Mix-and-Match Soup

by Debi

Ever spent so much time involved with a project that you forget to think about what you’re going to have for dinner? Oops.  Sadly, this isn’t exactly a rare occurrence in my house.  ;-)

But I have a back-up plan for those nights when I forget to think about dinner.  Basically I can clear out my cupboards and fridge and make homemade soup.  Yep.  Mix-and-Match Soup, you’re my hero!  I’m reposting this recipe because people are always requesting it.

This is a seriously simple way to make a meal out of whatever’s hiding in the back recesses of your cupboards or freezer.  It’s the answer to the age old question, “What do we eat when there’s nothing to eat?”

It’s sort of like the classic children’s story, Stone Soup — only without the stone!  :-)  I’d probably break a tooth.

(Excerpted and adapted with permission from my book Frozen Assets: Cook for a Day, Eat for a Month)

Mix-and-Match Soup (8 generous servings)

Broth (choose one)

  • Tomato: One 12-ounce can of tomato paste plus two 16-ounce cans of tomatoes with juice (chopped) plus water to equal 10 cups total
  • Chicken/Turkey: 10 cups broth or 4 bouillon cubes dissolved in 10 cups of water
  • Beef: 10 cups broth or 4 bouillon cubes dissolved in 10 cups of water

Protein (choose one — 1 pound or 2 cups, cooked)

  • Ground beef, browned
  • Leftover meatballs or meatloaf, chopped
  • Cooked chicken or turkey (cut up)
  • Ham (cut up)
  • Lentils
  • Frankfurters, sliced (or any sausage or Kielbasa)
  • Pepperoni, sliced
  • Beans, cooked or canned (pintos, kidney, Great Northern, etc.)

Grain (choose 1 or 2 for a total of 2 cups)

  • Rice, cooked (any variety)
  • Barley, cooked
  • Pasta, raw
  • Corn
  • Dumplings (add near end of cooking time)

Vegetables (raw, cooked or canned, choose 2 or more for a total of 1 to 2 cups)

  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Onion
  • Potatoes
  • Tomatoes
  • Green beans
  • Turnips
  • Parsnips
  • Broccoli
  • Peas or pea pods
  • Cauliflower
  • Bell pepper
  • Zucchini (add raw)

Seasonings (choose 2 to 4 spices, 1 to 2 teaspoons each)

  • Basil
  • Cayenne (dash)
  • Chives
  • Cumin
  • Garlic
  • Marjoram
  • Onion powder
  • Thyme
  • Rosemary
  • Parsley
  • Oregano

To Prepare Soup:

  • Bring the broth to a boil in a large stockpot or Dutch oven. Add all of the ingredients and salt and pepper to taste. Reduce heat and simmer one hour.

Slow Cooker Prep:

  • Pour the boiling stock and other ingredients into a slow cooker and simmer for 8 to 12 hours or overnight on LOW setting.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Deborah Taylor-Hough is a freelance writer and author of Frugal Living for Dummies® and the popular Frozen Assets cookbook series.  Visit Debi online at: www.Simplemom.com

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The Thanksgiving Tree


by Debi

At the end of November, the United States celebrates Thanksgiving Day. One of our family traditions for this particular holiday is making a Thanksgiving Tree. People tell me every year that they like this particular idea so much, I’m sharing it once again (sorry if it’s a repeat for you!).

We make a tree trunk with bare branches out of black or dark brown craft paper and tape the “tree” to the dining room wall. Then we cut out individual autumn-colored leaves (red, orange, yellow, brown) from more craft paper.

As someone in the family thinks of something or someone they’re thankful for, they write the item or person’s name onto one of the leaves and then tape the leaf to the tree branches.

We try to put the Thanksgiving Tree in place by mid-November so our family has at least a full week to add more leaves to the tree. By Thanksgiving Day, the tree is FULL with the names of people, events and things we’re thankful for. This is great fun for the kids and a meaningful addition to our family’s holiday traditions.

Baked Pumpkin Seeds

imagesCA05MYR6by Debi

For a simple autumn treat, make some baked pumpkin seeds (you can also do this with acorn squash seeds).

After all the pumpkin carving or pie making’s done, don’t throw out the seeds.

Separate the seeds from the stringy pulp (don’t rinse or remove every last bit of the pulp — the pulp adds flavor). Place the seeds on a cookie sheet, stir in about 1/4 cup of melted butter, sprinkle with a small amount of salt and then bake in a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes until lightly browned. Enjoy!

And if you’re wondering what to do with the leftover stringy part of the pumpkin guts, visit my real-life friend Diana’s blog for a tasty recipe:  Pumpkin Gut Bread

Happy autumn to you and yours!

Easy Hot Spiced Apple Juice/Cider

By Debi

My favorite recipe for hot spiced apple cider is one of those throw-it-together-as-you-go recipes, but I’ll try to explain the process as best I can.

First, I take a large jug of apple juice (a gallon if we’re entertaining). Then I pour the juice into a large pot on the stove (or into the slow cooker if I don’t want to use a burner). Heat to a simmer.

Then add the following ingredients to the pot:

  • about one cup of frozen orange juice concentrate (this ingredient is a MUST)
  • approximately two teaspoons (more or less) of EACH of the following: Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Ginger, Cloves (whole or ground)
  • and sometimes I add about one cup (or less) of cranberry juice cocktail

Let it all simmer for awhile (half an hour at least). The smell wafting through the house while the cider is simmering is simply heaven. Mmmmm …

Serve the hot spiced cider in mugs. For a nice touch, add a whole cinnamon stick to each mug.

Having a large pot of cider simmering on the stove when company arrives is a sure way to make them very happy that they chose to come over to your house.