Kitchen-sink soups use up summer veggies

About this time of year, summer gardens are winding down, and once again everyone is flush with fresh veggies. Tomatoes, peppers, green beans, zucchini, potatoes – bagfuls of each found their way into my kitchen. I lack my own garden, but I know plenty of green thumbs.

One great way to use up the last of the summer veggies is soup. Soup can use as many or as few vegetables as you want, you can make a ton of it, and it can be portioned out or frozen to make the best use of it.

Any soup recipe can be customized. Some recipes, no matter how delicious they sound, usually have something I’d prefer less or more of, and unless it is going to turn the soup into wallpaper paste, I take liberty with the written ingredients.

And who better to turn to for soup-spiration than the Pioneer Woman? I don’t know what it is with this lady, but everything she makes and posts on her blog looks great, usually is easy to make and uses stuff I already have in the cupboard.

Her chicken tortilla soup seemed to be a perfect everything-but-the-kitchen-sink soup. There were some things I had that she didn’t use in her version, but hey, soup is flexible.

For instance, she used green pepper; I had some yellow bell pepper, so I used that – and the color really popped. And instead of two cans of black beans, I used one can and a bag of black beans and rice mix I had in the pantry. The rice made the soup a little thicker and more like chili, but it was tasty.

I also threw in some fresh corn I got from White House Fruit Farm, cut off the cob. Corn is good in soups, chowders, whatever, so why not use it up? I also threw in some green beans from my uncle’s garden and a couple cherry tomatoes from the garden in my yard. Also, in addition to the Rotel, I added some leftover salsa dip from the fridge.

The spice mix Pioneer Woman used is great, and with the added veggies, I used a little more than written. Also, I threw in some Sriarcha sauce, because it is amazing and should be on everything. I also grilled the chicken on my George Foreman grill instead of in the oven.

You can kick up the heat or take it down. I topped mine with come chili-cheese Fritos from the vending machine at work instead of the tortilla strips she used. A dollop of sour cream topped off the bowl.

The soup came out thicker than PW’s, but it was like a spicy, delicious warm chili, with different veggies in every bite. Add chicken broth if you want a more soupy soup.

Another kitchen-sink soup is potato soup. My aunt also gave me a big bag of potatoes – yellow, red, and even blue – which were food processed together into potato harmony. I didn’t have real bacon, so I subbed in Bacon Bits – sorry, Pioneer Woman. I also threw in broccoli because more veggies can’t hurt, right? Grilled chicken – leftover or fresh – also can be added, along with green beans, corn, whatever you want to use up. I used up the corn on the first soup, but I did still have some green beans. I used Monterey Jack cheese, and more than prescribed, because I wanted to use it all up and, because … cheese.

The soup came out creamy and hearty, even though the potatoes were all from different species of spud. It made the color a little off, but unlike the tortilla soup with its mix of colors, potato soup is more about sensation than appearance. It just has to be warm, creamy and smell delicious.

Next time you want to clean out your fridge, get out your soup pot, gear up Google and find the perfect kitchen-sink recipe.