Soup’s On!

Making your own soup or stew or chili is easy!  I mean, once you’ve tried it out a couple of times and gotten the hang of it.  I’m not sure if there are some “tricks” I’ve been missing out there, and I’m sure there are fancier soups to be made than what modest recipes I’ve managed to cook up, but everyone needs some place to start, and here’s mine.

Basic ingredients for your soup/stew (I’d also say for your chili, only minus the broth – that’s why the juice from canned tomatoes is important):  begin by sautéing onions and garlic with olive oil (NOTE:  add garlic AFTER onions have softened, garlic added too soon will burn).  Add hard veggies (like celery, carrots, or peppers), then soft veggies (mushrooms).  Add 14-28 oz. of canned whole tomatoes (crush them apart with your hands – a trick my mom uses in her chili) and 4 cups of vegetable stock (plus 1 cup water, depending on the consistency you’re going for – remember for chili, NO stock).  Then you’ve got your spices (rosemary, thyme, and sage are staples, or some combo of pepper and spice for chili – plus make sure to add plenty of salt and pepper, especially if your stock is low-sodium).

Easy add-ins for a soup/stew with more protein (after the initial sautéing, cook on a simmer for 20-30 minutes, depending on the add-in):  quinoa, orzo, lentils, lentil-quinoa pasta (or your choice of pasta), rice, beans (garbanzo, kidney, white, black, etc.)

Add-ins for a heartier stew/chili (these root veggies need to be cooked a little beforehand, stove-top or in the oven, as well as for the simmering 20-30 min with the other ingredients):  potatoes, sweet potatoes, butternut squash

Other spices (depending on style of soup/stew/chili):  spinach, chili powder, paprika, red chili pepper, lemon, garlic, oregano, basil, bay, pick your poison!

My favorite toppings:  avocado, plain greek yogurt, shredded cheese, flax-seed crackers

Obviously, you wouldn’t put every single ingredient listed here and expect something amazing to come out (or, I don’t know, maybe you would); I only wanted to share what has worked for me in various combinations in the past.


With that being said, here is the specific recipe for a soup I made last night.  I will call it… Spinach Lentil Lentil-Pasta Stew!

1st-Tier Ingredients (sauté 5 min):

  • 1 tbsp olive oil (who are we kidding, I just pour it in without measuring)
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4-5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped (or enough small peppers to equal roughly the amount of onion)

2nd-Tier Ingredients (sauté another 5 min):

  • 1 cup (?) mushrooms, chopped (again, roughly equal to onion)

3rd-Tier Ingredients (simmer 20-30 minutes):

  • 14 oz canned tomatoes (could use 28 oz in future)
  • 4 cups vegetable stock + 1 cup water
  • tsp rosemary
  • tsp thyme
  • tsp sage
  • salt + pepper to taste
  • 1 cup lentils

4th-Tier Ingredients (after 20 minutes simmering):

  • lentil-quinoa pasta (time to cook 8-10 minutes of final 10 minutes)
  • garbanzo beans (also known as chickpeas – time to cook 5 minutes of final 10)
  • 4 big handfuls fresh spinach (time to cook 5-10 minutes of final 10, enough to wilt)
  • more salt and pepper!

My chosen toppings for this spinach lentil lentil-pasta stew:

  • cheddar cheese
  • whole wheat crackers (though a crusty, hot piece of homemade wheat/wholegrain bread would have been better!)

Could I have added the pasta and beans earlier?  Possibly, though I didn’t want to overcook them and have them all mushy.  That being said, I always underestimate the time for letting the soup just sit and come together – after tasting it with all its ingredients at the 30 minute mark, it was not that great.  5-10 minutes later, after letting it simply sit on low heat (possibly with more salt and pepper added as well)?  PERFECTO!

If you have any helpful comments on my soup-making skills, please share!  Please let me know too if you try out the recipe (or basic instructions for any combination listed above), and how it turns out.  In the meantime, good luck with your soup/stew/chili adventures!





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