Thursday, January 6, 2011

Make Your Own Mixes

by Twara Kellam - - Used by permission

This is such a perfect time of year for soup. Most of us are snowed in or freezing or both and there is nothing as warm and comforting on a cold day then a nice hot bowl of soup.

Soup is a great way to help you keep all of those New Year's resolutions. Most of them are very healthy (for those of you who want to lose weight), they can be very inexpensive (for you who are going to get out of debt) and they are so easy to make (for those of you who will be spending your time getting organized instead of cooking).

A lot of us are so sick of sweets that a savory soup will just hit the spot and we are so tired of cooking that the fact that they are great 1 dish meals makes them even more appealing!

Making soup is really very easy. It is pretty much dumping a lot of things into a pan and simmering them (and when I say dumping anything into a pan, that is just what I mean). At church we used to make what we called "hobo soup", where everyone would bring a can of something, put it all together and call it soup or stew. Surprisingly, it always turned out really good.

If you are afraid to just start dumping here are a few soup basics to help you along.

There are 3 main bases or broths that you can use:  Chicken, Beef, Vegetable

You can make chicken and beef stock by slowly simmering chicken or beef bones and spices in a large pan of water, generally for 4-8 hours or longer-- the longer the better. I usually use a Dutch oven (that is the largest pan in your set) and just set it on the back of the stove to simmer all day long.

You can use as little or as much meat as you want in your soup. I have made chicken soup with only 4 wings or 2 legs in a large pot. If the flavor isn't quite strong enough, I add a couple of bouillon cubes to help it along.

Vegetable soup is made by simmering vegetables and spices. It's a great way to use every bit of the vegetables. Save the tips or tops of your veggies, toss them in the freezer and then, when you're ready to make a soup base, add spices and boil. This is a great way to use the tops of celery or the top part and the tips of carrots that you would normally throw away. When the base is finished, you will remove them and toss them anyway so they don't have to be in great shape.

You can also use those veggies that are going limp and are dying in your soup base. Normally, when you cook, you want the freshest food but with soups, the older the veggies get, the more the flavor intensifies. This makes them great for soups.

For all of your broths, chill them after cooking and remove the fat and the bones (from chicken and beef) and the veggies from the vegetable broth before you start to add the other ingredients.

Here are some general soup tips:

    * Start your meats and veggies in cold water. It helps to draw out the flavors.

    * Always simmer on the lowest temperature you can and cover.

    * For an extra clear broth, strain through a cheesecloth. I don't usually do this, but if you were making broth for a
      special occasion, you can use this method to get it crystal clear.

    * Use dried herbs. They seem to work better for soups than fresh herbs.

    * Salt at the end. I usually add my other spices at the beginning and then, at the end, add the salt and a little
      more of anything else I think it may need. Soup takes a lot of salt. If your soup just doesn't seem to have any flavor,
      chances are you need more salt.

    * If you get too much salt, add a potato to it to cut the salty taste. (The potato will absorb some of the salt.)

    * For added zip, add some red peppers or garlic to your soup.

    * Always add the longest cooking vegetables first, like carrots and potatoes. Then add things that need to cook less, like
      peas or corn, at the end.

    * For a creamy soup, add some mashed potatoes or instant potatoes.

    * To bulk up any soup add rice, pasta, potatoes, barley or beans. This really helps to stretch it if you have unexpected
      company coming.

    * Save little dabs of leftover veggies or meat and store in the freezer. Add them to some broth and have a quick free meal.

    * You can at times add canned broth to your homemade broth for a stronger or just a different flavor.

A Review - Soup in a nut shell:

   1. Simmer bones or veggies and spices in large pot of water for 4-8 hours.
   2. Cool, remove fat, bones and veggies.
   3. Reheat; add meat from bones and any other ingredients you want to add.
   4. Add veggies and cook until tender.

Serve with cornbread, muffins, crusty bread, assorted crackers and rolls. These can be homemade or store bought.


Rather than buying onion soup mix with MSG, etc., why not make your own?

1 1/2 cup dried onion, minced
2/3 cup beef bouillon powder or granules
2/3 cup onion powder (not onion salt)
1/2 tsp. NuStevia Stevia or Sweet Leaf Stevia, powdered (natural sweetener)
1/4 cup sweet basil, dried
Mix ingredients together and store in a sealed container.  Yields almost 3 cups.
Substitute 4-5 Tbsp. of this mix for 1 envelope of Lipton Onion Soup Mix.

Rather than buying canned cream soups with MSG, etc., why not make your own mix?
4 cups instant dry milk powder                         
1 tsp. dried thyme                     
1 1/2 cups cornstarch                                        
1 tsp. dried sweet basil                                       
1/2 cup instant chicken bouillon                       
1/2 tsp. black pepper                       
2 tsp. onion powder

Combine and store this dried mixture in an airtight container.  To use in a recipe that calls for a can of condensed soup, combine 1/3 c. of the mix and 1 1/2 c. water.  Stir constantly while heating to a thicken state.   For more flavor add a vegetable such as diced sauteed onions, diced cooked celery, diced cooked broccoli or canned sliced mushrooms or fresh sauteed mushrooms.  Make cheese soup by adding grated cheese.  Make potato soup by adding potatoes, onions, celery and carrots.  Or add cooked fish (or clams) d potatoes to make a seafood chowder.

32 oz. container of Dannon All Natural Nonfat Yogurt, Plain
1/2 tsp. NuStevia or Sweet Leaf Stevia, powdered 
1 tsp. pure vanilla
fresh sliced strawberries or pineapple tidbits in their own juice (optional)

In a shaker jar, mix together cinnamon with powdered stevia.  This is good in applesauce and on buttered toast.  My grandson loves it!

You will want to make multiple recipes of this all at once to save time.  Combine all the ingredients and store in an airtight container.  Spices are much less costly in bulk at a co-op or health food store.  Compare prices.  They also freeze well.

Fajita Seasoning - A More Simple Version
4 Tbsp. chili powder                            
2 Tbsp. ground cumin                          
2 tsp. ground oregano
2 tsp. salt

Fajita Seasoning - One with Lots of Spices
1 tsp. cornstarch                                   
2 tsp. chili powder                              
1 tsp. sea salt                                      
1 tsp. paprika                                      
1 tsp. sucanat                                      
3/4 tsp. chicken boullion powder
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp. cumin