Hearty Vegetable Beef Soup

Although we’re into spring now, the temps here in the Ozarks ventured back into the thirties this week.  I decided, rather than crank up the heat, yet again, I would embrace this opportunity (and my favorite cozy pajamas).  I do love a good pot of soup, and this temperature dip gave me the perfect excuse to make a savory, nutritious meal that’s super hearty without being heavy.  This wholesome Vegetable Beef Soup is made with whole ingredients and none of the preservatives and chemicals found in the canned version, and a fraction of the sodium.  It’s so much better for you and your family and really doesn’t take that much more effort.  If you can cut vegetables into relatively equal-sized pieces, you can make this soup.  It’s finished in only about 45 minutes of cooking, and, as with all soups, tastes even better the next day, so it’s a perfect make-ahead meal, too.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 1 1/2 lbs. beef stew meat (or whatever lean cuts are on sale, cut into bite-sized pieces)
  • 1 large yellow or white onion, diced, about 2 cups
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 carrots, cut into ½-inch pieces, about 2 cups
  • 1-2 celery stalks, cut into ½-inch pieces, about 1 to 1 ½ cups
  • 1 lb. (4-6) red potatoes, diced
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • ½ to 1 c. frozen (or fresh) peas
  • 2 T. beef-flavored Better than Bouillon, plus 2-3 cups water (or 6-8 c. beef broth)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 T. Italian seasoning
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Cooking oil

In a large Dutch oven or pot, heat a couple tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat.  Add half of the beef and cook until completely browned.  Remove from the pan, add a little more oil and repeat with the second half. Cooking the meat in two batches allows it to cook more evenly, getting nicely browned, whereas cooking the all of it at once creates too much moisture and the meat will steam instead of sear.  You want nice, dark browning on the meat, and on the bottom of the pan.

Once the meat is done, lower the heat to medium, add another couple tablespoons of oil and add the onions and a sprinkle of salt.  Cover the pot for 2-3 minutes allowing the onions to sweat, helping to release some of that yummy color from the bottom of the pan.  Scrape the bottom of the pan with a spatula, getting as much of the brown as you can, then add in the beef, garlic, carrots, celery, potatoes, tomatoes, bouillon and water (or broth), bay leaves, and Italian seasoning.  Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to a very low simmer.  Cook on low until the potatoes are tender, about 45 minutes.  Taste for salt and pepper and add however much you like.  Serve immediately or let sit on the stove below a simmer to allow more flavor to develop.  Refrigerate (or freeze) leftovers.

Try it with a slice of Whole-wheat Irish Soda Bread.

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