Never underestimate the power of a good soup
I believe that as a society, we have evolved our breakfasting habits enormously. This includes embracing the morning meals of other cultures, from Nordic muesli to the congee rice porridges of Asian nations, to the spicy soulfulness of Middle Eastern shashukas. But while our palates are embracing these exotic and often more savory and stewlike first meals of the day, for some reason we continue to view soup as a lunch offering.
I am here to say that this is not doing us any good. Especially in winter, when a bowl of something warm and hearty before you head out for your day is good for you. So I am here to encourage you to start your day with a lovely bowl of soup.
Not your basic chicken noodle, although there is nothing wrong with that. But a thicker, more porridgey brew full of vegetables and pulses that is a good balance of protein and carbs and will get you all the way to lunch with no need for a mid-morning snack. And which is even better? You let your local salad bar do your prep work for you, and your slow cooker do the cooking, making it weeknight after-work manageable.
Here's how it works. Stop by the grocery store and hit the salad bar, stocking up on pre-cut vegetables that you like. Any combo really works, which is great, because the soup is never really the same twice, so it is hard to get bored with it. This makes a large batch, good for about four days of breakfasts and lunches, but you can halve it if you want to make less, or freeze half the batch for later use. Take the vegetables home and before bed, dump them in your slow cooker with some jarred marinara sauce or canned crushed tomatoes, some water or stock, and a bit of seasonings along with some cans of things and grains, and in the morning you have a thick beautiful soup to start your day. It is delicious with a slice of toast (avocadoed if you swing that way) for dunking. Or beat an egg and stir it through your hot bowl to make instant egg ribbons.
It might not currently be your first impulse to make slow cooker soup for breakfast, but once you try it, it will become one of winter’s morning pleasures.
Breakfast Slow Cooker Soup
- 8 cups assorted vegetables in fairly equal proportions: I usually use the following, but you should use what you like. (I don’t love mushrooms in this soup, they make the broth sort of muddy, but if you love them, use them!)
- Shredded red or green cabbage
- Kale or other dark leafy green
- Zucchini and/or Yellow Squash
- Broccoli and/or Cauliflower (riced is great for texture)
- 1 jar of your favorite marinara or tomato basil sauce, I love Rao’s
- 1 can drained or 1 frozen package of your favorite bean
- 1/2 dried or one can drained whole lentils (split ones will work, but will dissolve in the soup and make it thick)
- 1 cup grain of your choice (barley, farro, wheat berries, rice are all great)
- 1/4 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped (optional)
- Pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
- Salt and pepper to taste
Dump all of the vegetable, beans and grains into your slow cooker. Add the jar of marinara and enough water (or good chicken or vegetable stock if you have it on hand) to cover the veggies by about one inch. Add the seasonings, stir well, and set for 8 hours on low. When you wake up, give it a good stir and taste. Adjust seasonings and serve hot.
If you have any leftover cooked veggies in your fridge, you can use them. Want to amp up the protein, add some ground meat, meat substitute crumbles, or even the shredded remains of last night’s rotisserie chicken or pork roast or steak. Use what you have! No jarred pasta sauce? Grab a large can of crushed tomatoes. Have some fresh herbs on hand, or some slightly sad wilty veggies in the crisper? Use ‘em up. Prefer a pasta to grain? Try dumping in those little sad half-cups of dried pasta shapes in your pantry. Want it soupier? Add more water or stock. Heartier and more stewlike, add less.