I know that we here at Feaston aren’t the only ones scaling back on our meat consumption. Whether it’s for health reasons or economic ones, cutting back on the ground beef and chicken (and steak and, Lord help me, kielbasa!) can really help out – whether you’re watching your weight or your wallet.
Going vegetarian can be great! It opens up a whole menu of new options. But sometimes, all you want is the old standby comfort foods. We feel you. And we have a recipe for you too.
I haven’t always been a fan of vegetable soup. But I find myself craving it on cold, rainy days and recently discovered that lima beans aren’t so bad after all. This recipe is a hybrid of my mother’s classic version – which always included ground beef – and the 16 vegetable soup they serve at Country Picnic, the awesome deli near where I work.
This soup starts like so many others in a large soup pot. Just heat up some olive oil over medium heat and add to that about three celery stalks, diced, and half of a large onion, diced. Season with garlic salt and a little cumin.
A note about cumin: This is one of the most underrated and underused spices and it’s probably sitting in your kitchen right now. It’s most often used in Mexican dishes, but it’s also fantastic on eggs and in soups. We especially like it in meatless dishes, where it gives a bit of a smoky flavor to an otherwise fresh palette. You’ll never miss the meat!
We also added a little fresh ground pepper and crushed red pepper to the celery and onions to give the soup a little heat. And, while we’re in the spice cabinet, toss in a bit of Italian seasoning, just to give the soup some flavor depth.
Now, here is where most cooks toss in a bag of mixed vegetables (the kind with the carrots, corn, and lima beans) and call it a day. I used about half of that mixture and added to it half a bag of a different vegetable mixture. This one has zucchini and cauliflower in it, along with some other familiar ingredients. Anyway, you can add whatever you like – veggies that are leftover from the night before or just the random bags that are floating in your freezer. I threw in some extra corn and carrots, just to even things out a bit.
Alright, time for the broth! This could not be any easier. All you have to do is … add one bottle of low sodium V8 or whatever vegetable juice your store sells. Because I had it opened, I added a bit of vegetable stock as well, which thinned out the soup a bit. If the V8 is too much for you, thin it out with a bit of water.
Next, scrub off about 1 pound of red potatoes. I leave the skins on, ’cause I hear that’s where the nutrients are. Also, it’s tasty that way. When it comes to potatoes, I think canned soups get it right – I like ’em on the small and bite-sized side as opposed to quartered. Also, smaller pieces cook faster. And once you smell this soup cooking, you will be hungry!
Finally, I tossed in a can of diced (rinsed!) tomatoes.
Bring the soup to a boil and turn heat to just above low. Cover and let simmer for about half an hour, or until the potatoes are tender. I think a little salt and pepper at the end isn’t going to hurt anybody.
This is especially good with some multigrain bread or, if you’re not watching your waistline, a bread bowl. (And my mom recently served a similar version with some Pillsbury biscuits – yum!)
Can you think of a better way to eat your vegetables? Me either.
Makes 8 generous servings
- 1 Tsp. olive oil
- 3 celery stalks, diced
- 1/2 medium onion, diced
- 1/2 tsp. garlic salt
- 1 tsp. cumin
- pepper to taste
- 1 tsp. crushed red pepper
- 1tsp. Italian seasoning
- 16 ounces mixed vegetables – any variety, including fresh or frozen
- 1 – 64 ounce bottle low-sodium vegetable juice
- water of vegetable stock to thin the soup
- 1 lb. red potatoes, skins on, diced into small pieces
- 1 -14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes, rinsed
In a large soup pot, sweat celery and onions in olive oil over medium heat. Once soft, add garlic salt, cumin, pepper and Italian seasoning. Add vegetables and cook until soft.
Add vegetable juice and enough water or broth to thin out the soup to your liking. Add potatoes and tomatoes and turn heat to medium high. Once soup begins to boil, reduce heat to low.
Cover and let simmer for half an hour or until potatoes are tender.
Serve by the bowlful with crusty bread.