Personalizing Dishes

Find tips on how to personalize dishes to your taste with a few changes of ingredients and proportions.

Soup recipes are always open to improvisation. If you like one vegetable more than another or if you have a lot of one vegetable around, changing the proportion will not change the delicious outcome. When making soups in the slow cooker, the important thing is to have the correct amount of food in the pot. Ideally, it should be at least half full and not more than three-quarters full. Feel free to change around the ingredients and proportions, but try to keep the quantity the same.

Extras for Insurance

I don't think of making more food than you need for one night as creating leftovers. That word has a negative connotation. I think of it instead as dinner insurance—and everyone should have a few of these policies in his or her freezer!

Strategy for Success

If you've decided in advance that part of a batch of soup is destined for the freezer, two things are important to consider: the ingredients used (some hold up better than others when frozen) and timing.

Soups that freeze the best are the ones made without potatoes. Potatoes tend to break down and become mushy when thawed and reheated and are not good candidates for a second supper. The same fate awaits pasta and noodles. Many of the recipes call for adding the noodles at the end of the cooking process. So if you plan on freezing all or part of the soup, take out the amount you want to freeze before adding the pasta to the pot.

Freeze in a Flash

Heavy quart plastic bags are the freezer's best friend. Remember that liquid expands when it freezes, so don't fill a bag more than three-quarters full. Lay the filled bag on its side until it's frozen solid, and it will be easy to defrost in the microwave on a future night.

Vibrant and Vegetarian

Even devoted meat eaters are becoming occasional vegetarians today. The soups are so hearty and filling that no meat-eater who eats them will say “Where's the beef?”

Chicken Soups for the Soul

It's not just your grandmother who says to eat chicken soup when you're sick. Some medical studies have also touted the virtues of chicken soup, and here are some from a number of different cultures that are sure to make you healthy if you're not already.

Because chicken has an innately mild flavor, most of these soups rely on herbs, spices, and other flavors to perk the palate. If you want to create a soup with leftover roast or grilled chicken, go ahead. Just add the chicken at the end of the cooking process.

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