Sometimes, when I’m cooking, I like to cheat.
Most of the time, I don’t. Most of the time, I do things from scratch using fresh ingredients. Aside from cereal, Bisquick and seldom-used canned soup, there are very few packaged foods in my house. I pretty much follow the shop-the-periphery philosophy when buying groceries in order to avoid excess salt and those preservatives that probably do as much to preserve US as the foods they’re in.
I hit the jackpot a few years ago when I stumbled on a really dumbed-down version of vegetable beef soup that I can make when it’s convenient and refrigerate for later. Only the meat is fresh. The rest of the ingredients are packaged and probably already in your pantry. I tried it once, liked it a lot, then tweaked it to suit myself–still using what I usually have on hand.
This is what I ended up with, which serves 4-6.
1 pound Italian sausage
1 14-oz. can beef broth (or chicken, for a different flavor)
1-1/4 cups water
1 10-oz. package frozen mixed vegetables
1 10-1/2 oz. can condensed tomato soup
1 14-1/2 oz. can diced tomatoes with green chilies
1 heaping tablespoon of dried minced onion
1 heaping teaspoon of Italian season
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
First, brown and crumble the Italian sausage in a soup pot and pour off excess fat. Then add all the rest of the ingredients and let it simmer for a couple hours. Or, brown the meat on the stove and then put it in a crock-pot, add the rest of the ingredients and cook 4 hours on high or 7-8 on low.
If you don’t like Italian sausage, use hamburger and brown it with a bit of garlic salt and some crushed sweet basil. If you don’t like things spicy-hot, choose plain diced tomatoes, instead of those with green chilies. You could use ground turkey or regular stew meat, too.
That’s what so nice about this recipe. You can switch out the ingredients a bit and still have a fabulous pot of soup that’s low in fat and high in those things you don’t admit to your kids are there–nutrients.
I like to serve it with garlic toast topped with just a bit of grated cheddar cheese and then add some fresh fruit as a foil for the zing.
Even the most inexperienced cook can make this and look like a pro–and not even admit to cheating.