Vegetable Soup and Skillet Cornbread

Yesterday morning I woke up early and thought, what a great day to finish up the last of my CSA vegetables before my new box arrives this afternoon! So I climbed out of bed and began my morning with the following cooking and baking:

1. Vegetable stock
2. Hearty Vegetable Soup
3. Skillet Jalapeno Cornbread (GF & vegan, taken from the amazing blog of The GF Goddess)

Did I mention the average high temperature of late is over 100 for Austin? The temperature, thank god, only rose to 95 while I was laboring away in the kitchen. I had my boyfriend and best friend over for lunch and everything was perfect. They gave the skillet cornbread (to which I only altered slightly by lowering the sugar and adding jalapenos, seeds and all) rave reviews.

Vegetable Stock
Making homemade vegetable stock is one of the most rewarding cooking experiences: it fills your home with the wonderful smell of simmering vegetables, and adds wonderful flavor to so many soups and sauces. And did I mentions it is one of the EASIEST stocks to make in the world? You basically empty out your vegetable drawer, turn the heat on your stove, start chopping and you're done! My vegetable stock varies widely depending on what's on hand, but a basic recipe to follow would be:

In a large stockpot, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Chop the following vegetables and add to the pot as follows:
-1-2 onions
-1 pound celery
-1 pound carrots
-3 cloves garlic
-tablespoon peppercorns
-2 bay leaves
-teaspoon salt

Then: add 1 gallon of water (I usually just fill my stock pot to 1/2" under the rim) and bring to a boil. Turn down heat and simmer an hour. Add 1/4 cup tamari. Optional: Add any greens you'd like, along with other herbs of preference. Adding greens at the end lowers the bitter, green flavor of having them cook too long.

Simmer uncovered another 30 min, then wait for it to cool on the stove. Strain once and then through a cheesecloth, discarding the "spent" vegetables.

You can keep in the fridge for a week, pour into ice trays to freeze and then into bags to keep for stocks or my favorite, pour into quart-size ziplock bags and freeze for up to a month! I ended up using all my stock for my favorite:

Hearty Vegetable Soup
This soup reminds me so much of my grandma: whenever anyone in the family was sick, she'd be on our doorstep in an instant with a pot of this soup in hand. Though hers had ground beef in it, you could easily add Boca crumbles or any other brand. The lentils give it plenty of protein, so the beef is really just for that comfort-food appeal.

You can really eyeball this one. I'll add measurements for the eyeball-weary, but think about how much you'd like to make (this soup freezes excellently) and how much vegetables makes sense for that many servings.

Saute the following smally-chopped vegetables until the onion is tender:
1 small onion
2 stalks celery
3 large carrots
1 teaspoon salt
1 bay leaf
(optional) Stir in:
1/2 cup each peppers, squash, zucchini, corn
1 cup green lentils

Saute 5 minutes, then add 2 quarts vegetable stock or water and a vegetable bouillon cube
Bring to a boil, then simmer 15 minutes

Stir in:
1 box quinoa "garden pagodas" pasta
(optional): 2 cups vegan soy crumbles
Simmer 10 more minutes

Serve warm with skillet cornbread and Earth Balance!