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Hearty Soups and Stew

When it comes to the ultimate comfort food during winter months, a piping hot bowl of homemade soup or stew simmered to perfection is on the menu at my home several nights a week. It’s not only one of the most budget-friendly meals you can make, but it’s also very filling, quite satisfying, and warms you up fast on those bone-chilling days.

What I especially like is their versatility. A hearty soup or stew is often my go-to on nights when my day has run late and I’m throwing dinner together at the last minute. It only takes me about 10 minutes to sauté a chopped onion in the stew pot and add stock or broth, seasonings and whatever leftover meat and veggies I can find in the fridge or freezer. After 20 minutes of simmering, the end result makes for a deliciously hearty meal.

From a basic chowder to a full-flavored pot roast stew with dumplings, there are soups and stews to satisfy nearly any taste. And you can make it as simple or as complex as your time and energy will allow.

Start with a good stew pot or Dutch oven, like the Kenmore 5.5-Quart Red Cast-Iron Dutch Oven with Lid or Paula Deen 6-Piece Soup N’ Stew Set. You can find both at your local Kmart or Kmart’s online store. Then follow these essential tips for a soup or stew guaranteed to arouse anyone’s appetite.

Build a good foundation

A stock or broth serves as the foundation for the overall flavor. Bouillon cubes or granules were typically used when I was a child. However readymade stock (usually sold in cartons by the quart) or homemade stock (fresh or frozen) is always better.

Sear and sauté

Always sear or brown the meat first to seal in any juices, then set the meat aside. Sauté onions, celery, carrots, garlic and other veggies in a little olive oil for 3 to 5 minutes. This will give your veggies more depth of flavor.

Use natural flavor enhancers

Instant flavor enhancers can take any soup or stew from good to great. As an example, a tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce or a dash of hot sauce adds a new level of flavor to beef stews and lentil soups. Try a dollop or two of pesto in a hearty minestrone. Nut butters (like almond butter or cashew butter) adds depth and creaminess to potato and leek soup or a pad Thai stew. Other natural flavor enhancers include miso, tomato paste, honey, white or red wine, and herbal vinegar.


Thicken it up

One of the easiest ways to thicken any soup is to puree some of the cooked vegetables in the blender and then stir the puree back into the soup. To thicken a broth-based soup or stew, simply mix 1 tablespoon cornstarch with 1/4 cup cold or room temperature liquid, then stir in the paste during the last 5 to 10 minutes of cooking time. Tomato paste can also be used as a thickener. And a dollop of yogurt, sour cream or ricotta cheese will thicken the consistency of any cream-based soup.

Top it off

Croutons or oyster crackers are favored garnishes for soups and chowders. Dumplings and biscuits are a classic with chicken soup or beef stew. But why stop there? Use fresh herbs, toasted nuts or seeds as a garnish that adds visual contrast and flavor. Try toasted coconut for curry-based soup, shredded cheese for chili, or crispy noodles for chicken soup. The key is to choose a garnish that complements the overall flavor of the soup or stew.

FEATURED RECIPE:

Sausage, Potato & Cabbage Stew

1 pound Italian sausage, chopped (I use turkey sausage)

1 medium onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

4 cups chicken stock or broth

6 cups chopped cabbage (about 1/2 head)

4 cups cubed potatoes

2 cups chopped carrots

2 teaspoons basil

1 teaspoon oregano

1/2 teaspoon thyme

1 (16 ounce) can diced tomatoes

1/4 cup tomato paste

Salt and pepper, to taste

In a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat, cook the sausage and onions until onions are soft and sausage is cooked through, about 10 minutes; drain any remaining fat. Add the garlic and cook 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the chicken stock, cabbage, potatoes, carrots, basil, oregano, and thyme. Bring to a boil, then simmer, covered, for 30 minutes or until potatoes and carrots are nearly done.

Stir in the tomatoes and tomato paste. Add salt and pepper to taste and simmer, covered, for 10 to 15 minutes more. Ladle hot soup into individual serving bowls. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

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  1. Living in So. Cal we don't get "cold" weather but Sausage, Potato & Cabbage Stew is a must try!! Just got back from the store and will be having it for dinner. Thank you!!

    1. In response to lovenlife44

      Hi lovenlife44! I used to live in southern California as well and enjoyed soups and stews most any time of year--well, except during the heat of summer, of course. Hope you and your family enjoyed both making and eating this stew.

  2. Excellent ideas ! And this reminds me to use the one I received from a fundraising ! Cool beans (I mean, hot, yuk-yuk-yuk!) !

  3. Comfort food is right Kris! I love making stews as well as soups during the cold winter months.

    I am also looking forward to trying out the Sausage, Potato & Cabbage Stew recipe!

    Thanks Kris!

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