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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Alphabet Vegetable Soup


My father didn't like soup so Mom seldom made it for meals but on days when Dad wasn't home for dinner we would sometimes have soup.  I have memories of going to Mr. Cook's little store on the next street  asking for a can of "Alphabet Soup".  I guess it made a quick meal for us and we liked finding the letters in our bowl.  It was years later that it dawned on me there was no soup called "Alphabet Soup" and it was Campbell's Vegetable Soup I was buying at the store.  


Just look at that picture above and you can see why I make soup.  What a cold winter we've had and hot soup just warms a cold body right to the core.  With unusually cold temperatures, snow that came almost two months early and no sign of an early spring, soup has been on the menu quite often.  Vegetable soup is probably Don's favourite soup but I don't make it often.  I like a variety of soups but when Don says, "Why don't you make soup."  he means vegetable soup.  This past week I have been visiting my son and his family and whenever I leave town I always get the request for soup.  I make a big pot and put it in the fridge bottled up in two cup portions.  The soup, along with a few other provisions, keeps him going for the week.  I made quite a large pot this time so he had enough to drown in if he happened to fall in his bowl.  I usually put rice in my vegetable soup, but occasionally I use macaroni.  As I was rooting around in the cupboard I found some alphabet macaroni and used that instead.  Of course the alphabets always remind me of the "Alphabet Soup" of my childhood and my trips to Mr. Cook's store.

I make a large pot and have serveral meals during the week. Because it has no meat, it keeps quite well for a week or more in the fridge in covered containers. It will also freeze well if you don't use the potates in the recipe.  Potatoes go mushy when frozen.  I don't have a recipe for this soup because it's more of what we like with the appropriate amount of liquids and seasonings.  It's hard to mess up a vegetable soup recipe if you have the seasonings to your taste.  After that any vegetable you like can be added.   So here goes. . . 

Vegetable Soup with or without Alphabets
1 tablespoon butter or oil
1 large onion, diced
2 or 3 stalks celery, diced
6-8 + cups water 
2 or 3 vegetarian chicken or beef bouillon or to taste
1 cup diced turnip (rutabaga)
1 cup diced potato
1 cup chopped cabbage
3 or 4 cups mixed frozen vegetables (carrot, corn, green beans, green peas)
1/2 cup diced parsnip (optional, but very good)   
Other optional diced vegetables:  sweet peppers, zucchini, spinach, winter squash)
1 can lima beans, rinsed (or favourite bean such as kidney, chickpeas, white, etc.) 
2 bay leaves 
Other seasonings to taste such as oregano, basil, savoury, etc... 
1 large can tomatoes, roughly blended or chopped  
2 tablespoons tomato paste or 1 can tomato soup (optional if you like a deeper tomato flavour)  
1/2 - 1 cup rice or macaroni or macaroni alphabets or even a cup of cooked barley (can use any or all) 
Salt and pepper to taste  
 
Over a medium heat, in a dutch oven or stock pot, saute onions and celery in oil until softened and starting to caramalize.  Add the water, bouillon and and diced turnip.  Bring to a boil and then let simmer 10 minutes.  Add the remaining vegetables, bay leaves and any other seasonings; bring the soup back to a medium simmer for an additional 10-15 minutes or until vegetables are tender crisp.  Add the rinsed beans, tomatoes, tomato paste or soup, rice or macaroni and bring back to a simmer for another 15 minutes. Add more water to the soup if it is too thick. Adjust seasonings adding salt and pepper as needed.  The soup may simmer over a very low heat if waiting to serve.  Remove bay leaves before serving. 
Makes about 12 servings.  Don't panic, you can freeze this for lunches or other meals if you don't want to eat soup all week.  But if you are going to freeze it leave out the potatoes.

Cook the onions and celery until just starting to caramalize.



Capture one alien turnip.  Peel and dice for the soup.  
There's no more danger of an invasion from outer space. 

Add the water, bouillon and turnip and bring to a boil and then simmer 10 minutes. Turnips take longer to cook so that's why I add them before the other vegetables. (The turnips in Newfoundland are actually rutabagas but they are always refered to as turnips.)


Prepare remaining vegetables.  I didn't have any frozen mixed vegetables so I used fresh carrots.  Today I used frozen sweet peppers, corn, green beans and greens peas and fresh carrots, butternut squash, cabbage and potatoes.  I wanted zucchini but the temperature was -20 degrees and I didn't want to bundle up and go to the store.  Can you blame me?


Lima beans are nice in vegetable soup.


Once the remaining vegetables, bay leaves and seasonings are added simmer until the vegetables are tender crisp.


I used a scant cup of the alphabet macaroni.  You can find this with the other macaroni products in the grocery store or often in bulk food stores.

It's quite obvious I must have had time on my hands when I made this soup.  

I don't like chunks of tomatoes in soup so I whiz the canned tomatoes in the blender for 3 or 4 seconds to break them up.

I prefer to use tomato paste instead of the soup.  When you open up a can of tomato paste save the remaining paste by dropping 1 tablespoon amounts on plastic wrap and freeze each wrapped  tablespoon individually.  Store in a covered container in freezer.


The soup is now finished when the last of the ingredients are added:  rinsed beans, tomatoes, paste and pasta/rice.  Add more water if needed and adjust the seasonings and salt and pepper.  Simmer until the vegetables are to your liking about 10-15 minutes.  Refrigerate or freeze any left-over soup.  In my opinion, soup tastes best the day after it's made.



A lovely bowl of Alphabet Vegetable Soup.  
Pass the crackers and get slurping!


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