Monday, June 20, 2011

Waste Not, Want Not: Using Leftovers In A Kitchen Sink Soup Recipe

When I was little, my mother used to make something she called  "Kitchen Sink Soup".  She learned about it from her mom, who lived through the Great Depression Making soup is super easy, and both my mother and grandmother often saved money on the food budget by putting leftover bits of vegetable, cooked grains, beans, meat and peas into a pot.  It was a delicious, nutritious low-cost meal, with salad and bread that could really fill the gap when money was tight.  To this day, I use this Kitchen Sink Soup recipe whenever I have leftovers in the fridge I can't figure out how to use.  The soup freezes beautifully, by the way, so you can make it year-round.  The name "Kitchen Sink Soup" refers to the fact that you can put anything in it, ie ‘all but the kitchen sink’.  Today, I am going to talk about how to make a soup, and the many variations thereof.
Often, you’ll have little bits of vegetable or grain leftovers in your fridge in small containers.  Or the last remnants of frozen veggies in the freezer.  Those are the start of a great soup, in and of themselves! This soup is never boring, never the same twice.  This Kitchen Sink Soup recipe can be vegetarian, or sometimes you can put bits of meat or seafood in it, too. 

The first thing you’ll need is a large pot, though even a medium sized pot will do.  If you use a medium size pot, you’ll simply get less soup!   I usually start out with a Dutch oven.  I put in 6 cups of water to start (try 3-4 for a medium size pot, more for a stock pot), and put the water on medium, so it slowly boils as I scour the fridge for ingredients.  I might chop up half an onion and carrot from the vegetable bin.  Cut up a remnant of a zucchini, and a green pepper.  There might be some tomato sauce, or left over canned tomatoes to toss in.  Canned beans are a fine addition, especially if you all ready used half for another dish.  The point is, there is almost no wrong way to make soup.  It’s the flavor at the end that determines success.  The point of this  Kitchen Sink Soup recipe is to keep you from throwing out little bits of veg you don’t know what to do with, contributing to food waste.  If you have a little bit of frozen peas or broccoli left, even if it's not enough for just one person, toss that in.  A bit of chicken left over?  Go on.  Or maybe some pot roast ends?  Keep tossing.  Summer squash,  asparagus and green beans next, but remember it is what you have in YOUR fridge. Even if they aren't 'pretty looking', they'll do fine (just nothing truly gone over to the dark side, that should be composted!) Add some salt to taste, maybe some dried herbs like oregano, parsley, basil leaves.  Have some left over boiled potatoes?  In they go.  I clean out my fridge when making my Kitchen Sink Soup recipe and just pile up the empty containers in the sink.    The only thing to remember is don’t put the rice, barley or pasta in until the end or it will soak up all of your water!   Remember, when you make a soup it is important to taste as you go along, adjusting for your own personal tastes.  If the water seems to boil down, add a bit more and taste.  Try not to overcook Kitchen Sink Soup – remember, most of the ingredients are pre-cooked, so you’re merely making and seasoning the broth they’re in and warming them up.  The main thing to remember when making soup is to balance the flavors – too many strong tasting things like onions, peppers and garlic will give you a strong tasting soup, so also add carrots, peas and other milder vegetables to balance things out.

I love that Kitchen Sink Soup can be anything you want it to be; it can be vegan or vegetarian, or it can be a seafood lovers' paradise, or a meat lover's delight.  It just depends on what you have on hand that can be repurposed!

Learning how to use leftovers is an important skill.  Not only does it help you keep food on a budget, Kitchen Sink Soup is a healthy meal that helps to prevent food waste, or reduce food waste. I try to stop food waste where I can, using leftovers to best advantage. While we put fruit and vegetable peels in the composter, it seems a shame to put perfectly good food in the scrap heap when all it takes is a little imagination, a large cook pot and some easy instructions on how to make a soup!

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David Agnew said...

My mother used to put the bone from a ham joint in too - not a lot of meat on it - but it did seem to add flavour


xysea said...

Bones are a fantastic way to add flavor, David, thank you for bringing that up. If you haven't used a bone to make stock, it sure does liven up a soup base! :-)

Angus said...

I do this a lot, usually making a stew or a stir fry. You know what's good? Mushing some cooked Dr. Praeger's veggie burgers into lentils or rice and adding some cumin or curry spices.

xysea said...

Angus, that's a brilliant idea. It sounds absolutely delicious! :-)

xysea said...

Okay, now I'm in the mood for some Kitchen Sink Soup! lol