Friday, April 8, 2011

Recipe: Payday Soup

Yes, it's a recipe. Sort of. It'll probably be the only one you ever see on this blog, so savor it mightily.

Okay, I'm not much of a cook, but I have a select few things I can make reasonably well without blowing up the kitchen or severing a limb. The very fact that I'm capable of making this should be a testament to how flipping easy it is.

With the potential government shutdown looming, those of us who rely on the U.S. Government for our paychecks are facing the possibility of payday being...well...not. I'm not going to turn this into a political rant or anything, I'm just sharing something that might be useful to those who could suddenly have to tighten the purse strings.

When my husband and I have been broke during various periods of time, this is a soup I've made that is awesome and UBER CHEAP. I can make an entire pot for under $30, and it's enough to feed one person for lunch and dinner for up to 3 weeks, or two people for 10 days. Plus it's easy. See above about me not blowing up the kitchen or severing a limb. The recipe isn't set in stone, and you can modify it to your taste.

So. My loyal blog minions. I present to you:

Lori's Not-Patented But Totally Yummy
Payday Soup
(Or, how to stretch $30 for up to 3 weeks)
  • 1 bag frozen corn
  • 1 bag frozen peas
  • 3 cans kidney beans
  • 3 cans pinto beans
  • 2 cans garbanzo beans/chickpeas
  • 1 can diced stewed tomatoes (or) 2 Roma tomatoes
  • 1 red onion (white onions are fine too, I just prefer red. In fact, I usually put in two onions, but that's just me. I loves me some onions)
  • 2 lbs ground beef (or ground turkey, or that pre-cut-for-stew-beef-that-probably-has-some-name-I-don't-know)
  • 1 portabello mushroom (or) 1 pack of those little white mushrooms. Or, hell, a can of mushrooms. Whatever. As long as it's a cup or so by the time they're cut to the size you like.
  • 1-2 jars of spaghetti sauce (I prefer's sweeter, which keeps the soup from getting overpoweringly salty)
  • 2 bell peppers (I usually use 1 red and 1 orange, green works fine too)
  • 1...thing of celery. What are they, bunches? Bundles? Stalks? Just, one clustery thing of celery.
  • Chicken broth, beef broth, monkey broth, whatever kind of broth you like. (Yes, it tastes fine if you use chicken broth with ground beef. The chicken and cow don't have a clue.) How much you use depends on what kind of broth-to-chunk ratio you prefer. I usually use two 32 oz cartons of chicken broth.
  • Pretty much any fresh vegetable that isn't nailed down -- I've used zucchini, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, plenty of other stuff. You can even use okra, but I don't recommend it. I could be biased, though. Those slimy things aren't fit for human consumption, and they certainly don't belong in my soup.
  • A really big pot.
Dump the frozen peas and corn into the pot. Add spaghetti sauce and broth. Put it on the stove on low.
"I LEARNED THE HARD WAY SO YOU DON'T HAVE TO" TIP: Make sure the burner is actually on. Also, make sure it's the correct burner.
While that mess does its thing, rinse the canned beans. Trust me, you want to rinse them, otherwise you end up with slimy, gooey bean-flavored slop in your soup, and it's gross. So, to avoid that, dump 1-2 cans at a time into a colander and rinse. Seriously. It takes a few minutes to get through all the cans, but it's worth it for goo-free soup. (Yet another reason not to include okra. They're like little green goo-generators.)

Once all the beans are rinsed, throw them into the pot to join the lukewarm broth party with the frozen vegetables. Stir it all up so it's nice and colorful.
"I LEARNED THE HARD WAY SO YOU DON'T HAVE TO" TIP: Don't use a flimsy plastic spoon. I mean, you can if you want, but I'm just trying to keep you from having to dunk your hand in the half-frozen, half-kinda-warm mixture to find the piece that just snapped off. Remember when you were a kid, and you'd go through a haunted house, and they had those pots of cold spaghetti to put your hand in that felt like you were feeling around in someone's guts? Yeah. Same deal. 'Cept you can't pull your hand back til you find the spoon.
After stirring it, let it all simmer merrily for a while. Now, dig out a frying pan and brown the meat. If the meat's already brown when it lands in the frying pan, throw it out and open a new package.

