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Friday, February 19, 2010

Super-Cheap Clean-Out-The-Fridge Soup

With the sun out, all those mountains of snow are beginning to melt. It's beautiful, and the weather is mild. But when the sun sets, we know it's still winter. And during the winter, soup is always on the menu. Right now, the fridge is full of odds and ends, bits and pieces, a little of this and some of that. So we're going to make Super Cheap Clean-Out-The-Fridge Soup. Here's how:

First, we'll see exactly what ingredients are available. In the fridge, there are 6 carrots, 3 onions and 2 scallions that need to be used ASAP. There's also a quart of corn leftover from the 2 quart bag we defrosted earlier in the week for another meal, and some leftover coconut rice (though that might not be a good match with anything else). In the freezer there are lots of other goodies: chopped celery, kale, beet greens, Swiss chard and some edamame. And we'll pull some canned beans, or maybe dried lentils, a jar of home-made tomato sauce and half a bag of egg noodles from the pantry.

If there's time, we'll stop at the grocery store to pick up some chicken stock. But in a pinch, water will do, maybe with a little wine to add some flavor.  We'll use about 6 cups of liquid - a combination of water, tomato sauce, wine and stock. The proportions don't matter that much - though probably not more than a cup of wine.

The next step is to chop the carrots, onions and scallions. These are added to the thawed chopped celery in the soup pot with a little olive oil. If I had a couple of bacon pieces, I would dice them and fry up the pieces, then use the bacon fat instead of or with the olive oil to sautee the vegetables.

When the onions are transparent, the liquids go in...a total of about 6 cups, but no need to be exact. After bringing the mixture to a boil, I'll reduce the flame and add some of the greens (I'll use kale or chard or beet tops, but not all together). Since the greens were only blanched prior to freezing, they'll need to boil gently for a bit (maybe 15 or 20 minutes) until tender.

Once the greens are cooked, I'll add a the pasta. If the pasta is left-over rather than uncooked, I'll add it just before serving so it can heat up without getting mushy. The can of beans will go in just prior to serving as well so the beans are nice and hot but don't get over cooked. If I'm using dried beans or lentils, I will allow the required cooking time.

If there is any leftover meat - bits of chicken, pork, beef or sausage, these too will be tossed in, earlier rather than later so that the meat flavors can mix with the vegetables. For more flavor, I'll add herbs like fresh parsley (there are usually a few stray pieces in the bottom of the crisper drawer - no matter that they have seen better days), a bit of dried thyme, marjorum and tarragon. Then salt and pepper to taste.

Finally, I'll make some toasts from stale bread spread with a tiny bit of olive oil or topped with a bit of grated cheese to use as croutons. Or if I'm feeling a little more ambitious, I'll make corn bread with the leftover corn, some cornmeal, flour and a bit of cheddar cheese.

Mmmmmm. Delicious. And cheap!

Do you have a few super cheap meals in your bag of frugal tricks? Please share.


  1. My suggestion - a family favorite - is "Cheese ice". Grate the cheapest cheese in your fridge - be sure to scrape off any mold - and place in an ice cube tray with water (tap water, please). Serve with your favorite generic soda. We like Fanta.


  2. Hi Hawky - cheese ice sounds interesting...different, but interesting. Thanks for visiting.