tend to use a small amount of each ingredient, as the broth or stock or even water, draws the flavor out of the food. If you make your own stock, use the little bits of meat, vegetable, grain, etc. that you have languishing in your fridge, freezer or pantry, you will save even more money and avoid waste. Even if you start from new ingredients, you can use cheaper cuts of meat that take longer to tenderize and longer cooking vegetables, which also tend to be inexpensive.

There is so much nutrition in stocks and broths made from bones, so I highly advocate making and freezing them to use for soup (as well as sauces and cooking liquid for other foods). Much of the marrow and gelatin gets drawn out into stocks which makes it especially good for you, greatly magnifies the flavor and gets some much needed protein released into a dish without using a lot of meat.

This is not to discount vegetarian soups, we eat those quite a bit, too. We also eat meat soups that use other liquids, it is not as if those are not good for you. I would serve soup more than once a week if Rich liked soup more. He grew up eating a lot of soup and is a little tired of it. Still. I tend to make my soups thicker or heartier or creamier or with lots of melted cheese on top (like the French onion soup I'm making this week) to compensate for his soup issues. He likes soups better when they include any or all of those elements I listed.

Another benefit of soup is that, for the most part, they are relatively simple to put together, don't require a lot of stove time from you, and are a complete meal with some sort of bread type item or sandwich and/or a salad. So, healthful, frugal, flavorful and simple? Works for me!

Since it is almost Thanksgiving, I will share my After Thanksgiving Soup recipe with you.

This is highly dependent on what you eat at Thanksgiving, so it is a loose recipe. If you wanted to add anything like brussels sprouts, I'd add them in the last 15 minutes of cooking.

Defatted stock from turkey carcass, reserve fat to cook vegetables or use olive oil or butter if you are squeamish
A cup or two of leftover wild rice dressing (or some other starchy thing you want to put in - my onion comes from this, if you use something without onion in it, dice up an onion to saute with the other aromatics)
The small leftover turkey bits (save the bigger pieces for another dish)
4-6 stalks celery, diced
4 carrots, scraped and diced
6 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup chopped parsley leaves, for garnish, stems reserved
4 sprigs fresh sage
3 sprigs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped, fresh rosemary
Freshly ground pepper
Juice & zest of one lemon (you can leave the zest in larger pieces and remove them once the soup is cooked, or omit it or just use lemon pepper)
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Salt to taste

Heat fat in soup pot over medium heat. Add celery, carrots, garlic and onion, if you are using it. Cook until vegetables soften a bit. Add everything else. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, partly covered for 45 minutes. Taste to adjust seasonings. Serve with a sprinkle of parsley and your leftover rolls.

Previous Posts:
Make it at Home
Grocery Shopping
Waste Not, Want Not

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My hubby also is not very fond of soups. He likes stews and thick soups like Clam Chowder, but doesn't like to deal with the liquids in soups like French Onion. So, I make soups with lots of solids, which might include noodles, rice, or barley as well as veggies and meat. I serve a normal portion to myself and I try to scoop out mostly solids in his portion.
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