Tag Archives: versatile

Alert: it’s apparently still winter. (So bring on the vegetable soup!)

Unbeknownst to me, it is still winter. I was fooled into thinking spring had finally sprung when we had those glorious few days of warm, sunny, breezy weather. I broke out my flip-flops (well, not really…I never really packed them away but no, I didn’t walk through snow in them-what kind of dummy do you think I am?) & the kids ran free without jackets. It was a wonderful time, full of laughter and smiles and hopes for a plethora of sunshiny days ahead.

And now this.

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Admittedly, not the best snow picture ever. 2 things you should know about this photo: #1 It was not taken at night (unfortunately the camera fairy still hasn’t blessed me with a dslr); #2 There is a lot more snow than depicted. Not mountains, or even enough to coat the roads, but it’s flurrying hardcore (which is actually pretty if also unwanted).

Of course the kiddos were out today-news I relished at 6 a.m. when I realized I didn’t have to get up but somehow that news loses it’s charm halfway through the day & after 45 “Can I….?”.

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This latest snow assault puts me in the mood for something warm & filling for dinner. I’m hoping (if I can get C to go get the stuff) to turn to a family classic, my Mom’s Vegetable Soup. It holds a special place in my heart not only because it came from my momma, but also because it was the first thing I made C & I when we first started out; and because my sister asked me for the recipe, which makes me feel useful, traditional & generally warm-n-fuzzy. The list of great things about this recipe is not short:
*it’s cheap
*it’s easy
*it’s super versatile
*it’s freezable
*it’s comforting
*it’s semi-healthy
*it’s tasty
*it appeals to different taste buds
I could keep going but you’re probably bored to tears. This soup can be whatever you want it to be, really. You can use whatever vegetables you like, whatever meat you prefer; you can make it more tomato-y or more beefy tasting; you can make it overloaded with veggies or just a few. It’s totally customizable for those who are looking to start their own traditional family soup recipe.

Judy’s Old Fashioned Vegetable Soup

1 lb. ground beef
1 lg (or 2 small) bag frozen mixed vegetables (sometimes labeled as “soup mix”)
1 small onion, sliced or diced
2-4 beef bouillon cubes (depending on your taste…I like a lot)
1 can whole tomatoes, undrained
1 can tomato sauce
Salt, pepper, garlic powder to taste
Water, as needed

1) In a medium skillet cook the ground beef over med-high heat. While beef is cooking, in a large pot add vegetables, tomatoes, seasonings & water (the amount of water you use will determine how much soup you end up with). Drain grease from meat well.

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Cooked, crumbled ground beef.

2) Add meat to soup pot; add salt, pepper & garlic powder to taste; put a lid on it & let it cook (aka turn fabulous) on low for one or two hours.
While cooking you can taste-test & add flavors accordingly. Since soup has so much water sometimes you have to add more seasonings than you’d normally use. Also, since it’s so versatile, you can add whatever would taste good to you:
Beef stock.
A ham bone.
Beans…cannellini (spelling?) or kidney or whatever!
You could use a different type of meat, like beef stew or cut up strip steak.
More tomatoes.
More vegetables.
Whatever…you…want.

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All together. Kinda gross now but not for long!

When it’s done melding flavors, serve piping hot with peanut butter crackers or sandwiches. Mmm-mmm good!!

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Dip that sandwich in & you're in 7th heaven!

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PS…sorry for posting a pic of my ice foot after a pic of that deiciousness-in-a-bowl…I took it specifically for the blog & felt bad leaving it out. 😉

PPS…this is one of those recipes that’s even better the next day! If you believe in leftovers, that is.

PPPS….feel free to add some pasta (elbow, ziti, the ABC pasta if you’re lucky enough to find it, whatever’s in the cabinet), just wait until the soup is hot/completely reheated so you don’t overcook the pasta & then it turns to mush. You may have to add some extra water also, depending on how much your pasta sucks up.

PPPPS….this apparently also makes good chow for pugs & mixed breed cats! Our 3 cats & 1 pug thoroughly enjoyed the remaining soup after we had leftovers with it. So, you’re welcome for that little tip.

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This princess currently has a furry belly full of warm, yummy, vegetable soup!

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Ranch House Chicken…you won’t believe how easy!

This recipe is one I recently received in one of my routine “recipe emails” & I’m pleased as punch (isn’t that a cute yet annoying saying?) that it meets my Big 3 (requirements):
      *Versatile: you can cook it via the oven or the crockpot
      *Easy: I managed to reduce it to 3 steps. Oh yea.
      *Cheap: less ingredients=less money…yay!

I like to give credit where credit is due, so here is where I got the recipe from. I’d hope-however-that you’d do the right thing &take pity on me for taking the time and making the effort to compose this post, and continue where you started…nice & cozy right here. 😀

Okie doke, let’s get to it!

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Step 2: prepare your soup concoction.

Ranch House Chicken
1 pkg chicken pieces (I found a “variety pack” on sale & decided to save a couple cents by de-skinning the chicken myself; the pieces were legs & thighs; the original recipe suggests using 4-5 boneless & skinless breasts but I’m a cheapskate)

2 cans cream of mushroom/celery/potato/chicken/whatever you prefer soup

1/4 c. sour cream

1 pkg Ranch dressing mix

Oven Method:
      1-Remove skin from pieces then arrange chicken in casserole dish.

      2-In a medium bowl combine the soups, sour cream & 3/4 of the Ranch mix; stir well then pour evenly over each piece of chicken. (I ended up adding about 6 Tbsp of milk just to increase my liquid & loosen up the consistency a bit. Use your best judgement.) Sprinkle the remaining Ranch mix over all.

      3-Bake at 375° for about an hour (or until juices run clear) then serve & enjoy!

(Crockpot Method:
Everything is basically the same: put the chicken in first, then the soup mixture, etc; cook on low for 5-6 hours.)

I enjoyed the ease, overall cost & taste of this recipe…chicken is my “go-to” meat & there are gobs of chicken recipes out there. I felt like maybe next time I’ll double the Ranch mix because while it had a good taste it wasn’t necessarily a ranch taste. I didn’t include it in the recipe (hey, I’m proud of getting it down to 3 steps-I don’t wanna ruin it!) but I finely chopped some green onion & mixed it into the soup concoction; this would be totally your call…do you like green onions or not? While the original recipe suggest mashed potatoes & green beans (I think?) as sides–which does sound delish–we just had mashed potatoes so I subbed fried eggplant & cooked carrots.

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Surprise--it's eggplant, not potatoes!

I’ve been wanting to try a simple fried eggplant recipe anyway! As usual, Allrecipes didn’t disappoint & (I’ll be honest) I was surprised…fried eggplant is gggooooooddd! I know, I know…eggplant…ick–what the hell?! It can’t possibly be good because it sounds so weird.
      Except it is.
I can’t explain it: it’s almost like squash. It wasn’t what I expected but in a good way. I got a huge one for $1.34 at Walmart so you should try it…at least if you don’t like it, it won’t of cost much so you won’t lose much. One of our family sayings is “Try new things one time” & I’m proud to report each little duck took a bite. Reviews were mixed but I think that’s due more to the odd name than the subtle taste.

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Let's eat!