Thick, aromatic and brimming with good taste, soup is the perfect food in cold weather. Each spoonful warms and comforts like nothing else. Besides chicken soup—the panacea for what ails you—chances are you can whip up a pot of soup with whatever you have on hand. There’s no need to rush out and buy lots of ingredients. Soup is a delicious catch-all for food items you might otherwise toss.

As food costs skyrocket and favorite items are no longer on market shelves, this is the time to use whatever is on hand—wilted celery, soft zucchini, a carrot or onion that has been lingering at the bottom of the vegetable bin. Not tomatoes? Try a few spoonfuls of jarred spaghetti sauce. No mushrooms? Use canned ones.

Researchers in Canada introduced a clever idea they called “Use-UP Day.” Pick one day a week to create a meal incorporating ingredients already in your fridge and pantry. Participants who took part in the study found that not only did they reduce food waste by one-third, but reported saving money, too.

My Use-Up Day Vegetable soup starts off with a tube of Manischewitz lentil soup mix, though any blend will do fine. Don’t be afraid to add, change or double the ingredients, and don’t be intimidated by the lengthy list of ingredients. Whatever you have on hand can work—anything goes! I use a Yemenite soup spice available in markets or online, but any spice blend may be used, including curry. The result is an aromatic, filling potage to enjoy the same day, bring to a friend’s or freeze early in the week in preparation for Shabbat.

Bannocks, a recipe from my Shetland Island childhood days and made with basic simple ingredients, can be baked at the last minute. Eat it hot off the skillet and dunk into soup. Stay warm!

Use-Up Day Vegetable Soup. Photo by Ethel G. Hofman.

Use-Up Day Vegetable Soup (Vegan, Pareve)

Makes 18- 20 cups

Cook’s Tips:

*No tomato juice? Add water to tomato sauce and mix.

*I use Leiber’s instant pareve onion-soup mix.

*For vegetarians, add a spoonful of Parmesan or pesto to each bowl before serving.

*If too thick, add tomato juice or broth to desired consistency.

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 small onion, thinly sliced

7 cups water

1 (6 ounce) tube Manischewitz lentil soup mix

1 medium white turnip, peeled and cut in chunks

15 baby carrots, cut in chunks

6 medium Brussel sprouts, halved

½ medium potato, cut in chunks

3 to 4 mushrooms, sliced

1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained

1 (15.5 ounce) can black beans, drained

1 crisp medium apple, unpeeled, cored and diced

3 to 4 cups tomato juice

3 tablespoons instant onion soup mix

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 cup dill, snipped in ¼-inch pieces

2 tablespoons Yemenite soup mix or other spice blend (curry, etc.)

salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

In a large pot, heat the oil over medium heat.

Add the onion. Sauté for 5 minutes. Do not brown.

Add 7 cups water and bring to boil over high heat. Add the lentil soup mix, holding back the small packet. Stir, cover and bring to simmer for 30 minutes.

While the soup is simmering, place the turnip, carrots, Brussel sprouts and potato in a food processor. Pulse until mixture is coarsely textured (5 or 6 pulses).

Add to soup with mushrooms, tomatoes, beans, apple, 3 cups tomato juice, instant onion soup mix, balsamic vinegar and contents of small packet contained in lentil soup mix tube. Stir well, cover.

Bring to simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce to low and cook 30 minutes longer. Stir in dill.

Season to taste with Yemenite soup mix or other spice blend, and salt and pepper.

Ladle into bowls and serve.

Beef and Vegetable Soup. Photo by Ethel G. Hofman.

Beef and Vegetable Soup: Dinner in a Bowl (Meat)

Makes 15-18 cups

Cook’s Tips:

*Chop beef coarsely in a food processor.

*Use packaged low-sodium beef broth.

*May substitute beer or vegetable juice for wine.

*Add a can of drained mushrooms, stems and pieces.

*Use diced potatoes as a substitute for pasta.

