Vegetable Beef Soup
If I’d known how easy it was to make soup when I was first cooking for myself, I don't think I ever would have bought a can of the stuff (well, except Campbell's Cream of Tomato soup but that's one of the comfort food issues). As we approach cooler weather, it might be nice to have a soup recipe on hand. I made a vegetable beef soup when it was still cool here, back in early June. It really hit the spot. Here’s how I made my soup along with some options.
I had this piece of steak in my freezer. I didn’t buy it so I’m not sure where it came from but I have a vague recollection of a vegetarian friend giving it to me. Anyway, it was in one of those food saver bags so it could have been several months old and I wouldn’t have been able to tell. At any rate, it appeared to be a very lean steak, lean enough to be tough when prepared traditionally. I had been hungry for a good vegetable beef soup so I decided to give it a try. You'll see an alternative method at the bottom but for now, let's stick with a piece of beef purchased for the purpose.
I took It out of the freezer, thawed it part way (it’s much easier to cut when it’s partly frozen) and cut it into somewhere between 1/2" and 3/4" cubes. I heated a little oil in a medium-sized kettle and browned the steak until it was very nicely browned. I added about a quart of water (this will vary depending on the amount of meat you have and how thin you want the soup) and a couple of teaspoons of McCormick Beef Base (I get it at Costco—couldn’t live without it). You could substitute some beef stock for half the liquid if you like or just go with the water alone. I simmered this for about 30 minutes. You may want to cook it longer or less, depending on how tender the beef is.
While the beef and broth were simmering, I cut up a small onion (about 1/2 c.), two small carrots, a half a stalk of celery, a peeled potato (optional), and a chopped garlic clove. I tossed those in the pot along with a bay leaf and cooked it for another half hour, until the vegetables were nicely cooked through. At this point I added about 1/2 c. each frozen corn and peas and as soon as they were hot, took it off the stove, removed the bay leaf, and enjoyed. This made four generous meals for me and could easily have been eight meals by the addition of another quart of water and some noodles.
I didn’t add egg noodles to mine but I know many people like those. I also didn’t add any tomato products to mine and I know that’s traditional with a beef soup. I’m just not fond of that. I’ve heard people use a tomato or V-8 juice as part of the liquid or add a large can of chopped tomatoes when the vegetables are added. Feel free to do that if you like.
If there are other vegetables you have on hand or like to add to your soups, by all means add them. I know people who are fond of lima beans in their beef soup. I think it might be excellent with some winter squash It might even be nice with a small parsnip, a bit of rutabaga, or turnip (you’d want to be careful not to add too much of any one very strong vegetable like that).
If you don’t have an hour when you get home from work, consider preparing right up to the part where you add the vegetables and then put it in the fridge. When you get home, put the whole pot on the stove, heat it to a simmer, check to see how the vegetables are doing (you may not have to cook it any more than that because of the original cooling off heat and then the warming up heat), cook just long enough for them to get tender and add the frozen vegetables and egg noodles (if you like them) for the last 5-7 minutes. In 30-45 minutes you have a homemade soup far beyond anything you can get in a can and so much less expensive you won’t even believe it.
Let’s see, for this one, let’s say the steak would have cost $3 (it was less than a pound of something comparable to round steak—look for it on sale), another $1.50 for vegetables (that’s very generous), and $1 for noodles and tomatoes. That’s $4.50 for approximately 8 cans of the really premium soup. The last I remember seeing those on a fabulous sale, they were $1.25 each. I have no idea what they cost when they’re not on sale. Even at the amazingly low sale price, that’s $10 and I can guarantee you, the homemade tastes so much better you can’t even imagine.
Just to finish this off, here's one more way to make it even less expensive. If you and your family eat beef roast or steak with a bone in it, rather than trying to get every bit of meat off the bones, toss them in the freezer until you have several pounds of them. Then brown and simmer as above but when the meat is tender enough to fall off the bone, remove from the stove and strain (reserve the liquid, of course). When the meat is cool enough to handle, cut it into small pieces, toss the bones out, return it all to the stove and go forward from that point in the recipe. When I do this, I take the bone out of whatever I'm cooking before I even put it in the oven, broiler, wherever, so I have a boneless piece of meat for cooking and a bone with lots of nice beef on it for soup. Not only do you have the advantage of having nearly free meat, the marrow from the bones makes the stock much richer.