The Secret to Life is Soup

Soup is the secret to life because it’s simple, hearty, enjoyable, shareable, saveable, warming, nurturing. Nobody ever wrote Chicken Satay for the Soul and nobody ever will. The secret to life is something that is easy to make, something that can be done while you live your actual life, something that can bring people together and then when enjoyed later can bring them right back to that same place.

Soup is particularly great this time of year because it can be a breeze to make for a big crowd, then you save your left overs for when you’re too busy to cook one night (you know, like, every night until January). This soup is one of my favorites that I’ve been making for years because it is SO SO simple, low-cal/fat and stores really well. You could even make big batches, freeze, then thaw as needed.

So make this soup so you can stop standing over the stove, worrying about what you’re making/missing/buying/gifting/planning/doing and just go sit by the fire or the tree or someone you love and share some soup.

Stupid Simple Salsa and Black Bean Soup

black bean soup 1

Ingredients:

  • 1 can of black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup of salsa
  • 1 cup of vegetable or chicken broth
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • salt, pepper and cayenne pepper, to taste
  • Optional toppings: plain Greek yogurt, cilantro, chopped onions, sliced green onions or chives

Method:

  1. Combine the beans, salsa and broth in a blender and pulse until smooth, or put all the ingredients it a stock pot and blend with an immersion blender.
  2. Add the spices to taste and allow soup to warm to a simmer.
  3. Reduce heat and let warm on the stove top for 20-30 minutes to let the flavors combine.
  4. Serve warm with optional toppings.

black bean soup 2

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Return of the Ramen

I hated Ramen growing up. My sister used to eat top ramen what seemed like every day and then one day my dad told me the noodles were worms and that was IT for about 10 years. Then…I went to college. And I became a vegetarian. And a broke college student. Enter: my wormy Ramen nemesis. It doesn’t matter how much you detest something…if it’s .15 cents a package, it’s hard to deny. So I started experimenting with it and seeing if I could make it taste like something besides just noodles and it worked. I discovered all kinds of combinations that included adding frozen peas, shrimp (I ate seafood), tofu, onions, spices, sauces, and so on. And Ramen became a thing I could eat again without gagging a little bit. However, I will only eat the “Oriental” flavored ramen, I still think the others are pretty gross.

Lately, I’ve just wanted soup. Just brothy, simple, hot hot hot soup. So I pulled an old college grocery store trip, got four packs of Ramen for $1 (you used to be able to get at least 5 for $1- sheesh, this inflation is out of control!), a pack of extra-firm tofu and a bundle of green onions. I brought it home, cooked the soup according to the directions, adding a quarter of the block of tofu, diced into small cubes, in at the end with the flavor packet. Then I added a healthy splash of Sriracha sauce (I like my soup spicy!), and a little hoisin sauce. Then I topped the bowl with two green onions, snipped up with a pair of kitchen shears.  I realize this is no great culinary genius, but man was it exactly what I wanted.

Ramen

Tastes like College.

I’m definitely glad I don’t have to eat this several times a week anymore, but it’s still pretty yummy. And filling!

Here are some other combinations to try:

  • Oriental ramen packet cooked, add snow peas, shrimp and crushed mint or basil
  • Oriental ramen packet cooked, add a splash of coconut milk, bean sprouts, cilantro and ginger
  • Chicken ramen packet cooked, add canned or freshly shredded chicken, onions and a little cheese
  • Beef ramen packet cooked, add cooked meatballs and frozen, canned or fresh mixed veggies (corn, carrots, beans, peas)
  • Cook ramen noodles without adding spice packet. Drain noodles and use in pasta salad, or mixed into a cold bean salad, or drizzle with olive oil and top with fresh tomato, mozzarella and basil for a caprese ramen salad

Also, for the ramen lover in your life, this spork is obviously necessary.

ramen spork

Genius.

Too bad my sister didn’t have that back in 1992….