Spring Cleaning Vegetable Soup

This post is inspired by a couple things…first, I just went through my kitchen and pantry got rid of what I don’t need and reorganized everything.  The kitchen was not the first of my household simplification tasks, nor will it be the last.  It seems to me that even after my Spring cleaning, we still have an abundance of “stuff” and anything that isn’t used regularly and appreciated should go to someone who will make use of it.  The second inspiration is a cooking class I taught last weekend that was basically about simplifying cooking so that it’s manageable for even the busiest among us.  The point of the class is that a little organization and prep work can make cooking much more accessible and much more fun, especially on weeknights when everyone wants food the second they walk in the door and the consequence of not having it isn’t pretty.  Plus, simple, clean food tastes, and feels, really, really good. 

One thing I encourage everyone to do is to use up every last bit of fresh food before heading back to the store.  There are a few ways I like to do this and one of them is to make a hearty, healthy vegetable soup.  Throughout the week, I save clean, mild vegetable trimmings (the unused ends of onions, leeks, shallots, garlic, celery, carrots, potatoes, etc.) in a bag in the freezer.  When I have a full bag, I throw it all in a big ovenproof pot with some olive oil, sea salt, and maybe some spices and roast at 400 degrees for about 30 to 45 minutes.  then I add water to cover and simmer for another 30 minutes to several hours (or, just throw it in the crockpot on low for the day).  I strain out the liquid, being sure to squeeze the excess out of the cooked veggies, and, voila, I have the broth for my soup.   If you don’t have homemade broth available, bouillon cubes will be just fine. 

This is just a base recipe; take everything fresh and perishable out of the fridge and see what you can do.  It turns out different each time, so you never get sick of it!  At least I don’t…

  • 2-3 Tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion, or whatever oniony combo you want (shallots, scallions, leeks)
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 3 stalks celery, diced
  • 3 carrots, diced
  • 1 cup frozen green beans
  • 1/2 green cabbage, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup or more chopped leafy greens
  • 2-3 cups diced, roasted tomatoes, optional
  • 1-2 teaspoons herbs, optional (could go Italian, Mexican, Indian, whatever you like, or keep it simple and leave them out)
  • 6-8 cups vegetable broth (or to desired consistency)
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • optional – Parmesan, leftover cooked grains, leftover cooked beans, pasta, stale bread cubes to thicken, potatoes, etc, etc.

Saute the onion in oil until soft.  Add garlic and cook another minute.  Add celery, carrots, green beans, cabbage, and leafy greens and stir to coat in oil.  Cover and cook until they begin to soften.  Add herbs, if using, and cook a few minutes more.  Add water, bring to a boil and either transfer to a crockpot to finish cooking, or simmer until all of the veggies are as soft as you like them.  Add cooked grains or beans, if using, and cook until heated through.  Season to taste and enjoy! 

If you have leftovers that won’t get eaten in a day or two, freeze in individual portions so you’ll have it for a busy week down the road.

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