Quick Pantry and Freezer Soups

| February 25, 2010 | 2 Comments
  • 2 Comments

freezer and pantry food for soup
I have a few extended family members who hate soup. For some reason, this really bugs me. As a lover of all chowders, consommés, gumbos and bisques, I take it almost as a personal affront that they have no interest in homemade chicken or mushroom soup, clam chowder, or minestrone (particularly when I make them). Thankfully, my husband and children share my passion for all things steamy, creamy and brothy.

Knowing this, it won’t surprise you to hear that we eat a lot of soup at my house. My daughters are actually little soup fanatics. It is a cure-all for any ill. Have the sniffles? Ask mom to make homemade chicken soup. Your friend was mean to you at recess? Take comfort in a cup of miso soup. It’s rainy and cold outside? Then obviously we need cream of tomato soup with grilled cheese sandwiches. Yes, from head colds to just an all-around bad day, soup makes their lives a little brighter.

My daughters’ hands-down favorite is a tie between homemade chicken soup and miso soup from our local sushi spot. But boiling a chicken takes time and the Japanese restaurant is a hassle to walk or drive to on a busy night. So, because necessity is the mother of invention, I’ve created a few easy-to-prepare soups that can be made in less than ten minutes from foods most of us have on hand in our freezers and pantries. As any working mom can tell you, quick and easy is essential for a week-night dinner, and these recipes are both; yet I also love how these homey dishes are made almost entirely of vegetables, making them just as nutritious for my family as they are tasty.

Now, I realize some of you may scoff at the idea of using frozen vegetables or canned tomatoes, but when you’re trying to cook seasonally, they’re really your only option in the winter if you want to use something that isn’t either a root vegetable or a leafy green. Plus many frozen vegetables are picked at the height of the season, so, if you don’t overcook them, their natural summer sweetness really comes through.

After quickly sautéing the vegetables, you just add in some chicken or vegetable stock, milk with butter, and a few seasonings; ten minutes later, you will see that these hearty and warm dishes are worthy of your full attention.

If you have your own quick pantry or freezer soup recipe, I’d love to hear about it.

cream of tomato soup

Homemade Cream of Tomato Soup

My husband’s favorite childhood rainy-day lunch was Campbell’s Tomato Soup with grilled cheese sandwiches. Too bad the poor guy grew up to have a wife who sneers at canned soups and refuses to buy them. But after years of eating this quick pantry soup, he’s never looked back. Just like their dad, our kids are now eating cream of tomato soup with grilled cheese sandwiches on rainy days, although theirs lacks corn syrup and preservatives.

Makes: 4-6 servings

Ingredients:

1 15 oz can of diced tomatoes, crushed tomatoes, or whole plum tomatoes that have been blended.
1/2 medium onion diced
1 medium carrot diced
1 cup béchamel sauce (double recipe below)
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp flour
1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
1 Tbsp dried dill, oregano or basil
Salt and pepper to taste

Preparation:

1. Heat oil in a medium-sized pot.
2. Add onions and carrots and cook for 3-5 minutes or until onions start to become translucent.
3. Stir in tomatoes and then add in the broth and simmer for 5 minutes.
4. In a separate pot, make the béchamel sauce.
5. If tomatoes are chunky, puree using either a hand or stand blender.
6. Whisk the béchamel into the tomato mixture then stir in the dried herbs (dill, basil or oregano) and simmer for about three minutes.
7. Add salt and pepper to taste. Top with a dollop of sour cream or crème fraiche for added creaminess and some fresh basil or dill to garnish. Serve with grilled cheese sandwiches.

frozen pea soup

Broken Freezer Frozen Pea Soup

This soup was invented after my freezer broke. While cleaning out the defrosting mess, I realized that I have a problem buying frozen peas. Now I am not being hyperbolic here. I had 7 bags of frozen peas in my freezer. Why did I have 7 bags of peas? I am asking myself that same question. In any case, this soup is fast, easy, and even uses leftover mashed potatoes or rice, if you have those on hand. If not, you can plop in some béchamel for substance and creaminess.
Makes: 4-6 servings

