According to the recently retired food pyramid, we should eat 3 to 5 servings of vegetables a day. A bowl of vegetable soup is a tasty way to get your vegetables.
I've tried several recipes for vegetable soup, but my favorite is my mother's recipe. It's easy to prepare and can be adjusted to use ingredients you have on hand.
Unlike recipes that rely on beef or chicken broth, the liquid in this recipe comes from a can of crushed tomatoes. The only other liquid added is water. An easy way to get all the tomato juice out of the can is fill the can with water and add the contents to the pot. Make sure to add enough water to cover the ingredients.
The recipe uses two whole potatoes diced into cubes. If you want to speed up the cooking process, substitute canned potatoes. Canned potatoes have already been cooked so adjust the cooking time accordingly.
My mother insisted the secret to her vegetable soup was using a lot of chopped onion. I'm not a big fan of onion so I only use half an onion -- more if the onion is small -- and the soup has always been delicious. The original recipe called for two or three chopped onions so, if you like onions, add more or, like me, use less.
My mother always added okra to her soup. My husband doesn't like okra so I leave it out. He doesn't like lima beans either, but I still add them, reducing the amount called for in the recipe.
My mother always added a can of drained whole kernel corn, but I prefer a bag of frozen corn. I think frozen corn tastes fresher. Instead of adding the frozen corn at the beginning of the cooking process, I add it the last 30 minutes of cooking. I add the whole 12 ounce bag, but you can add less, or like the okra, leave it out entirely.
Other vegetables -- canned, fresh or frozen -- can be added to suit your taste. If the vegetables have already been cooked, they only need to be reheated so add them towards the end of the cooking time.
My mother added basil and salt to her soup. I add salt and, when I remember it, freshly ground pepper. Canned vegetables have a lot of salt so you may not need to add any additional salt. Make sure whatever seasonings you choose aren't overpowering and go well with the vegetables you're using.
For reasons unknown to me, my mother always added one tablespoon of shortening. Shortening has no flavor so I know she didn't add it to improve the taste of the soup. Fat, such as shortening, is important in baking because it makes the finished product tender. I don't know if that theory applies to vegetables in the soup. I've made the soup with and without the shortening and, for whatever reason, it's definitely better with the shortening.
If you want a heartier soup or want to stretch the number of servings, add some cooked meat. My mother sometimes added leftover pot roast. A friend adds browned ground beef to her vegetable soup. Macaroni is another good filler. Add the uncooked macaroni the last 20 minutes and cook until done.
Whether you follow the recipe or tweak it to use ingredients you like or have on hand, vegetable soup is a good start on your 3 to 5 servings of vegetables a day.
1 (12 oz.) pkg. frozen whole kernel corn