|Middle stage of Curried Carrot Parsnip soup preparation|
Happy Hallowe'en! Another beautiful, colourful autumn day on the south coast, sunny and relatively warm. I hope the rain holds off for tonight! The only trick-or-treaters that visit my apartment are crows, gulls, starlings and sparrows with an occasional junco in the mix (no chickadees yet this fall). They are currently enjoying some very stale Shreddies. One of the crows played a Hallowe'en prank by crapping on my Dad's truck yesterday while he stood next to it. Sigh. Better than spray-paint, I suppose.
|Foreground: bottom shelf where the cheapies are! (New Apple Farm Market)|
I have heard that the Cantonese slang for ladies engaged in idle conversation is "making soup", in reference to the long process of making soup from scratch. When I hear "making soup", I think of Creed Bratton from the US version of "The Office".
Well, I am going to differ when I say that it doesn't take long to make soup (provided you're not making stock as well, which is easily avoidable), and your house will smell nice, not as though someone's dropped a deuce on your carpet.
I am also happy to share my tips for making an economical meal even more affordable!
|Ugly veggies - mark-downs at New Apple Farm Market|
If your grocer doesn't have a 'ugly vegetable' shelf, don't despair - go here to find out what's in season in Vancouver, or alternatively buy what's cheap and then find a recipe to match. A quick Google search will come to your rescue if your cookbooks let you down.
Tip 2: Store soup in 'single serving sized' containers. Freezing soup ahead of time is great for a quick meal, assuming you don't have to quickly thaw a cubic litre of solid soup. I'm pretty sure there's nothing more annoying than trying to evenly reheat a Mason jar of frozen soup or spaghetti sauce in a time-dependent manner! If you're a planner, thawing a frozen tub of soup overnight in the fridge for dinner the next day may be convenient. Then again, my idea of convenient is throwing open the freezer door and grabbing a masking-tape labelled yogurt container full of soup that will happily defrost under my desk from 9am until noon when it's ready to get nuked (note that this probably isn't "Food Safe", but when you're vegetarian you feel it's easier to take small risks). Single serving containers makes lunches and dinners on the fly much easier, and it also means that you don't have to eat the same thawed soup 3 meals in a row.
|Dried Mushoom soup with Barley - low fat but delicious!|
|Single-serving containers, and soup ingredients waiting to be used up in round 4!|
Tip 4: Make your own stock OR dilute store-bought stock. Making your own stock, which I didn't do this time around, is preferrable - it's usually more economical and it's definitely better for you if you watch your sodium intake (which we all should do, regardless of age). I didn't have the energy to make a huge batch of stock this time, so I bought some Pacific Foods vegetable stock and cut it in half - most of my recipes called for "stock or water" anyway. By diluting the stock, I not only got twice as much working volume out of the package, I also cut the sodium content by half. Another great reason to make your own stock is that you can customize it - avoid the flavours you don't want or avoid allergens (in my case, alas, garlic, shallot and red onion... curses!). If you do make your own soup base, DO NOT add the following vegetables as they will completely overpower your soup*: asparagus, Brussels sprouts (evil!) and other cruciferous veggies (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbages), eggplants/aubergine, and perhaps surprisingly, tomatoes and bell peppers. *obviously, if you're making a 'Cream of Asparagus' soup, it's perfectly reasonable to put asparagus in your stock.
|Label everything - a practice that's as good in the lab as it is at home|
|You'd be amazed at the spices you forgot you had!|
|Transfer your pots and pans on and off the element in use.|
This is the season that I crave ruby red borscht (a point of contention with my fiancee - his family's traditional borscht is orange and has chicken in it!) with Pumpernickel bread and herbed butter. I also like a dollop of sour cream in my borscht (an even bigger point of contention! I ask you - how can you NOT like sour cream?!). The ReBar Cookbook has a fantastic vegetarian borscht recipe with porcini mushrooms taking the place of the usual ham bone.
Of the soups I made yesterday, the "Dried Mushroom Soup with Barley" was by far the best (Moosewood - Low Fat Favourites, page 94). I also made "Curried Carrot Parsnip Soup" (page 100) which could've been better and less citrusy, and "New England Squash Soup" (page 96) which positively sucked compared to Burgoo's. Oh, how I love Burgoo! Tonight's soup(s) will originate from the full-fat (but still quite healthy and safe!) pages of Moosewood's "New Classics". I suspect that my butternut squash soup could've used a little lipid.
|My cookbook podium - Gold to New Classics, Silver to ReBar and Bronze to Low Fat Fav's|
I think the moral of the story is to not try to compete with Burgoo in the field of soup-making. If you feel like a soup tonight and have run out of time, why not meander down to Main Street (or up to 10th Ave, or across to Lonsdale) and treat yourself to virtually anything on their menu - you really can't go wrong. There's even an allergy menu available for people like me with special needs in the digestion department! Make sure you order a side of biscuits to go with it - mmm mmmm mmmmmmm!
Homemade soup you've made yourself is still a satisfying and cheap meal and perfect for a chilly fall or winter evening. A full pot will typically feed two for dinner as a main course and leave you with leftovers for lunches - many soups freeze well, too, so you don't have to eat the same soup all week. Pick up a baguette and cut yourself off a portion - much more economical than hitting up Quizno's on your lunchbreak!
I just stumbled across FREE Moosewood recipes, including the following soups:
Black Bean and Chipotle
Roasted Red Pepper Coconut
Very Creamy Potato-Cheese Soup
Spicy Carrot Peanut
and my absolute, all-time favourite fish recipe, Pecan Crusted Fish. Try it - it's awesome!