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Soups

       Soups are very easy to make from scratch and can be made in large batches to last for almost up to a week. This process can be made even more convenient if you have a slow cooker. If you have a slow cooker, you can do 15 minutes of prep before school or what have you, then come home to a full pot of hot soup. Talk about quick and easy. When I make basic soups, I like to keep it fairly simple and have three main components: a base, a starch, and a protein.

       A base is often the most prominent part of the soup giving it a majority of it's flavour. They can be as simple as pouring a packet of bouillon into hot water, or even the pre-made liquid soup broths. However, I find that it's always better to go straight from the source..
   Meat Based Stock: When making a stock based on meat, it's recommended to let bones and unwanted meat scraps simmer for 2-3 hours. When I buy chicken, I always buy breast or thighs WITH skin and bone (it's more affordable) and debone myself. With the left over skins and bones I can make a killer chicken stock. But, if that's too much effort, you can ALWAYS buy bones from a local supermarket or butcher for a more than reasonable cost. Try combining different types (i.e. beef and pork) for a traditional "ramen" stock.
   Vegetable Based Stock: Vegetable based stock is more open-ended than it's meat counterpart. There are literally endless possibilities as to what you can make with vegetables. A very common mixture is called a 'Mirepoix' which is a mixture of carrots, celery, and onion (I like to sauté mine first). Any root vegetable works quite well - Parsnips add a bit of spice in replacement of the sweetness of a carrot. Mushrooms add a more earthy and savoury taste. With so many options it's up to you to experiment and find what you like.

       Not surprisingly, a starch is anything that is considered to be "starchy". Beans, potatoes, and pasta are all common choices. When using beans, I like to use dry and add them at the very beginning of the cooking process when using a slow cooker, and adding pre-hydrated ones at the same time I add a protein when using a stove top. Potatoes should be diced and added when the stock is complete, as they have a relatively long cooking time. And finally pasta should be added near the end as to not become soggy and off-putting. I always include a starch when I make soup because while the water boils off and the starch is simultaneously absorbed into the water, it thickens the soup, while not making it too thick.

       Proteins are whatever meat (or tofu for you vegan/vegetarian folk) you decide to incorporate into the soup. Obviously, if you're using a meat broth, the respective meat pairs well in the soup. Again, there are a lot of options here, and it's up to you to decide what YOU want. It is recommended to cook your protein before you incorporate it in your soup as to avoid undercooking. Tofu can be diced into small cubes and added early into the cooking stages and it will absorb all the flavours of the soup. BONUS: keep the fats from the protein (liquid that comes out during cooking) and add it to a vegetable broth to give your soup a more rich and meaty flavour if desired.

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