With the cold weather, soup is a perfect way to get more veggies into your diet! I believe the key to making a great vegetable soup is by starting with a great broth! While the chicken broth bought at the store can work in a pinch, it doesn't render the flavor that makes me crave my vegetable soup for days until it's gone.
I am a busy working Mom and I don't get home until after 6pm, so this vegetable soup I actually did in two parts. One night, when we heated up leftovers for dinner, I made the chicken broth. And the following night I chopped the vegetables and finished the soup for that evening's meal. With that said...let's make our broth...
Start with a whole chicken or with different cuts of chicken; legs, thighs, breasts. Do not use boneless, skinless chicken, unless you want a flavorless broth! In school, I was taught to use a Mirepoix, which is the fancy French word that simply translates to carrots, celery, and onion. To this, I always add garlic cloves as well. It is best if you sauté these ingredients slightly first to bring out more flavor, caramelizing the natural sugars in these vegetables. If you are really pressed on time, you can skip this step, but again you will be skipping on flavor as well.
A rough chop on the vegetables and then into the hot sauté pan with a little oil they go, don't stir too often, let them brown a little.
In a large pot, place your chicken pieces, your Mirepoix veggies, and add water to cover a couple inches over the ingredients. Bring this to a rolling boil, then turn it down slightly to a medium boil. Let it boil as long as you like, but at least until the chicken is done. I had this on the stove while we ate dinner.
At this point, you can either let this cool and then refrigerate to finish off the next day, or you can keep going and finish your soup...If you are going to refrigerate the broth, the best way to cool it down, is to transfer it into another pot (that isn't hot) and place it in an ice bath (basically plug your sink and fill it with water and ice...a good time to get rid of all the extra ice in the ice maker ;-). Let the broth sit in the ice bath, stirring occasionally until it is cool enough to store in the refrigerator.
On with the soup...
There is no limit to the types of vegetables you can add to your soup. I will list some here in the order they might be added to your broth due to how long it takes for them to cook. The smaller you chop your veggies, the faster they will cook. ('Thanks John') Use whichever ones you like or find in season at the grocery store.
Vegetables for your soup:
Sugar Snap Peas
any frozen veggie (peas, corn)
Strain your chicken broth, so that you are only left with the liquid. Pull the chicken off the bones and set aside, everything else can be discarded. Put part of your broth in a blender and add 2-3 Roma tomatoes, blend on high and add back to the pot with the rest of the broth. Bring your broth to a boil and then start to add your vegetables; the harder to cook ones first. Don't be afraid of this step, the more you make vegetable soup the better you will get at timing when to add the vegetables and how long to cook them. I personally like my vegetables a little on the crunchy side as opposed to vegetable mush. If that is your preference, don't walk away from the stove, they cook up pretty fast...
When the veggies are done you can add back the chicken pieces or use the chicken for another dish, like enchiladas, which is what I often do...You can also add to your soup pre-cooked noodles, rice, or beans. Be creative and use what you have in the fridge. Options: Top your soup with fresh herbs, a squeeze of lemon, or cheese. I like to sauté some crushed garlic and mushrooms in a pan and add it to the soup at the very end. When I do this, Roxanne, my daughter, tells me it's the best vegetable soup she has ever had!!! Serve your veggie soup as a meal by itself or with a sandwich or quesadilla.
Please offer up any tips from your personal experience, or ideas on your favorite ingredients to add. Let me know how it goes. Enjoy!