Chances are when we think of making soup, we think of standing in the kitchen all day, chopping and pre-cooking a LOT of vegetables, stirring, seasoning, tweaking to perfection, letting the ingredients simmer for hours on end before finally savouring.
But, on a cold rainy day, sometimes you just need to have soup RIGHT THE EFF NOW.
With this spring being so up and down with the weather, I definitely had days where the rainy gloom set in and I put off cooking for as long as I possibly could.
I was inspired to make use of whatever was in my pantry and vegetable drawer after filming my pantry staples walkthrough video, and having a discussion with a colleague about easy ways to make veggies delicious. Being one to want to walk my talk, I came up with this soup.
How to Make Delicious “Anything Goes” Soup (for Busy People and Procrastimasters Alike)
- Keep stock or bouillon on hand. Salt is not your enemy, but do still be wary of how much is in there. If you choose low-sodium or to make your own with veggie scraps, supplement the salt with Himalayan, Celtic, capers, kelp, or coconut aminos.
- Embrace frozen, bite-size veggies. They can be real time- and labour-savers and just as delicious and a lot of times even more nutritious than fresh. I especially like using frozen versions of veggies that require a lot of cleanup and effort to prepare, like squash, root vegetables, and veggies with lots of thick outer leaves like cauliflower. (Hey, sometimes when you’re in a funk, even a simple head of cauliflower is hard to deal with.)
- Prepared herbs, spices, and pre-cooked ingredients are not all evil. This is a controversial idea, but the key is in learning to read labels. The general rule of thumb goes that the fewer ingredients on the label, the cleaner and healthier the item is. Watch for sneaky sugars and preservatives. Canned beans can also save you time, especially if you’re like me and forget to soak your dried beans the night before (and sadly don’t yet have an Instant Pot). Just be sure to choose BPA-free cans, or glass jars if you can find them.
- Be creative with your flavour combos and be open to new ones. Especially if you’re just throwing stuff in, you may get some unexpected flavours coming through. Keep an array of different spices and spice blends on-hand to help you create your flavour palette on the fly. I happened to have curry-spiced coconut milk, lemons, ginger, and chilis when I was putting this together, so that’s what I tossed in.
- On the flip side, the simpler your ingredient choices, the more likely your soup will turn out well, especially if you’re new to improvising a recipe. Start small: veggie broth + onions + leafy greens + chickpeas = a very simple but satisfying quick soup. Everything else is embellishment. Practice adding one or two more flavours or veggies the next time you make it, and build from there. You may find a new favourite basic “anything goes” soup recipe for which you’ll always want to stock ingredients so you can make it up in a flash.
This throw-together recipe takes just about a half-hour to prepare and have ready to eat, depending on whatever quick, ready-to-use ingredients you have on hand. In this version, I used frozen bite-size butternut squash chunks and jarred organic minced ginger – both real time savers for busy #procrastimasters like you and me! Makes 6 large servings.
– 1L prepared organic vegetable or mushroom broth + 2 cups warm water (OR 6 cups warm water and 1-1½ veggie bouillon cubes)
– 1 shallot or leek, chopped
– 1 medium organic sweet potato, diced (OR save bonus time with pre-diced or frozen chunks)
– ½ package (about 2 cups) fresh or frozen diced butternut squash chunks
– 1 Tbsp. organic jarred minced ginger OR 1 tsp. ground ginger
– 1 Tbsp. coconut aminos, optional, to taste
– 1 tsp. Bragg kelp seasoning or Herbamare, optional, to taste
– 1 Tbsp. mild curry powder*
– Pinch cayenne pepper, to taste
– 1 can (16 oz.) organic BPA-free canned beans, like chickpeas, navy beans, or butter beans, drained and rinsed
– 3 heads baby bok choy, chopped (OR 1 large head baby bok choy; equivalent amount of green cabbage or collards would work too)
– Juice of 1 fresh organic lemon
– 1 can (8 oz.) full-fat coconut milk (*I used Cha’s organic curry spiced coconut milk, eliminating the need to add extra curry powder)
– ½ bundle soba/rice noodles per serving (some brands like King Soba come 3 bundles to a package, so up to a whole package for the full pot) OR equivalent amount ready-to-eat shirataki “miracle” noodles, or spiralized fresh zucchini
In a large stock pot over medium-high heat, start heating the veggie broth. While the broth is warming, chop up the shallot/leek and sweet potato. Toss into the pot, with squash chunks and spices (kelp, aminos, cayenne, ginger, curry). Stir and allow to reach boiling, about 7-10 minutes if using frozen veggies.
While you wait for the soup to start boiling, chop up the bok choy. Separate the stem pieces from the leaves. Toss the stem pieces into the soup and reserve the leaves for later. Add the beans as well. (Optional addition: this is also a good time to start boiling water for soba or rice noodles to pair with your soup if you desire.) Reduce heat to medium. Simmer about 5-10 minutes.
Once the sweet potato pieces start to get soft, add the bok choy leaves, lemon juice, and coconut milk. Stir and heat through.
Serve immediately, ladling into bowls over soba or rice noodles if you’ve prepared some. If you’re feeling fancy, top with fresh chopped basil and cilantro, and peanuts or cashews.
If you’re not serving up the whole pot in one day, portion out the rest into wide-mouth mason jars, perfect for work/school/dead-tired and lazy meals for the next couple of days. Add or prepare noodles and toppings fresh as needed, unless you don’t mind if they get soggy and fall apart a bit.
Save even more time: Omit sweet potatoes and squash, which do take a fair bit of time to cook through. Add chopped mushrooms, bell peppers, and frozen broccoli florets, OR use your favourite fresh or frozen stir-fry vegetable medley, instead.
Even better: if you have one of these miracle Instant Pot contraptions, throw everything in there and have it all ready in even less time.
Do you make “anything goes” soup? What staples do you throw in? Let me know in the comments below!