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 pound beef such as chuck, coarsely chopped

1 medium onion, sliced

1 tablespoon bottled chopped garlic

3 ribs celery, cut in ¼-inch slices

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

3½ cups beef broth

1¼ cups dry red wine, such as Malbec or Shiraz

1 cup water

1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce

1 cup pasta, broken into 1-inch pieces

2 bay leaves

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 (12 ounce) package frozen peas and carrots

salt and pepper

Directions:

Heat vegetable oil in a large pot over medium-high heat.

Add the beef, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook over high heat until nicely brown.

Add the onion, garlic and celery. Sprinkle flour over top and mix.

Stir in the beef broth, wine, water, tomato sauce, pasta, bay leaves and thyme.

Bring to boil and then lower to simmer. Cover. Simmer for 1 hour or until beef becomes tender and falls apart.

Add the peas and carrots. Stir and cook uncovered 15 minutes longer.

Season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour into bowls and serve.

Freezes well.

Lemons. Credit: Ivar Leidus via Wikimedia Commons.

Greek Egg and Lemon Soup (Meat)

Serves 4-6

Cook’s Tips:

*To make pareve, use a vegetarian broth.

Ingredients:

4 cups chicken broth

½ cup long-grain white rice

2 eggs

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro or parsley

Directions:

In a medium saucepan, bring the chicken broth to a boil.

Add the rice, lower heat to simmer. Cover and cook 20 minutes, or until rice is tender. Remove from heat.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, lemon juice, and cilantro or parsley.

Slowly add ½ cup hot broth, whisking madly to avoid curdling.

Pour this mixture into the remaining broth, whisking constantly.

Return to medium-low heat. Whisk constantly until soup is hot and begins to thicken. Do not boil.

Serve hot.

Vegan Pumpkin Vichyssoise. Photo by Ethel G. Hofman.

Vegan Pumpkin Vichyssoise (Pareve)

Serves 6-8

Cook’s Tips:

*Use ½ cup leftover pareve mashed potatoes instead of 1 potato.

*For a dairy soup, whisk in ½ cup sour cream before serving.

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 medium onion, sliced

1 large potato, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks

½ pear, cored, unpeeled cut in 1-inch chunks

6 cups vegetable broth

1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin (not pumpkin purée)

1 teaspoon nutmeg

1 teaspoon cumin

salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Directions:

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat.

Add the onion, potato and pear.

Reduce heat to medium. Sauté for 10 minutes but do not brown.

Add the broth, cover and bring to simmer. Cook for 30 minutes or until potatoes are soft.

Cool slightly before puréeing in blender or food processor. Have to do in two batches.

Return to pot. Whisk in the pumpkin purée and spices. Bring to simmer.

Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Floury Bannocks. Photo by Ethel G. Hofman.

Floury Bannocks (Pareve)

Makes 6-8

Cook’s Tips:

*If using all-purpose flour, add 3 teaspoons baking powder and ¼ teaspoon salt.

*For buttermilk, pour 1 tablespoon vinegar into 1 cup milk. Do not stir. Let stand at room temperature for 10 to 15 minutes to curdle.

Ingredients:

1½ cups self-rising flour

2 tablespoons margarine, softened

1 teaspoon baking powder

1½ cups buttermilk

Directions:

In a medium bowl, rub the margarine into the flour to make a coarse crumb mixture.

Stir in the baking powder. Make a well in the center. Add enough buttermilk to make a soft, but not sticky, dough.

Start off with 1 cup buttermilk. Turn onto a floured board.

Pat into a circle about ¼-inch thick. Cut into triangles or squares.

Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. It’s ready when a pinch of flour browns in 6 to 7 seconds.

Arrange triangles in preheated skillet. Reduce heat to medium. Cook 2 minutes on each side until nicely browned.

Serve hot or at room temperature.

Ethel G. Hofman is a widely syndicated American Jewish food and travel columnist, author and culinary consultant.

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