Monday, September 16, 2013

Munchy Monday: Grandma Velasquez's Vegetable Soup

There are two things about my grandma Marguerite that you need to know. The first is that she was a phenomenal cook. 


People in my family (and even some non-family members) still talk about her cooking. She spent a good deal of her life cooking for other people. Whether it was for her brothers & sisters, for her kids or at her job, she was always cooking. 

The second thing you need to know is that she rarely (if ever) used a recipe. I remember when my mom was teaching me how to cook, I asked her if grandma had taught her how to cook. She said that grandma tried to teach her how to cook, but my mom would always end up getting frustrated. She and grandma would be making a dish and grandma would throw something in the pot. Mom would say, "How much of that did you just put in?" and grandma would respond with, "Hell, I don't know! A pinch? Anyway, it doesn't matter! It's all about how it tastes!" You see, grandmas was one of those rare people who could look in a fridge, see what ingredients she had available and make something delicious. Every.single.time.

And her food always tasted AMAZING! I have a feeling that this trait had something to do with growing up during the Great Depression, but I like to think that it was mainly due to Grandma-Magic. One of my favorite dishes she used to make was soup. Any kind of soup. It didn't matter. But her vegetable beef/vegetable soup was probably my favorite. 

I have had so many vegetable soups in my lifetime but most just miss the mark. After cooking MANY pots of soup, I think I've narrowed down why. 

As a true tribute to Grandma Velasquez, this post isn't going to contain a recipe as so much as a guideline. 

Now, I already had a lot of veggies in my fridge left over from my Bountiful Basket, but I was already heading to the store, so I picked up a few extra bits & bobs.

You can make this soup on your stove-top or in a crock pot. I usually opt for the crock pot option just because I can put it all in the pot in the morning and let it slow-cook all day. Most soups really do taste better if you slow cook them and let the flavors mingle and develop. In addition, there are few things better, on a cold & drizzly day, than walking into a house that has had a pot of soup cooking for hours. It just makes everything feel cozy & homey! Yankee Candle Co. should make THAT into a candle!

For this particular batch I used:

  • Onion
  • Leaks
  • Celery 
  • Carrots
  • Mushrooms 
  • Minced Garlic 
  • Zucchini 
  • Broccoli 
  • Corn
  • Vegetable Stock 
  • Green Beans
  • Peas
  • Red Potatoes 
  • Salt & Pepper (to taste) 
But really. Use whatever is in your fridge. This is a great fall soup, because you can use up any extra items you've brought in from your garden or picked up at the farmer's market. Measuring doesn't really matter, so get creative and go with what looks good to you!

Crusty bread is a plus. If not available, a warmed roll or even a piece of sandwich bread, smeared generously with real butter, will do. 

Now here's the secret. Are you ready for it?

Cabbage & tomatoes. That's it. So many vegetable soups neglect these two staples!

Get yourself a small head of cabbage. I usually get the smallest head available and use about a quarter of it. Then pick yourself up some canned diced tomatoes in juice. I had a large jar leftover from the batch that I canned last summer, so I just threw that in the pot. In my humble opinion, these two ingredients MAKE the soup.

If you're like us, if you make a big crock pot of soup, you're going to be eating soup for days! Hey, I'm not complaining! The great thing about this soup is that as you eat it and as it cooks down, you can just add more ingredients! Use up the rest of that cabbage! Did a neighbor bring you some okra? Toss it in the pot! Throw some frozen veggies in there to beef it up! By the third day of cooking, the soup is so rich and flavorful!  But don't let all the broth cook off.

As this particular batch cooked down, I ran out of veggie stock. I happened to have some frozen beef stock left over from a previous cooking endeavor, so my soup became less-than-vegetarian. I love this soup because it's so economical, versatile and is just so darn GOOD!

Now, this soup is hearty enough to be a meal, but if your feeling extra peckish or you're serving to a large group of people and want the soup to go a long way, I've also served it with a big garden salad. Get yourself some warm bread with real butter (none of that margarine nonsense up in here!) and enjoy the spoils of your hard work and creativity!
Your soup should taste just fine, even without the owl salt & pepper shakers. But they sure don't hurt! 
Every time I sit down to enjoy a bowl of this soup, I think of my grandma and her love of cooking and loving and serving people through food. Then, I think about how that love must have influenced the special way that my mom showed generosity & love to people in everything that she did. As I let the soup warm up my body and my soul, I am comforted by the tradition of food and cooking in my family.  I can only hope that some of whatever it was that made those special women so kind, loving & remarkable, maybe, just maybe, rubbed off on me.  

I truly hope you give this soup a whirl and if you do, let me know what ingredients you added to make your soup fabulous! I would love to hear about it!

Happy Munchy Monday, Friends!


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