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Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Cream of Green Soup

or, why plant a garden if you're not going to eat everything that comes out of it?

Those who keep gardens know that, for the most part, greens are the first item to come up in abundance. For my garden, that means fall-planted kale and Swiss chard, second-year parsley, watercress, sorrel, chives, and garlic chives. That's a lot of greenness. When I have so much green that needs eating, I have a basic soup that I like to make -- Cream of Green. It doesn't really matter if the green is kale, chard, spinach, broccoli, or any of the spring herbs. They all make a delicious soup.

This week, I made a cream of kale, chard, chives, and immature garlic (greens and bulbs) soup. I used ham fat (from Easter's ham), 1/4 of a whole onion, 1 potato, chicken soup stock (simmered the bones and skin from chicken leg quarters 2 weeks ago), whey strained off of homemade yogurt over a period of days, homemade plain yogurt, milk, salt, and flour plus water to thicken.

To make this batch, I cooked the onion in the ham fat, then added the chicken stock and the peeled and cubed potato, then cooked until the potato was tender. Next, I added the greens and herbs, rough-chopped, and simmered about 15 minutes. I pureed the mixture with an immersion blender and then added the whey, milk, and yogurt. Once the soup was smooth, I seasoned with salt and thickened with a slurry of flour and water.

The family agreed -- this soup was delicious. It was also extremely frugal. I used greens and herbs from the garden. The only purchased ingredients were the potato, 1/4 onion, salt, flour, and milk. I also used several scratch-made ingredients, including the yogurt (and resulting whey), the chicken stock, and the rendered ham fat. The bonus is that a soup like this uses items that might have otherwise been thrown away, such as the fat, the bones and skins to make the stock, and the whey which was drained off of the yogurt.

In addition to using spring greens from one's garden, a cream of green soup is also an excellent way to use aging and wilting purchased green produce. Leafy greens like kale, beet greens, and chard are pricy in the supermarket and have a short shelf-life. They wilt quickly and become much less appealing. In soup-making, any wilting is completely obscured.

Although its spring, it's still soup weather where I live. Nights are cold and evenings are chilly. Soup is warming in this shoulder season. As a result, soups are still featured on our family's menus until the end June.

Cream of green soup is just one frugal soup choice. Do you have any favorite frugal soups using garden produce or inexpensive purchased ingredients? Or soups that use items that most people tend to throw away, such as the green leaves on radishes? I'm looking for new ideas. URLs and suggestions are most welcome in the comments' section!


  1. I'm looking forward to some recipes coming through because I love soup but I need some new "throw together" recipes using odds and ends. Taco soup is a good and cheap soup to throw together. Or just make a soup using whatever might be leftover in the fridge. I think soups are the cheapest meal to make that don't always require a recipe.

    It's soup weather here in Michigan again (still) so I'm looking for some new recipes.


    1. Hi Alice,
      Yum, taco soup sounds good. What do you put in yours? Odds and ends soups seem to be a good use for those last tidbits that don't interest anyone enough to heat them up.

  2. Sounds delish! I make a ham and potato soup which I think of as "peasant food"--it uses inexpensive veggies and small amounts of meat. It's a crockpot soup--potatoes, carrots, and onion, and celery cooked in a chicken broth. I add a little bit of ham (which, like you, my husband buys when it's cheap and parcels it up in the freezer) for increased protein--if we have leftover ham broth, I throw that in, as well, which makes it even better. My recipe calls for 1/4 cup of butter and a can of evaporated milk (add the milk at the end of cooking). I use my mom's trick to thicken it--I add mashed potato flakes. I don't know if that's the kind of recipe you are looking for, but we like it. :) I frequently prep it the night before a scheduled work day so I can just turn on the crockpot and head out to work in the morning.

    1. Hi Kris,
      Ham and potato sounds like it would fit what I have right now (except the canned milk). I suppose I could just use regular milk and reduce the butter a bit. I especially like that this can go in the crockpot in the morning and be ready by dinner time. I'll give the mashed potato flakes a try, too. I'm guessing that they would thicken a crockpot soup without having to heat everything to a boil, like I do when I thicken with flour and water at the end of cooking.

