Using Up Leftovers: Soup

The other night I made some sauteed green and yellow squash for dinner, minus the tomatoes plus some red peppers. This is a standby vegetable dish for me, being very flexible and loose. This time I used onions, garlic, green zucchini, yellow crookneck zucchini, and some sliced red pepper. Mmmm…. but I made too much. Not a problem! Throw it in the soup pot later in the week. Tonight I looked through the vegetable drawer and the pantry to decide what else to throw in. I rejected the leftover Brussels sprouts, thinking they’d have too strong a flavor. I also rejected the leftover butternut squash since it was so sweet.

From the pantry, I pulled out a can of corn, a can of tomatoes–oh, I’ll use up those tomatoes with diced jalapenos I bought by accident!–and a can of kidney beans. From the freezer, I pulled out a quart of turkey broth. Since I wanted a lighter soup I ended up not using the beans, but I may add them when I heat up the soup for lunch tomorrow to make a heartier meal. Pinto beans would be good also.

  • 1 quart of chicken or turkey or vegetable broth (or water in a pinch)
  • 1 can of corn, drained
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes, undrained, preferably with jalapenos or chiles
  • 1-2 cups leftover or frozen cooked vegetables
  • salt and pepper to taste

If my vegetables had not had onion and garlic in them, I would have probably started by sauteing some onion and garlic in a bit of olive oil or adding garlic salt and/or onion salt or powder or more seasonings at least. Had the tomatoes not had the jalapenos in them, more pepper or a can of green chills would have helped spice things up. But this was good as it was, with just a bit more salt and pepper added, since I tend to make my broths mild.

At the table, though, I had the absolute winning idea that made this an unforgettable soup!

The other night when we had company for dinner they had brought the Caesar salad with these to-die-for homemade croutons. A lot of croutons! Really good croutons! I’ve made salad twice now and still have some leftover. I threw some of the croutons into my bowl of soup and oh my: perfection in a cup of soup!

Soup is so flexible. In the past I’ve added various bits of leftover and fresh vegetables. In the summer I wander the garden. In the winter, I browse the refrigerator and freezer and pantry.

One of my best batches of soup used up some leftover scalloped potatoes and ham. My it was good! In another one I threw some leftovers of the classic “green bean casserole,” that one with cream of mushroom soup and the Durkee onions on the top served at holiday tables around the country. That was also excellent! The bad news is that soups like this are almost impossible to repeat. The good news is that the more you experiment like this, the more often you hit upon some fantastic combination and you enjoy it all the more knowing you’ll never be able to duplicate it exactly because you’ll never end up with the same batch of leftovers. I have learned it’s best in the beginning to experiment with small batches of soup, say starting with a quart of broth. I’ve rarely made a really bad batch of soup this way but I have made some that were pretty boring. In the beginning I tended to add too many things. I would keep getting more ideas and add another of this or bag of that. In some areas, and soup from leftovers is perhaps one of them, less is more. I think because the leftovers already have a blend of flavors. It’s like when you’re mixing colors: if you mix too many together you end up with “gray” rather than an interesting color.