It’s Not Rocket Science-It’s SOUP!


I’m guilty of it too: the weather gets a bit of a chill to it, and there I am on Pinterest- pinning soup recipes. It’s not like I don’t know how to make soup-I’ve kept us all alive on it for 41 years! But I always think that there must be some type or style of soup that I have not tried. The truth is that most of the recipes I “pin”, I don’t have all of the ingredients to make them. I need to get back to my roots, and make soup the way I did in the old days, following a loose formula with ingredients based on what is left in the refrigerator two days before payday or what was on the clearance shelf at the store.

A Loose Recipe for Soup

Protein Base: Pick One

  • Beef (leftovers, or a pound or two of whatever was cheapest this week-chuck, round or whatever)
  • Chicken (bits left from a roasted chicken, boneless thighs, home canned)
  • Beans (usually a couple cans of something that sounds interesting:black, chick peas, Great Northern, Pinto, etc. Also dried beans that have been washed, picked over and soaked.)
  • Fish or Seafood (my go-to is canned minced clams, mini shrimps or canned Salmon, but leftovers are good here too)
  • Lamb

Broth: Pick one or two

  • Of course the ultimate is bone broth. And I do make my own, but not nearly enough to fuel my soup habit.
  • Canned or boxed broth. (quick but expensive)
  • Concentrated broths in paste form (my most common soup friend) My favorites is Tones in beef or chicken. These have long shelf lives.
  • Wine (we are guilty of always leaving half a glass in the bottle in the fridge. just pour it in)
  • Beer (mostly used in my chili type recipes, but also useful in milk based potato soups or chowders)
  • Milk/Cream (always added toward the end of cooking to prevent curdling)
  • Tomato sauce


  • Potatoes (fresh, leftover, freeze dried,or canned)
  • Rice (leftover cooked or right from the box allowing enough liquid to cook it)
  • Small pasta or broken spaghetti noodles
  • Egg Noodles ( you can cook them separately and add to the base, but I just add extra water and cook them in the broth toward the end of the cooking time)
  • Beans/Lentils/Peas/Barley  (if you have chosen a broth base with bits of meat, you can also add beans as your starch. leftover or soaked)
  • Dumplings


  • Anything goes-leftovers or a bag of mixed frozen vegetables. Canned vegetables will work, but add them near the end of the cooking time, to prevent mooshy veggies. I love the convenience of freeze dried veggies-already chopped-just dump in a handful.
  • Mushrooms (I know you are either in the “hell yeah” group or the “I’m gonna puke” group)
  • Tomatoes
  • Shredded cabbage, slightly limp baby spinach, the last couple leaves of a bunch of kale-added toward the end of cooking time.
  • Green peas and carrots are my favorites, but be careful-too much of these will add sweetness to your soup-just be aware.
  • Squash-fresh or frozen-summer or winter. Be aware of the sweetness that winter squash will add.


  • Onions (I consider them both a vegetable and a spice-gotta have ’em at our house)
  • Garlic (mostly with beef or beans)
  • Parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme ( Just like the old song-for chicken based soups)
  • Any other spice that you like,that you have noticed in soups at restaurants, or in Progesso canned, or at your mother in law’s. Experiment within reason.
  • Bay leaves


  • Cheese (shredded or Parmesan)
  • Sour cream
  • Chopped green onions (if you have kids that refuse to poke a spoonful of soup in their mouths that might contain an onion, you can always top your own bowl with some nice green onions)
  • Tortilla chips or Fritos crumbled (I have convinced children to eat soup by allowing this aberration)
  • Crackers
  • Croutons (only home made-those store bought ones are not so good for you-and expensive)

Here is how the formula works:

I am going to make a loose interpretation of my family’s favorite Beef with Barley Soup.

  1. Today I had picked up a piece of round roast that was marked down to $3.99/lb, not quite 2 pounds. I cubed it small. I cube most of my ingredients at about a half inch-that way you can fit bits of everything on your spoon! I did dredge the beef cubes in flour/salt/pepper, because I like the darker richness in this soup that I can get by browning the meat.
  2. I chopped a large white onion, and tossed it in after the meat.
  3. My broth will be from a concentrate, so I pour a kettle of boiling water over the meat and onions and then add about a 1/4 cup of concentrate.
  4. I spend some time thinking about spices-today it was garlic powder, onion powder, oregano and a pinch of cumin.
  5. I added a few new potatoes purchased at the farmer’s market-there weren’t enough left to make a side dish at a regular meal, but enough to add some thickness to my soup.
  6. Sliced up some mini organic carrots I found in the crisper-even if your carrots are a bit limp, you can clean them and put them in soup.
  7. Found a partial bag of green peas in the freezer-slightly freezer burned-no problem.
  8. Mushrooms. Today I used several large handfuls of freeze dried, but I use fresh when they are 99 cents at Aldi’s, or canned, or Morels that we gather in spring.
  9. Several handfuls of barley go in. I am guilty of putting A LOT of barley in my soup-it is good for you, it is tasty, and the Piper prefers his soups less soupy and thicker. Barley will get you there!
  10. As an after thought, I found 3 large San Marzano paste tomatoes from my garden lurking by the sink, so I chopped those and threw them in.

Today, the soup went on the stove top, because we are puttering around inside the house. If I were gardening, canning, chopping wood,  or shopping, I would have put everything in the crock pot, and probably would not have browned the meat-just cuz I’m lazy, and would save washing a frying pan.

It’s only been an hour or so, and the Piper is already circling the stove top on the kitchen island, wondering if he can have soup for both lunch and supper today. I shooed him off, I have a two day old loaf Italian bread that I might turn into croutons and fry in some garlic and olive oil.

There-I made an incredible soup, I cleaned out the fridge and the vegetable bins, and produced several great meals low in fat (I trimmed the beef closely and browned it in healthy olive oil) and high in fiber-that barley is magical stuff! Next time we’ll use a chicken base and clean out the fridge together!

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