  3. I love curried cauliflower soup! Whether it is truly frugal depends on whether you have cauliflower to use up. Sometimes cauliflower can be super expensive, but I have rescued nearly gone cauliflower with this soup. It doesn't really have a recipe. Basically, chop up your cauliflower and one onion and cook in either water or chicken broth (just enough to cover the vegetables) with salt and 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of curry powder (can adjust amount to your taste) until soft. Mash the vegetables with a hand potato masher. Then make a very thick white sauce with butter, flour, and milk and add to the vegetable mixture. Adjust seasoning, adding salt, pepper, or more curry powder to your taste. The curry flavor is very mild, but has a nice "warm and cozy" flavor.

    1. Hi there,
      I sometimes see cauliflower on the reduced rack at the produce stand. It often looks a little bit weary, but I bet it would be perfect in a curried cauliflower soup. Thank you for the suggestion and how-to's. I'll give this a try. I may be able to sub something from my garden, once everything gets going, like maybe a curried zucchini soup.

  4. As a soup lover, I vehemently believe that all weather is soup weather! I've seen a lot of great recipes for "cream of green" soup lately, the most interesting being one made with iceberg lettuce from Helen Rosner at The New Yorker! I was too curious not to try it--it wasn't bad! Just reaffirms that this type of soup can be made with anything. I usually start with a roux rather than thickening with slurry like you do at the end, but that's just what I'm used to.

    I love that you add your leftover whey from yogurt making! I used to make yogurt a couple of times a month, and would end up with a quart of whey each time. Of course, I couldn't bear to throw it away, so I put it in everything I could. I subbed it for water in baking challah, instead of stock in a soup, and to boil pasta and cook rice. But still, I found it hard to get through. Curious what other uses you find for yours? I've heard of others using quite a bit to water gardens or to feed to pets, but I don't have either of those outlets.

    1. Hi Allie,
      I love that -- all weather is soup weather! Because I can eat soup on all but the stickiest of days. I've added lettuce to soup before. It's usually garden lettuce that is getting ready to bolt, so the lettuce flavor was a bit strong. I wonder if I added other ingredients, such as onions and potatoes, if the lettuce flavor would be toned down more. That's interesting that Helen Rosner offered an iceberg lettuce soup.

      I use whey in any quick bread baking. The other night, I made Yorkshire pudding to go with dinner. I used 1 cup of whey in place of the milk. I also use it in pancakes, waffles, and muffins. It seems to go with soups that might otherwise have sour cream or aged cheese in them, so the soup-addition works. It would also be good in Alfredo sauce, I would think, for the same reason -- tangy like aged cheese. Some people use the whey in smoothies. I'm not sure if I'd enjoy that or not, though.

      I'm with you -- I can't bear to throw it away if I can find something to do with it.

  5. Not soup, but smoothies come to mind.

    To use up our frozen collard greens, we have been adding it in as many dishes as we can, from pasta, stir fries, and soups, even fried rice. My thought process is try anything once (on the small things in life). What is the worse that could happen? If it is a winner, I will have a new bonus for life.

    Sorry, I have not been posting much lately, although I always read. It is discouraging when my post disappears, after clicking on the publish button. I suspect it is the "not a robot" tool that is messing it up. I have to go through a series of tests, all correctly answered in my opinion yet it doesn't let me through. It starts with one true fail (didn't understand that I had to keep answering until no more new pictures appeared), after that fail I think it has pegged me as a robot.

    Have a nice day,

    1. Maybe after awhile it has given me a second chance.


    2. That happens to me too! What I do is copy my reply first before attempting to answer the questions. That way I can paste it into a new post if necessary. Even better copy the post, paste it into a Word document and then keep trying to answer the questions.

    3. Hi YHF and Alice,
      I didn't realize that I still had the robot detection feature enabled. I had to put that on a while back when I had some rotten comments. But I just took it off. So, hopefully this will solve your issues with leaving comments.

      YHF, I love your philosophy on trying things once. This is a good way to address those attempts at finding ways to use things up, especially if the loss wouldn't be very great if it doesn't work out that first time. Thanks for this mind-set!


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