This may have been the least expensive meal/dish for my week of menus for the San Francisco Food Bank Hunger Challenge.
Developed mainly to provide a quick, nourishing, light lunch, this 12-serving pot of vegetable soup goes a long way into stretching the $21 per person per week food stamp allowance. To make it a heartier meal, trying serving with a slice of bread or adding a half cup of cooked rice or beans to a bowl before ladling in the hot soup. One idea I had since I had a few extra eggs in my food allowance was to serve the soup hot with a poached or fried egg on top of it sprinkled with lots of black pepper. (I’ve had some French-style vegetable soups served this way and have always enjoyed them.) I used all of my pound of two-percent cheddar cheese, otherwise I would have served the soup with a bit of grated cheese on top. My husband enjoyed his soup with a splash of hot sauce. Since this recipe makes 12 servings, it formed the basis of three meals for my family, so a little variety in how it was served was very much appreciated.
To see how this soup fits in my Hunger Challenge menu, click here. For about my participation in this event, including how to donate, click here.
Of course, if you don't need 12 servings of vegetable soup, the recipe can be easily divided in half or even thirds.
12-Serving Vegetable Soup
Feel free to vary your soup to reflect what you have on hand and your family’s taste. You may want to double the garlic and/or jalapeno if your family likes bolder flavors. Using the seasoned tomatoes and the optional spices will also add some more zip.
1 tablespoon canola or other vegetable oil
1 cup chopped onions
1 red jalapeno, minced. I used red since that's what I had, but green works, too. (Seed it if you prefer a milder soup)
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 large carrots, chopped
2 stalks of celery, chopped
4 cups (1 quart) of chicken or vegetable broth or water (using the broth will add a lot more flavor, but you can use plain water or water with chicken or vegetarian boullion cubes if you prefer)
8 cups (2 quarts) of water
1 ½ pounds of russet (baking) potato (about 4 small), chopped into ¾ to 1” cubes
1 lb of green cabbage, chopped (this was a bit less than half of my 2.36 pound specimen)
1-14-16 ounce can of stewed or diced tomatoes with juice (preferably the kind with Italian or Mexican seasoning)
½ lb of frozen (no need to defrost) or cooked fresh chopped spinach or other greens
1 teaspoon of either Italian seasoning OR oregano OR 1 tablespoon curry powder, (optional)
2-3 cups of water
Salt and pepper to taste
Heat oil in a large soup pot over medium high heat. Add onions, fry, stirring occasionally until just lightly golden brown. Add the minced pepper and the garlic. Fry, stirring often until garlic is golden. (Add a few tablespoons of water if the vegetables begin to stick or burn.) Add carrots and celery, and continue to fry stirring occasionally for a few minutes. Add the chicken broth and the 8 cups of water. Stir well, being sure to loosen and stir into the mixture any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add cabbage, potatoes, tomatoes and spinach. (If using stewed tomatoes, break them into small pieces in the pan with your cooking spoon or spatula.) Mix well, bring mixture to a simmer, lower heat to medium low and cover. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes have softened but are not falling apart (about 30-40 minutes but the time will vary greatly, so you'll need to keep checking). Add 2-3 cups of water to the pot as needed and return to a simmer. Add salt and pepper to taste and simmer a few more minutes. (Please don’t add the salt before. The broth or the boullion can be salty and the potatoes can really absorb seasonings so you won’t know how much salt you need until towards the end of the cooking.) Can be made ahead and reheated, although the soup may have thickened and you may need to add some more water when reheating. Makes 12 servings, 1½ cups each.
Variation: For a thicker, more potage-like soup, puree about half in a blender or food processor in batches once the soup has cooled.