I say "whatever" because honestly, soup and stews are just a way of using "whatever." In other words, throw whatever you have in there and add some other stuff! I have used leftover roast to make beef stew, leftover meatloaf for chili and leftover chicken for whatever my favorite chicken chili or soup is at the time!
Not that I don't love a good soup or stew recipe. But I always end up tweeking it...and of course there are always leftover meats and veggies you have to do something with!
The other day my vegetarian daughter was making a vegetable soup and wanted to put some beans in it. Problem was, she started "cooking" dried white beans.
Just so you youngens' will know, you have to soak dried beans over night to soften them BEFORE you cook them all day. Anyone who tells you otherwise will eat hard beans...not me! (They probably eat their pasta "al dente" too)
AND she opened a can of stewed tomatoes without realizing they were stewed with oregano, garlic and basil. She wanted plain ole' tomatoes.
So I had white beans and an open can of "italian" stewed tomatoes...what to do, what to do!
I went ahead and cooked the beans in the crock pot and decided to make a "whatever" soup with them! So here is my "whatever" recipe.
The base to any great soup is always veggies...maybe a little garlic and onion. For this soup, I sauteed onion, garlic, carrots and celery in olive oil. You can add just about any vegetable...potatoes, mushrooms, green beans, squash, spinach, etc.
Some veggies (carrots and celery being two of them) take longer to "soften." So I always saute them in olive oil along with the garlic and onions until they are tender before I add the precooked meats and "soft" veggies.
TIP: Fresh garlic is totally awesome. If the only seasonings I had to cook with were garlic, salt and pepper, I'd be good! But I don't like having to peel and chop garlic, or onions, every time I want to cook with them. And I HATE dried garlic and onion! So I cheat...I buy the jars of minced garlic in the produce section. Just as good as fresh if you ask me!
I like onion but mostly the flavor in soups, stews, and chili, and just a smidge. So I chop one or two or even three onions at a time, use what I need and stick the rest in a freezer bag and throw it in the freezer! Then when I need onion, I just break off however much I need! Simple!
After the veggies were soft, I added frozen corn and sliced sausage and sauteed it another few minutes. I just happen to have some polish sausage...you could add chicken, pork or beef...or no meat at all!
I put all this in the crock pot with the beans along with the open can of stewed tomatoes, vegetable stock (I use the box kind) and a little bit of 1/2 and 1/2 to top it all off....season to taste! If you don't have half and half, you could always add some cream cheese...our sour cream. But I would suggest adding the sour cream in the last 15-30 minutes of cooking time.
TIP: After sauteing your veggies, you will probably have a bunch of "stuck stuff" on the bottom of your skillet. The best way to get rid of the "stuff" and make the pan easier to clean and pick up a little flavor... add some veggie stock (or chicken broth, whichever you are using) to the skillet and bring it to a rapid boil while scrapping the bottom with a spatula...then just add it to the crock pot.
Crock pot on medium all day or on high for 3-4 hours...depending on the time you have!
This is another one of those great "all-in-one" recipes. Everything you need for a complete meal...maybe a small salad or a little bread.
It is also a great way to use up leftover meat and veggies. Do you have just a tad of veggie or meat leftover...maybe not quite a serving size? Just throw it in a freezer bag, freeze, and then when you have several baggies of leftovers, throw it all in a pot and make "whatever" soup or stew! Simple....
Honestly, this soup turned out pretty awesome. I'm glad I wrote about it...otherwise, I would never be able to duplicate it!
BTW, if you aren't big fan of beans, rice would be awesome in this soup!