“Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn, and caldron bubble…Oh, and KALE!” – Macbeth

I tried to write a post like this last winter, in which I gave a list of the kinds of things I throw in my soup pot to make it tasty. But I am going to try again, and do this better. You see, I love a great tomato-based vegetable soup, but it’s the kind of dish I hate having a recipe for. This is because it’s really hard to screw up a basic tomato-based broth soup. The more things you add, the more flavorful it becomes. “The more things you add?” You may be thinking… “So I can add a cup of chopped pickles to my tomato soup for added flavor?” Oh, gross, you know that’s not what I mean, stop being difficult.

Let me break down the category basics of what goes into a good tomato-based broth soup, so you can make it right every time, with what you have on hand, and impress all your friends as you whiz around the kitchen dumping things in a pot with no recipe like the fairy godmother of soup, or Hermione Granger, if she was domesticated. Soup wizard!

Lots of soup aficionados like to start their soup with a stock. However, I always start my soups with plain old water. If you simmer it for long enough, it becomes just as complex. Plus, I am lazy. Here we go!

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When your life is a crazy cocktail with a recipe that reads two parts busy and one part lazy, cooking an elaborate meal at the end of the day to eat by yourself sounds as appealing as bathing in bleach. In the warm weather this is fine because I crave cooling, raw foods like salads and smoothies that take no effort to throw together. But in the winter I want someone to cuddle with and rub my shoulders and set up shop in my ladybits. Okay, that has nothing to do with food.  In the winter, I also want to eat warm food. So I have been doing a bit of lazy-girl cooking, which consists of throwing all my ingredients in a pot or pan and turning up the heat. My favorite winter staple is soup, and although I don’t follow a recipe per se, all of my better-than-Campbells concoctions contain the following:

– 1 cup of grains. I like quinoa, brown rice, barley, millet and wheat berries.
– 1 large can of organic crushed or diced tomatoes
– 1 can of tomato paste
– 1 or 2 cans of beans; garbanzo, kidney, white, whatever. I don’t discriminate.
– 1 or 2 carrots, diced
– 2 or 3 stalks of celery, diced
– 1 onion, diced
– 2-3 cups of veggies, fresh or frozen. Mushrooms, green beans, peas, corn, cabbage, zucchini.
– 3-4 big handfuls of greens (spinach, kale and swiss chard are my favs) which I add at the end of cooking
– Herbs, fresh or dried. Oregano, thyme, basil, parsley, tons of black pepper.

I throw it all in a pot with a couple liters of water (more or less depending on if I want my soup brothy or stewy. Yep, those are words.), bring it to a boil and then let it simmer for an hour. It gets even better after a few days in the fridge. Sometimes I eat it for breakfast.

I know that’s really not a very good recipe, but I feel like soup is one of those things you can improvise with and never really screw up.

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Fresh Pea Soup; image by bport7831

There’s nothing like a good hot soup on a cold winter day. Recently I brought one of my favorite soups, Simple Fresh Pea, to a potluck dinner at Cifax Yoga. Later, my super-sweet-bendy-flexy-yogi-goddess of a teacher, Donna, told me she overheard a couple of students wondering what I had added to the soup to make it so creamy The answer? Nothing!

Starchy veggies likes peas, carrots, squash and sweet potatoes give their own creamy texture to soups when pureed. This allows you to indulge in a filling, healthy dairy-free soup that is low in calories and fat and high in fiber. Pea soup is a particular favorite of mine, and most people don’t know how high in protein the magnificent little pod is. So the next time you’re feeling soupy, grab a bag of frozen peas (or fresh if they’re in season) and get to work. You won’t regret it.

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As a college student, I’m pretty much always pressed for cash. Working two part time jobs, keeping on top of my academics and editing our school’s small, student run newspaper, I am also usually pressed for time. The mix of the two, lack of time and funding, often makes it harder for me to eat as healthy as I would like. It is much easier (quicker, cheaper) for me to stick a spoon in a peanut butter jar than cook myself breakfast in the morning on the way out the door to class, the mac lab to edit, Pilates, whatever. I do have a few tricks up my sleeve that help me save time and money, and I don’t mean ringing up all my organic produce as regular on the self check out line at Kroger…

Oatmeal- Seriously, I wanna make love to the stuff. It is the perfect breakfast, period. If you buy the old-fashioned style, or even better, steel-cut, it is a whole grain that is creamy, satisfying and warm.  It sticks to my ribs and keeps me full, and on cold winter days it is the ultimate comfort food. Also, its pretty freaking cheap.Stay away from the quick-cook kind, as they have been stripped of most nutrients. oatmeal is definitely my go-to breakfast,however, eaten plain it is definitely boring. I make mine more appealing with peanut butter (for healthy fat and protein), flax (for extra omega 3’s and fibery goodness), cinnamon, raisins, and a banana. Honey,  diced apples (add them while the oats are cooking!) or shredded coconut are also pretty tasty in there. Steel cut oats take longer to cook, but it is easy to cook up a big batch of them in one day and refrigerate the extras to be re-heated all week.

Soups and chili- These are also great winter dishes that can be cooked once and enjoyed a several times. Put the leftovers in the fridge for up to a week, or in the freezer for a quick dinner later on. Soups are also a great way to clean out your fridge at the end of the week, throwing in all the odds and ends of your veggies that probably won’t last much longer. I use tons of canned beans in my soups, which are cheap, full of protein and very filling. Make sure to drain and rinse them, however, to get rid of the extra salt and preservatives. I also throw in frozen veggies, which are often better quality than the fresh stuff I find in the grocery store. If I’m using canned veggies, I try to go organic or find brands with no salt added..read labels.

Bread- My roommates and I like to make our own bread. This takes more time than going out and buying a loaf,  but it is incredibly rewarding, as well as inexpensive. Since there are six of us, and one more lovely lady who lives on our couch, it never lasts very long…This bread recipe is vegan, and therefor pretty dense, but still enjoyable (obviously, because its gone before it even finishes cooling..)

Lentils- One semester, my room-mate Hannah ran out of cash and lived on lentils. Seriously, she ate them twice  a day. They are so cheap, and tasty. I love to cook them with curry and sweet potatoes. mmm…

Rice and Beans- I know this isn’t a new concept, but I need to reiterate it here because the combination is so cheap, so filling, so tasty and so so so good for you! There are tons of different kinds of beans to go with black, kidney, garbanzo (chick peas), adzuki, and you really can’t go wrong with any of them. Beans beans, the magical fruit…

That’s it for now..more vegan on a budget tips as they come to me…anyone else have any suggestions or tips?

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