Friday, September 28, 2012

Three Hearty Soups on a Budget

It's a good time of year for soups. I love hearty soups with seasonal ingredients. They are filling, but light on the budget. They use similar ingredients, so you can make a soup with the things you have on hand.

The third recipe, Bean, Kale and Potato, has been on our table daily all week. My family is protesting a bit. But, I am loving the not having to cook nightly and the way the recipe used nearly all of our CSA bag of ingredients and stretched 12 oz. of meat into 30 meals. It's practical for all of us, but especially for those on a limited budget.

Soups are a great way to use what you have on hand. You can source beans and grains in only the amount you need from bulk bins, too. These low cost and high nutrition ingredients make for a fantastic soup with a few seasonal vegetables. Meat and stock are optional, too.

The recipes are offered here in a series for an Arvest Bank, feeding the hungry Pinterest contest. The winner gets to donate 10,000 meals to their community food bank. My local food bank is Harvesters. Please like this pin so they can win 10K meals! The food bank feeds 66,000 people weekly. Your "like" of this pin will help a lot!

Winter Vegetable Soup
The farro used in this recipe, an ancient strain of grain, is available in the bulk foods aisle for pennies a pound.

Makes 12 servings

2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, chopped 2/3 cup chopped carrot (about 3 medium carrots) 2/3 cup chopped celery (about 3 stalks) 2 garlic cloves, minced 10 cups vegetable or chicken stock, (or water if budget is limited) 1 Tbsp dried summer savory 2 tsp dried thyme 2 bay leaves 2 small Parmesan rinds, optional 1 lb sweet potatoes, peeled and diced small (¼-inch cubes) 1 lb winter squash, peeled and diced small (¼-inch cubes) 1 cup farro, rinsed and drained or 1 cup lentils, rinsed, sorted and drained 1 bunch (about 12 oz) kale or chard greens, stemmed and chopped Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. Warm the oil over medium-low heat and add the onion, carrot and celery. Sweat this combination, known as a mirepoix, until the onion is translucent.
2. Add the stock and the savory, thyme and bay leaves. Bring to a boil, and then reduce the heat to a simmer. Add the sweet potato, squash and Parmesan rinds, and then simmer for 30 minutes.
3. Add the farro or lentils and simmer for 30 more minutes (or until the lentils, if present, are al dente).
4. Add the greens, and simmer for 5 more minutes.
5. Remove the bay leaf and Parmesan rinds. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve.

Beans and Greens and Grains Soup

Beans and Greens is the name of a great program here locally for six farmers markets. Basically, any food stamp card purchases of fresh, healthy produce are doubled. So, five dollars will buy a food stamp recipient TEN dollars in healthy food.

As a salute to this program that makes healthy food available to folks who need it most, I decided to create a special soup, a meal in a bowl, that can be made from beans and greens as well as whole grain purchased on the cheap from the bulk bins. The chicken sausage is optional, but a nice addition if affordable. Kale and leeks are spring vegetables that should be making an appearance very soon (I hope).

2 leeks, white parts and light green, diced (or a use small onion)
4 carrots, peeled and diced small
1 tbs. olive oil
1 bunch kale, stems removed and chopped
1 cup whole grains such as whole wheat, barley, whole oats or brown rice
12 oz. cooked mild chicken sausages, sliced
1 lb. frozen black eyed peas, (see below for canned or dried options)
10 cups chicken broth, (can use water if on very limited budget)
1 large parmesan rind, optional
salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oil over medium heat in a large, heavy pot with a lid. Add the leeks or onion and the carrots. Place the lid on and sweat the veggies for 10-15 minutes to begin to release the flavors.

Add the whole grains and the broth. Bring to a boil. Add the kale and sausage, parmesan rinds, frozen beans. When this returns to a boil, turn the heat down to a simmer, cover and simmer for 50 minutes, or until grain is cooked al dente. Remove the rind. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

For dried beans, soak the beans overnight first. Sweat the veggies as above, add the dried beans and 12 cups of stock. Cook for 1.5 hours until beans are just becoming tender. Then proceed with the rest of the recipe. For canned beans, rinse and drain 2 cans of beans. Add these for the last 20 minutes of simmering.

Beans, Greens, and Potato Soup

This soup is similar to both of the above, but uses sweet potatoes and potatoes instead of the grains. It makes enough to feed a small army and is more hearty like a stew. The sausage is nice, but you won't miss it if its not there. Spices can sometimes be bought in bulk bins, only what you need. Or, in very small quantities to be cost efficient.

1 large onion, diced
5 carrots, diced
4 stalks celery, diced
2 tbs. olive oil
1 sprig rosemary
1 tbs. dried savory or thyme
1 lb. dried small white beans, rinsed and soaked overnight, or can use canned beans
10 cups chicken or vegetable stock, or water if necessary
1 lb. sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
1 lb. potatoes, diced (no need to peel)
1 bunch kale or collards, stems removed and chopped
12 oz. chicken sausage, diced, optional
salt and pepper

Heat the oil over medium heat in soup pot. Add the onion, carrot and celery to soup pot. Sweat (cook over medium low heat for about 10 minutes) the veggies until the onion is translucent. Add the stock or water, herbs, dried beans. See note below if using canned beans. Bring to a boil, then simmer, covered for about 1 hour. 1.5 hours for larger white beans. You can do this in 20 minutes if using a pressure cooker!

When the beans are just tender, add the potatoes and sweet potatoes. Bring back up to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Add the sausage, if using, and the greens. Bring back up to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 10 minutes. Goes great as a meal with a slice of bread. Freezes well and is great leftovers for the week.

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