Around this time of year my mom’s mom, Nana, would get to work making a HUGE batch of her delicious beef and vegetable soup. In her words “it grows” as you make it…she told me once that she kept having to change pots to accommodate all the veggies she wanted to add.
I have lots of family recipes…a whole binder dedicated to them. Most of my “Nana recipes” are in her handwriting on a scrap of paper. On the other hand, many of my mom’s recipes are in the form of an email that I printed out…I only have 1 or 2 in her handwriting. I love the fact that the text of the message reminds me of being in college and are signed love, mom: “I know you will do well on your test”…I must have been planning a post-test celebratory meal of spaghetti and meatballs.
Back to the soup.
Nana would bring containers of soup to our house, some to eat right away and some to freeze. But these weren’t your typical Tupperware containers. No! Nana saved jars and plastic containers to use for occasions like this. It was completely normal to receive a Cool Whip container or a Blue Plate jar full of soup (these types of containers also found their way to Thanksgiving dinner to package leftovers after the meal).
But really, I loved all the veggies too. My version today has an even greater variety of vegetables (does that surprise anyone?). I also played with the method a little and made a few changes to the tomato ingredients (she used canned tomato soup and canned vegetable soup…but I switched to diced & pureed – less processed!). Browning the beef first was also a must for the added flavor from the caramelized bits left on the bottom of the pan.
But some things I didn’t dare mess with. Nana added “dollops” of ketchup right at the end of cooking…so do I. Nana added pasta…me too! I’ve never tried adding a head of cabbage which she says is optional…maybe next year.
Like I said, this makes a ton of soup (the amount changes every time I make it…this batch made 36 cups!). But it’s a flexible/forgiving recipe…add as much as or as little as you want. Double the recipe or halve the recipe. Any combination of fresh or frozen veggies will do perfectly. You could leave the beef out (definitely wouldn’t recommend it though), or switch to chicken. You could omit the pasta. You could add fresh diced carrots with the onions and celery (my carrots were in the frozen veggie mix). You could reduce the amount of potatoes and only do 1 pound. Fresh herbs would be nice too…my herb garden bit the dust when I moved into an apartment.
Just note, you will need to adjust the broth and water accordingly. I leave mine a little thick (almost stew like) so that I have less to freeze…and then add water before reheating.
Nana’s Beef Vegetable Soup
adapted from my grandmother’s recipe
1 chuck roast, trimmed of fat and cubed (2-3 pounds)
2 tablespoons flour
3 tablespoons of a neutral oil (grapeseed, canola)
1 onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
5 celery stalks, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon salt, divided
2 teaspoons black pepper, divided
4 cups chicken broth (reduced sodium)
4 cups beef broth
4 cups water*
2 26oz cans tomato puree
1 26oz can diced tomatoes
2-3 zucchini or yellow squash, cubed
2 lb small red potatoes, cubed
16 oz bag frozen okra**
16 oz bag frozen mixed vegetables (corn, carrots, green beans, peas)
16 oz bag frozen baby lima beans
2 teaspoons dried thyme & 2 teaspoons dried oregano (1 tablespoon of Italian seasoning would work as well)
2 cups whole wheat orzo, uncooked (or any pasta you like)
3 generous “dollops” of ketchup
In a bowl, toss beef cubes and flour until well coated. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large stock pot over medium high heat. Add 1/3 of the beef to the pot and cook until browned on all sides. Transfer to a paper towel lined plate. Repeat twice more, each time with 1 tablespoon oil and 1/3 of meat. Reduce heat if browning to quickly.
In the now empty pot, add onions, bell pepper, celery, garlic, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper. Stir, scraping up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Reduce heat to medium, cover, and cook for 20 minutes, until vegetable are very tender; stir occasionally.
Add both broths and water. Return beef to the pot and simmer on low heat for 1 hour.
Add all cans of tomatoes. Add remaining vegetables (fresh and frozen). Season with remaining salt (1 1/2 teaspoons), pepper (1 teaspoon), thyme and oregano. Cook over medium heat for 1 hour, or until beef and potatoes are very tender. Add more water if soup becomes too thick or if all the vegetables aren’t submerged.
Add orzo and ketchup. Cook for about 20 minutes or until pasta is al dente. Taste and reseason with salt and pepper if necessary.
Per serving (1 cup*) – 183 calories, 7 g fat (2.5 g saturated), 20 g carbohydrates, 4 g fiber, 11 g protein, 518 mg sodium (exchanges: 2 vegetable, 1 starch, 1 protein, 1 fat; WW points: 3)
* The soup will be really thick, almost stew-like (the annoying Rachael Ray would call this stoup)…I do this on purpose because I freeze the soup “concentrated” which helps with freezer space and then add water when I reheat it. It’s good both ways (thick and thin), but if you add the water, your 1 cup serving can become nearly 2 cups…for the same amount of calories. And a tip…the potatoes for some reason will be mushy if you reheat in the microwave (after being frozen), so I use the stovetop which seems to reduce the mushiness.
** I used fresh okra in this batch, but usually use frozen…both are equally delish.