The best soups in the world may be made with bones and the ends of vegetables, but not all of us have those things all the time. You too can make soup, which as others before me have pointed out, is just wet food.
But even wet food tastes better with some stuff in it to give it a) ballast and b) flavour. These are some soups created and eaten by the Treehouse squirrels over the past many years. I've chosen the ones with the shortest and/or most flexible ingredient lists.
It Appears to Be Soup
Ingredients: 4 cups of chicken stock, 2 cups of water, 1/2 cup green lentils simmered in the stock/water, then some cooked rice, leftover chopped potato, and frozen mixed vegetables added and cooked until it was soup.
Directions: Simmer it all together. You know it's soup when it stops looking like a potful of water with vegetables and lentils floating in it.
"We Are Never Going to Use This Coleslaw Mix" Soup
Ingredients: 1 bag pre-shredded cabbage, carrots, barley, canned pinto beans, sloppy joe seasoning (homemade mixture), and a few lentils (since we had them)
Directions: Simmer it all together.
Ingredients: Several small containers of leftover pasta sauce and beans that had accumulated in the freezer, along with a box of chicken broth, a bit of frozen spinach, a bit of pasta, and a few mushrooms.
Directions: Simmer it all together.
Sort of Mexican Soup
Ingredients: Leftovers from the Hillbilly Housewife's Lentil-Rice Taco Stuffing; enough water or broth to make it soupy; one can pinto beans, drained; some frozen corn, half a cup or so of salsa.
Directions: Simmer it all together. Add corn and salsa near the end of cooking.
Lentil Soup Isn't So Bad
Ingredients: 3 cups chicken broth plus an equal amount water; Some green lentils--maybe half to two-thirds of a cup dry; 2 carrots, sliced; 1/2 bunch celery, including some leaves, sliced; salsa
Directions: Rinse the lentils and check for pebbles. Bring the broth and water to a boil, and add the lentils and vegetables. Turn down the heat and simmer until the lentils are soft enough to eat and the vegetables are cooked. I poured in some mild salsa partway through--maybe half a cup, just enough to season it up and add a bit of onion and tomato. Add more water if it needs it as it's cooking.
Dead-easy Navy Bean Soup (slow cooker) (Adapted from Saving Dinner by Leanne Ely)
Directions: Soak one pound navy beans (half a 900 gram bag) overnight.
When you get up in the morning, discard the soaking water. Throw some frozen chopped onion, the beans, a couple of bay leaves, and 1 litre (quart) chicken or vegetable broth into the slow cooker, and turn it on high.
Later, when you're feeling more awake, add in sliced carrots and/or celery. I didn't have celery so I put in some celery seed. Keep the soup cooking all day, on high for part of the time if your day is getting short. When the beans seem like they're pretty soft, add in salt and pepper; I also added a bit of cumin. Add a little water if it seems to need it, but don't add TOO much.
You can turn it off and let it sit for awhile before you eat, to let it thicken and cool a bit.
Slow Cooker Split Pea Soup We've Been Making Forever
Adapted from a recipe in The Perfect Basket, by Diane Phillips. Can be halved and cooked in a smaller slower cooker. If you don't have fresh vegetables, you can substitute frozen "spaghetti mix" vegetables (a mixture of onion, celery, and pepper).
2 cups yellow split peas (one of the little bags from the grocery store)
1/2 cup brown rice (optional)
1 bay leaf
2 tsp. dried marjoram
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. white pepper (I didn't have any so I used black pepper)
1 quart chicken or vegetable broth plus more water as needed
Some chopped frozen onion
A couple of carrots, peeled and chopped
Three stalks of celery, chopped
If you weren't going to do this in the slow cooker, you could start by sauteing the vegetables in a bit of butter or oil, then adding the split peas, broth, and seasonings. I just put everything into the 3 1/2 quart slow cooker, adding water to fill it maybe three-quarters full. I set it on High for a few hours, then turned it to Low partway through the afternoon when it was bubbling hard. I think it would work fine to leave it on Low all day.
Hamburger Soup #1
This is what I did: browned a pound of ground beef, drained off most of the fat, added in some chopped onion and celery and let them cook a few minutes. Added a can of pasta sauce and several cans of water; when it boiled, I added a cupful of what the grocery store packaged as "soup mix." That is, a mixture of lentils, grains, and small beans. I let that simmer for a couple of hours, stirring it to keep from sticking, adding water if it needed it. You could probably do it in the slow cooker too. Later I added chopped zucchini, a few mushrooms, and pasta bowties, along with extra basil, oregano, garlic powder, salt and pepper. That's it, and it made a lot.
Hamburger Soup #2
This recipe is descriptive, not prescriptive: don't go cooking one potato to copy this.
Ingredients: 1 lb. extra-lean ground beef; splash of olive oil for flavour; salt, pepper; lots of sliced celery (or part onions); 3 fat, ripe tomatoes; 1 cup leftover pasta sauce and half a can tomato paste (plus maybe a cupful of water, or two cupfuls--depends on whether you want it to be more like stew or more like soup); 1 cooked potato and about a cupful of cooked yellow beans; 1 cupful frozen peas (add at the end)
Directions: In a large pot (I used a Dutch oven), brown the ground beef; drain if necessary but I didn't because there was almost no fat left in the pan. Add a little oil if necessary and add in the celery; cook until softened a bit. Add salt and pepper whenever you want. Add in tomato ingredients plus as much water as seems right, plus cut-up leftover vegetables. Mama Squirrel left the beans in nice long bean-sized pieces.
Bring it all to a boil, turn down and let simmer for about an hour. (Low enough so it doesn't burn, but just enough to bubble a bit.) Add the peas right at the end.
This doesn't have much seasoning in it (other than the salt, pepper, and what's in the pasta sauce) and you might think it's too bland; feel free to doctor it as you like.