"Clean Out the Fridge" Veggie-Beef Soup

Soup is one of my favorite comfort foods and I eat it year around. ( I must need a lot of comfort.) Now that the weather is cooling down, everyone else will be eating it too. I plan to post my favorite recipes over the next few months, so you'll have plenty of options to add to your menu plans. Hope this helps with the "What can I cook for dinner?" blues.

I'm starting off with this "clean out the refrigerator" veggie beef soup. I try to clean out the fridge at the beginning of the week, so I can rescue any leftovers that need to be eaten quickly. I suffer from serious food waste guilt. This week, I had little containers of corn, green beans, and tomatoes, leftover from previous meals that would be perfect for this soup. I had also pulled a pound of stew beef from the freezer that needed to be cooked. Some of the garden potatoes are beginning to sprout, so it's definitely time to put them to good use. This soup is going to be colorful!

I begin by trimming any visible fat from the pieces of stew beef. Then I salt and pepper liberally and toss the beef in plain flour to coat it well. In my beloved soup pot, I pour a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and brown the beef, turning it over to brown on all sides. Don't crowd the pan. I do this in two batches, adding more oil as needed.

The stew beef will look like this when it's done. We're not cooking the meat through here, just giving it a good crispy coating.

If you are a good multi-tasker, and I bet you are, you can start chopping veggies while the meat is browning. I almost always have onions, celery and carrots on hand. I bought these pretty multi colored carrots at Aldi. Finely chop a few cloves of garlic too, because garlic makes every soup better.

Don't forget to save the ends and peels of the onions, carrots and celery for making broth later.

I cut these purple potatoes into, not so small chunks. Don't want to use potatoes? How about adding some pasta towards the end of cooking? That's good too!

After removing the beef, I deglazed the pan with a splash of red wine, because I had it, otherwise, I would just add a little broth. This step removes all the crusty bits from the beef that are stuck on the bottom of the pan, and will add great flavor to the soup.

Into the pot goes the fresh vegetables, the leftovers and the meat.

I pulled a container of my homemade beef broth from the freezer, to add liquid to the soup. I'll do a post on how to make homemade broths soon, as I use them all the time during soup weather, and they are easy to make and taste better than store bought, in my opinion. But, you can use any kind of broth or stock here - beef, veggie or chicken all work well. I also added a splash of worchestershire sauce. It's optional, but adds nice flavor.

My herb container garden, outside the kitchen door is enjoying a second growth, thanks to the cooler weather, so I clipped some thyme and parsley and tossed it in the pot. Use dried herbs if that's what you have, Italian Seasoning Blend is nice. Look how pretty this soup is! I let it simmer for about an hour, until the meat was fork tender and seasoned with salt and pepper to taste. My dinner was ready before noon, so I had it for lunch too!

***Make this recipe work for you - You could use ground beef instead of stew beef with good results. If you opt for ground meat, brown it in pan, without the flour. I also like to use the leftovers from a Sunday roast in this soup. If you do this, you basically just sauté the fresh veggies ( onion, carrots, celery, garlic, potatoes) in olive oil for a couple of minutes. Add leftover veggies ( like corn, tomatoes, beans) and stock or broth to pan. Chop up leftover roast beef and add it to the pot. This is a super quick way to make a veggie beef soup, because the meat is already cooked. You just have to simmer long enough for the fresh veggies to become tender. I've even added leftover gravy (from Sunday roast meal) with liquids to this soup. This truly is a "clean out the fridge" meal, so don't be afraid to adapt the soup to whatever you have.

Special thanks to Rebecca Wray for taking pictures for this post.

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