Depending on how strong you like your onions, you can toss them in with the meat or just chop them and put them straight into the soup. I usually cook them with the meat. Either way, get them into the soup fairly early on so the broth will have some nice onion-y flavor. Because onions are the bomb. They're also not okra, which gives them some extra cool points.

Once that's done, into the pot with the meat and the onions. Stir it mightily, making sure everything is all mixed up and the vegetables are being all social and mingling with the meat. No wall flowers allowed. Make sure you don't have clumps of peas on one side while all the onions float around on the other side, or a clique of beef chunks acting like they're too good to hang out with the corn.

Turn the heat up to mediumish. How hot is too hot? If it starts boiling and foaming and making you flail and go "OMG, no! Shit! Shit! Shit!"'s too hot. If you taste the soup, and it's still cold, it's not hot enough. Adjust accordingly.
"I LEARNED THE HARD WAY SO YOU DON'T HAVE TO" TIP: Turn off the burner you were using the brown the meat.
Now it's on to the fresh vegetables. You can pretty much do whatever you want here...slice 'em, dice 'em, whatever. I rather like mushrooms minced until they're so microscopic, I won't be able to see them, never mind taste them. Why? Because I hate mushrooms. I put them in for the nutritional value. They're good for you, the little bastards, so I suck it up and put them in. Things like celery and bell peppers, I prefer to keep in nice big chunks.

If you're of the persuasion to include okra, mincing it won't do you much good. It'll still be slimy and unholy, so you might as well drop in gigantic rings of okra so when someone puts a spoonful of soup in their mouth, they have some warning. They can see the green beacon of "OMG DON'T EAT THIS", and know ahead of time that the slippery grossness is coming, rather than having it sneak in as a covert little sliver of horror. Honestly, why would anyone eat okra? One bite, and your mouth is coated with slime. I ate one slice of okra and thought a frog had had sex with my mouth. Not cool, okra. Not. Cool.

Anyway. Vegetables. Cut them.
"I LEARNED THE HARD WAY SO YOU DON'T HAVE TO" TIP: There's a knife involved. Do I really have to say it?
At this point, your mileage may vary. You can throw it all in now and just let the whole kit and kaboodle simmer, or you can wait an hour or so to drop the fresh vegetables in. Anything frozen usually goes in now, but I'll usually leave the bell peppers, celery, zucchini, etc. (anything that is better crunchy than soggy) in the fridge, then drop them in later. I prefer my vegetables crispy instead of squishy (or slime-producing), so I wait. Do what ye will.

By this point, my soup is usually about 2-3 inches from the top of the pot. If it's not, I keep adding stuff until it is...sauce, beans, vegetables, dryer sheets, whatever isn't nailed down. (But not okra. I have standards, people.) Then put a lid on it, drop it to low-ish, and just let it cook for a while. 2-3 hours is usually sufficient, I've been known to let it do its thang for 4-5 just because it smells good.

It's also a good idea to taste it from time to time. Add spices as needed. Hot sauce or chile powder if that's your thing (weirdo).

I suppose you could use a crockpot for this too. If you're this far into the recipe and swearing at me, wondering why I didn't tell you that in the beginning, well, I'm wondering what you're doing cooking something without reading the recipe all the way through first. But that's just me. Anyway, I don't use a crockpot because mine is too small, and I can never get all the beany vegetably beefy okra-free goodness into it. So, giant stainless steel pot it is.

Once it's spiced and cooked and totally made of awesome, take it off the burner, turn the burner off, and let it cool for a while. Then put it in those bigass Gladware or Tupperware bowls, or even freezer bags.
"I LEARNED THE HARD WAY SO YOU DON'T HAVE TO" TIP: Before putting it into freezer bags, make sure it really has cooled down.
Freeze all but one container, keep one in the fridge, and eat like a king until the fatcats in Congress get their collective thumb out of their collective ass and pay us.


  1. Just how much does this make???? 2 bags full? 20 bags full? A freezer full? Inquiring minds etc....

  2. I usually end up with 5 large Gladware containers full (not sure how many ounces). It's...a lot. lol Big help, right?

  3. Bravo for such an amusing post. It brought a chuckle to my morning.
    I agree about okra but have the same detest for onions.

    Thanks for sharing!

  4. You are funny, and I'm totally going to make this.