Where was I? Oh yeah, Mix & Match. I imagine choosing that kind of a great wardrobe requires a Method--kind of a formula--to make sure you end up with the right number of tops, bottoms, accessories, shoes (sigh . . . shoes . . . I love shoes . . . ). Anywho, I feel the same way about wardrobing as a good "Recipe"--the METHOD and proportions stay the same, but you can swap out ingredients and get creative.
Many great cooks (which I aspire to be one day) have a head full of methods and then create awesome recipes by trying new ingredients. It's a fantastic creative outlet and it's what I love about cooking.
I have a "method" for making soup (I suppose many Moms do) and I make soup at least once a week at our house. I like to Mix & Match the broth, veggies, starch (if any), protein and seasonings (and bread--always have to serve soup with bread--I mean, isn't that the POINT of soup? to be an excuse for yummy, crusty bread?).
This post may be a bit basic for some of you seasoned cooks, but for anyone who hasn't experimented with soups, I highly recommend it!
Here's a suggested "Method" for a broth based chunky soup (just made this one last night). The key to any good soup is layering flavors. I usually cheat and buy stock or use a stock base, but if you've made your own stock--well if you make your own stock you probably don't need to read this :)
Layer One: Basic--Start by sauteeing chopped onion in a little oil. I'll sometimes add shallots or garlic if I have any fresh sitting around. Advanced--I'll dice some raw bacon and render the bacon first and then remove the bacon with a slotted spoon(place on a paper towl and later sprinkle on top of the soup) and then sautee the onions in the bacon fat--this adds a layer of smoky meaty flavor--yum!
Layer Two: (optional) Raw Meat--if you have hamburger, or cubed steak or chicken, add it to the onions when the onions just start to get soft. Brown on all sides. HOWEVER, if you're using leftover meat that has already been cooked, don't add it yet.
Layer Three: Veggies: Rough chop (bite sized pieces)other fresh veggies for your soup--we like carrots, mushrooms, green beans, brussel sprouts, broccolli, cauliflower--anything that will hold up in the soup. Rough Chop and sautee about 1-2 cups of veggies.
Layer Four: Seasoning: Here's where I add salt, pepper, garlic powder, or seasoning blends--not a lot, but a little salt will help draw the moisture out of the veggies and will give more flavor to the soup. I also have frozen pressed garlic and basil cubes from Trader Joes (LOVE Trader Joes) that I add here as well) After adding the seasoning, wait til the veggies start to brown and roast and get yummy in general.
Layer Five: (optional) Potatoes: If I'm adding potatoes to our soup (and I almost always do), I scrub and dice the potatoes into bite sized chunks and microwave for 1- minutes so they get a head start (otherwise you'll wait forever for the potatoes to get soft in the soup and there is nothing worse that hard potatoes ruining a good soup!)
Layer Six: (optional) Precooked Meat: Last night i just used left over Rotisserie Chicken chopped up. so I added it after the veggies were browned up.
Layer Seven: Broth/Stock: more often than I like to admit, I use a dried chicken stock base with water for my broth. It's actually tastier than most canned broth but I feel like I'm cheating every time. However, there are many boxed stocks and broths that are very tasty. Choose one that will compliment your meat. How much? Up to you! I usually add about 8 cups so we have leftover soup for later! (I only have to feed 2 :)
Optional Additional Layers:
- Frozen Veggies (if I don't have enough fresh, I add frozen veggies after the broth comes to a boil)
- Noodles--try not to add noodles until just a few minutes before serving--give them about as long as you'd give them if you were boiling them in water. I've had noodles go mushy on me--not fun. I find Rotini and Rigatoni to hold up best in soup
- Rice / Orzo--will need the same amount of cooking time as is called for on the box--and you may need to add more liquid
- Velveeta Cheese--redneck? yes and I like it! sometimes when I've used mushrooms, hamburger and beef stock I like to throw some cubed velveeta in and let it melt in for cheeseburger soup.
- Additional spices or seasoning--taste your soup! make sure it's tasty :) Add stuff if you need to to make it so!
NOT OPTIONAL--serve with bread, rolls or something to dip!
Bonus: Fried Dough: Last night I tried something new to serve with our soup! I took Trader Joes pizza dough (I LOVE Trader Joes, did I mention that?!), rolled it out, and cut it into random pieces. I heated a nonstick skillet with a tablespoon of oil and "fried" the dough on both sides on medium heat (not high heat--they'll burn on the outside and be doughy in the middle). I salted them when they came out of the pan.
Review from "A": "Mom, this fried dough stuff is outstanding! There's more, right?"