It's been raining for weeks now, which makes it soup weather. Except that I haven't made any soup lately. Soup tends to be a bit of a production around here. Since I'm all about the leftovers, soup means bringing out the big pots and the individual containers and all that. But it's all worth it for the convenience that comes starting the next day. Open fridge/freezer and oh look, homemade food that I can eat as soon as I can apply some heat. Good stuff.
I started following The Way of the Soup a few years ago when I was working at a company that had a cafeteria, but no fridge or microwave. You could have a meal for $2.50, unless you wanted to eat something that was both healthy and satisfying. Even after the cafeteria manager came back to work after his heart attack and added a few options to the salad bar (true story), the only whole grainy options were multigrain bread at the sandwich counter.
I was incredibly frustrated until I remembered the existence of Thermoses. I reheated my leftover soup in the morning before work (using the 5 minutes that I'd been using to put on makeup in the morning) and problem solved.
I've gotten to the point where if I don't have a a coupla weeks worth of lunches in the freezer, I get edgy.
So here are my super genius helpful hints on soup. These don't apply to soups with dairy (cream of, etc.) because according to Thermos, milk and Thermoses don't mix well, so I stayed away from those.
- Make a big pot of soup. I prefer to make a lot rather than a little because if I'm going to cut all those vegetables and so on, then I want to get several meals out of it.
- Let the soup cool a bit on the counter. You don't want to put it right into the fridge because it'll raise the temperature of your fridge and could wreak havoc on your dairy products.
- Then put it into individual containers. (I got some at the dollar store and they were fine as long as I didn't stick them in the microwave. If you're going to reheat your soup at work in the microwave, then spend the few extra bucks for the good kind.) I go with 1 3/4 cups for an individual portion.
- Stick a label on the individual containers if you're planning on freezing any of them, unless you really like surprises.
- Leave them in the fridge overnight. This is critical. If they go straight into the freezer, they'll get mushy. That whole "you can't freeze beans" thing your mom told you? She just thinks that because she skipped this step. I got this tip from The Daily Soup cookbook, so you know it's not just my quackery.
- The next day, put them in the freezer.
- You can reheat on the stove top in a covered pot with a little water on low heat. Covered in the microwave works fine, too. Even after a few months in the freezer, they're fine.
I've had success freezing casseroles this way, too, including ones with cheese. Those all get heated up in the microwave and eaten right away--I'm not trying to shove a square piece of lasagna into a round Thermos.
OK, so now that I've blown your mind, and you're just itching to make some soup, go do that. My go to soup cookbook is Twelve Months of Monastery Soups. The recipes are divided by month and use the ingredients that are in season. The book is currently unavailable at Amazon, but keep checking--used copies could get listed. And check your library and other book stores. I've also gotten some good recipes from Cooking Light Magazine.
If you're going to eat soup for lunch on its own, then you're going to want to make sure you have all your food groups in there. If you want to try a recipe that has no protein, add a can or two of beans. If the recipe has no carbs, add some pasta, or bulgar wheat or couscous. Does your soup look like it could use more veggies? Add a package of frozen mixed veggies.
Questions? Soup suggestions? Cookbook recommendations?