Ingredients:

1 bag frozen peas
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp butter
1/2 onion or 1/4 cup shallots finely chopped
2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1/2 cup leftover mashed potatoes, the inside of a baked potato, or cooked rice. If you don’t have any of these around, just use 1/2 cup béchamel sauce (see recipe below).
1/4 cup milk
Salt and pepper to taste

Preparation:

1. Heat oil and butter in a medium-sized pot.
2. Add onions and cook until translucent.
3. Add peas and cook for a few minutes.
4. Add broth and simmer for five minutes.
5. Add potatoes, rice or béchamel sauce and then add the remaining milk. If using béchamel sauce, wait until step 6 sto see if the soup needs to be thinned a bit before adding the extra 1/4 cup milk. Mix thoroughly.
6. Puree ingredients thoroughly using either a hand or stand blender. If using béchamel sauce, add the remaining milk now only if soup needs to be thinned a bit.
7. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve with a splash of olive oil or a small dollop of crème fraiche. Serve with bread.

cream of corn chowder

Creamy Corn Chowder with Pancetta and Peppers

I love the natural sweet flavor of corn in this easy-to-prepare soup. The pancetta adds a great salty flavor, but if you prefer to keep this dish vegetarian, just omit it. Bursting with flavor, this is the perfect soup for a weekend lunch or weeknight dinner. Serve with quesadillas or a big salad.

Makes: 4-6 servings

Ingredients:

1 16 oz bag frozen corn kernels
1/4 cup chopped peppers (pasilla are nice, but you can also use red, yellow or green bell peppers or even a can of chopped roasted peppers)
1/4 cup chopped pancetta or bacon (optional)
1/4 cup chopped shallots, onions, or green onions
2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 tsp olive oil
1 Tbsp butter
1/2 cup whole or low-fat milk

Preparation:

1. Heat oil in a medium-sized pot and sauté chopped pancetta on medium-high heat for 2 minutes.
2. Add onions and peppers and cook for 3-5 minutes or until vegetables soften
3. Add corn and cook on medium-high for a few minutes.
4. Add in broth and cook at a low boil for 3-5 minutes.
5. Puree using a hand or stand blender.
6. Add the milk and and simmer for a few minutes.
7. Salt and pepper to taste. If desired, top with a chopped cilantro or another herb to garnish.

Béchamel Sauce
Makes: 1/2 cup
1/2 cup whole or low-fat milk
2 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp flour
dash of salt, pepper and nutmeg

Preparation:
1. melt butter and then mix in the flour to create a roux.
2. Add in the milk and simmer until it thickens.
3. Season with salt, pepper and a dash of nutmeg to taste.

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About the Author ()

I am a writer, editor, mother of twins, and enthusiastic home cook. I was raised by an Italian-American mother who, in the 1970s, grew her own basil (because she couldn’t find any in the local grocery stores), zucchini (for those delicious flowers), and tomatoes (because the ones in the store tasted like “a potato”). My mom taught us to love all kinds of food and revere high-quality ingredients. I am now trying to follow in my mother’s footsteps and am on a mission to help my daughters become adventurous eaters who have a healthy respect for seasonal food raised locally. My daughters and I grow vegetables and go to the farmers’ market. We also love to shop at Piedmont Grocery and Trader Joe’s. When I’m not hanging out with my daughters or cooking, I like to contribute to cookbooks (including Williams-Sonoma’s Food Made Fast and Foods of the World series), work as an editor, and write about food for Bay Area Bites and Denise's Kitchen. My food inspirations are M.F.K Fisher, Julia Child, and Alice Waters — three fabulous women who encompass everything I love about food.
  • http://flavorboulevard.com Mai

    Admittedly I don’t like soups either, especially when it’s mushy and all blended together. But I love corn, so do you think the corn soup can still be good without the pureeing step?

  • helen

    I too love soup! Make my own as well. Usually use up leftovers.