True confession time. As a kid, I HATED leftovers. They were great the first night, but reheated and served on a plate in an unappetizing lump? “No thanks, Mom.” Now, saying that to my mother would have earned me a one-way ticket to an early bedtime and dish duty for at least a week. Not many leftovers seemed to come around again. We did eat a lot of soup though, something I still love to this day.
I want to say it was around age 11 that I caught on to my mother’s sneaky cooking. Before I go any further, just let me say that my mom was an excellent cook. She taught me how to cook, and my husband is eternally grateful for the skills, and dinner, I put on the dining room table. But at 11, I learned my mother was deceiving the whole family. Or at least us kids. Dad was in on her covert operation, and I caught them in cahoots, over soup.
I finished my homework and came into the kitchen where my parents were making dinner to ask someone to check my math. Usually, this task fell to my dad since he was an accountant. However, to my surprise, into the soup pot, my mom was pouring leftovers. Granted, we were having chili, and these were leftovers from tacos the night before. Still, I felt lied to, because this was not a from scratch soup as I was led to believe.
It was also the best chili I ever ate. In time, mom taught me those cooking secrets, and I discovered how bright she was. I can neither confirm for you nor deny that I utilize those same skills to keep my husband and children oblivious to where the leftovers are going.
While not all of my favorite soup recipes feature leftovers, many of them will find items repurposed from an earlier meal. Below are some dinner ideas for you on these cold winter nights.
Ground beef or turkey, adding taco seasoning if using leftovers from taco night OR
1 lb ground beef or turkey and one taco seasoning packet
Canned tomatoes (1 15 oz can) or freshly diced tomatoes and a cup of water
Chicken Stock or, for a heartier flavor, beef stock (about 2-3 cups)
Sweet potato, finely cubed
One jalapeno, seeded and chopped
Cheese and onions for topping
Brown the meat if you are using fresh. Otherwise, saute the onions in a stock pot until they are translucent, then dump in the rest of the ingredients, stirring to incorporate. Simmer these ingredients on the stove for about 45 minutes. Rule of thumb, if it’s too thick, add more stock or water. If it’s too thin, add more refried beans. In this recipe though, the sweet potato cooks down and thickens up the chili nicely. I like using refried beans as it’s the only way my husband will eat beans and gives me the bean flavor in the chili that I miss when leaving them out. I always season at the end, based on how we are feeling that day. I open my spice cupboard and add until the flavor feels warm and hearty.
One bottle V8
One can of chickpeas, drained
One can of kidney beans, drained
One onion, chopped
Garlic, a liberal amount, diced
Small elbow macaroni or other small pasta
Saute the onions and garlic in a stockpot. Add everything except the pasta and simmer for 20 minutes. Add the pasta then cook and stir, checking the pasta for doneness around the 8-10 minute mark. Season with salt and pepper.
I inherited this recipe from my mother. Not sure where she got it, but likely some cooking magazine from a bygone ago. While it is simple and straightforward, I can add extra things to it. Some extras usually include the leftover corn from last night or a handful of spinach that is about to go bad if I don’t use it right now, and the kids still think it’s great. I usually pair this with toast and butter, or if I’m feeling extra adventurous, that loaf of french bread I bought at the store because I was getting my survival bottle of wine to drink after the kids go to bed.
Egg Flower Soup
1 quart Chicken stock
1 T. Cornstarch
3 T. cold water
One can of sliced bamboo shoots
One can of sliced water chestnuts
Frozen mixed veggies, optional
Three eggs, beaten
Put the chicken stock in a pot and bring to a boil. Dump in the veggies and allow to simmer about 10 minutes. Mix the cornstarch and cold water and then whisk into the soup, until just thickened. Turn off the heat, but keep whisking and pour the beaten eggs into the soup. The eggs will cook and separate as they hit the hot liquid.
Egg Flower Soup is one of those recipes I got from my mom. Usually, she would make this the night after we had a baked chicken for dinner. She would cook down the chicken carcass for soup in the crockpot overnight and the whole next day. The house smelled fantastic, and it made loads of stock for future soup recipes. She also would do the same thing with our turkey from holidays. So, note that on these recipes where I call for chicken stock, I have also used turkey stock.
Chicken Noodle Soup
1-quart chicken or turkey stock
Meat leftover from that turkey or chicken carcass, or some chicken breasts
4-6 carrots, diced
2-3 celery stalks, chopped so thin your kids can’t even begin to pick it out
One onion, diced
Three cloves of garlic, diced
Big thick pasta noodle, tubes, or rotini
Toss everything but the noodles into a crockpot. Cook for 8 hours on low and then add cooked pasta right before serving. This is one of the best soups when you’re feeling under the weather.
1 lb stew beef
2-3 cloves garlic (I err on the side of caution and use 5-6)
One onion, chopped
One can diced tomatoes
One can tomato paste
1 T. paprika
1 T. Worcestershire sauce
2 cups beef stock
One bell pepper, sliced
Egg noodles, rice, or mashed potatoes
Goulash is another slow-cooker recipe from my mom. Brown the stew beef, garlic, and onions, then toss into the slow cooker. Mix the tomatoes, tomato paste, paprika, Worcestershire, and stock, then add to slow cooker. Cook on low for 8 hours. Toss in the sliced bell pepper the last 30 minutes, so it cooks but isn’t mushy. Serve over prepared starch and top with sour cream.
Speaking of leftovers, my grandma is notorious for having jars of pickle juice in her fridge. I found this recipe when I was cleaning and having an existential crisis over throwing out something my grandmother could use. Grandma grew up through the Great Depression, and old conservation habits die hard. My grandpa now asks me to make this when I come to visit. Good thing there’s always pickle juice in the fridge.
Lasagna takes so long to make. Not when it is in soup form, though. I love that this recipe cooks in a slow cooker. A few extra minutes in the morning means dinner is waiting by the time I get home from work at night.
I love it anytime I can copy a restaurant quality recipe. This soup is amazing. I have a friend with a potato sensitivity, so we use sweet potatoes in this when she is coming over. It’s equally amazing. My husband also prefers it when I use spinach instead of kale. I tend to skip the red pepper flakes and, instead, use a spicy sausage. Don’t be afraid to change things around with this one to find what works for you.
I am the only one in my home that likes curry. Or butternut squash. I take this as my lunch for work because it reheats so well.
My in-laws lived in Vietnam for five years and brought back their love for Pho. Pho is a bit more hands-on and is a weekend soup. I make it with chicken most often but also dabbled in beef and just plain veggies as well.
We hope you enjoy trying these ten soup recipes. What are your family’s favorite soups? Please share with us!