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At one time, soup was just considered part of a meal.
These days, thanks to busy lifestyles and ultra-tight budgets, one-pot cooking has become popular and economical.
While canned soup requires little effort to prepare, it doesn’t compare to the homemade variety.
A few flavor-filled ingredients, when combined with chicken or beef stock and the right amount of seasoning, will create a tasty pot of the good stuff.
It requires a little more work, but making soup is one case where the result is worth the effort.
The place to start is with stock, or broth. High quality stock is the high octane that powers any soup or stew. It may be a time-consuming process, but the best soups are made with a base of homemade stock.
Most of the time you can make your own from items that would be discarded, such as bones, celery leaves and carrot tops.
According to Easy Home Cooking Magazine, basic stock is a lot easier to make than most cooks realize. Here are some easy recipes for chicken, beef and vegetable stock:
• Chicken stock – Place 4 pounds of chicken backs, wings and bones in a large stock pot. Add 4 quarts cold water, 2 large sliced onions, 2 sliced carrots, 2 sliced celery ribs (with leaves), 4 peppercorns, 2 sprigs parsley and 1 teaspoon dried thyme. Slowly bring to a boil and lower heat to a simmer, skimming off surface foam for first 30 minutes. Simmer for two hours and strain. Makes about 7 cups.
• Beef stock – Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large roasting pan. Add 4 pounds beef bones and brown in oven, about 10 minutes, stirring pieces frequently. Add 2 large sliced onions, 2 sliced carrots and 2 sliced celery ribs (with leaves) and roast until brown. Transfer bones and vegetables into a large stock pot. Pour off fat from roasting pan and deglaze pan with 1 cup of hot water, scraping browned bits from bottom of pan and pour into stock pot. Add 1 bay leaf, 4 peppercorns, 2 sprigs parsley and 1 teaspoon dried thyme to stock pot and cover with 4 cups of cold water. Bring to a slow boil and lower heat to a simmer. Simmer 4 to 5 hours, skimming off surface foam for first 30 minutes.
• Vegetable stock – Combine 3 each finely-chopped carrots, celery, leeks and onions with 1/2 pound of mushroom pieces, 1 bay leaf, 2 sprigs parsley and 1 teaspoon dried thyme in a large stock pot. Cover with 3 quarts water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook for 2 hours before straining.
Once you get the stock ready, here are two hearty recipes that will knock off the winter chill.
Italian Meatball Soup is by Stephanie Ashcraft, author of “101 Things To Do With Meatballs.” Ashcraft always keeps meatballs on hand to use in a wide variety of dishes.
“Their great value, versatility, wide appeal and delicious taste are what make them a great ingredient in a wealth of recipes,” she said.
For her recipes, Ashcraft recommends using two fully cooked brands of meatballs: Casa Di Bertacchi and Farm Rich.
This classic version of comforting, savory French Onion Soup is sure to hit the spot.
It is made with hearty beef stock and all-purpose yellow onions that are found in fall and winter months. Because yellow onions have a lower water content, they yield the best texture and flavor after long cooking.
This version is also lighter than most onion soups because it does not call for oil or butter.
French Onion Soup can be served in a shallow bowl with one slice of the cheesy bread instead of in traditional crock-style bowls. This makes the soup easier to eat and you can enjoy the cheesy flavor with every spoonful.
Italian Meatball Soup
1 pound Casa Di Bertacchi Italian Style meatballs (5/8-ounce size), frozen (about 25 meatballs)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced into one-inch pieces
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
12 cups low-sodium chicken stock
1 1/2 cups uncooked twist pasta
1/ 2 bunch of curly endive, rough chopped
Cracked black pepper
1/3 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
– Place large soup pot on medium-high heat. Add olive oil and preheat for 2 to 3 minutes. Add chopped onions and carrots to soup pot. Stir vegetables into olive oil and saute for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally until onions are translucent. Pour chicken stock into pot with onions and carrots. Add frozen meatballs and uncooked pasta. Add rough-chopped endives to soup pot. Bring soup to a low rolling boil. Simmer until pasta is al dente (firm but not hard) and meatballs are fully heated through.
– Season soup to taste with fresh cracked black pepper. Ladle into soup bowls and garnish with shredded Parmesan cheese.
– Recipe from “101 Things To Do With Meatballs”
French Onion Soup
2 pounds yellow onions, trimmed, halved and sliced (2 quarts)
32 ounces low-sodium beef broth
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1/2 cup white wine or water
2 tablespoons flour
6 thick slices bread, crusts trimmed
1/2 cup grated Swiss or Parmesan cheese
Cracked pepper (optional)
– Place onions in a 5- or 6-quart slow cooker. Add broth and thyme and stir. Cover with lid and cook on high setting 3 to 4 hours or until onions are tender. Mix white wine (or water) with flour and stir into the slow cooker. Cover and continue to cook on high setting for 1 hour longer or until thickened.
– Before serving, place bread slices on a baking sheet and top with cheese. Broil until cheese is bubbly.
– To serve, ladle soup into shallow bowls. Place one slice of hot cheesy bread in each bowl. Sprinkle with pepper to taste.
– Recipe from www.onions-usa.org