Category Archives: Grow Vegetables Make Soup

Grow vegetables to make your own soup.

Caramelize Onions in the Crockpot

Saving  Sweet Onions

The best ways to keep those giant sweet onions.

  • Caramelize

  • Pickle

  • Dehydrate

  • Caramelize

When there are too many onions, or find a great sale on them, its Caramelized Onion time. Fill a crock pot with sliced onions and allow them to slow cook overnight. When you wake up, you will discover the onions are transformed into a pricey gourmet treat I am too frugal to buy.

I started with several super sweet giant onions from the farmers market. Sweet onions have a short shelf life, so plan to freeze or dehydrate onions you will not use within a month. Super sweets should be refrigerated. Store onions in a cool, dry place. Sweet onions store for a maximum of three months, but storage types may last throughout the winter.

Caramelized onion pie with tomato and thyme. PBH

Once reduced to a pale golden layer of soft, fragrant onions, allow them to cool completely.  Use these sweet, tender onions as a base for soups, vegetable broth, or the best Onion Soup ever made. Caramelized Onions are the base for onion and tomato pie.

When onions are cool, store extra onions in one cup portions in freezer bags or containers. Label and date packages. Later, drop the onions, frozen, into soup, veggie broth, chili, or stew.

Sweet Caramelized Onions are tasty enough to serve as a side dish topping. Just season with a splash of herb vinegar, vegan butter, thyme, salt pepper. Serve over toast, on roasted vegetables or green beans. or layer in a vegetable lasagna.

Slice onions and add to crock pot with 2 tablespoons of vegan butter and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Make the recipe your own by adding a splash of white wine, cracked pepper, a spring or two of fresh thyme.

Caramelizing onions is a great way to extend the sweet onion season. Whether you are a fan of sweet Texas onions, Walla Walla or the famous Vidalia, give this crock pot recipe a try. It also works with other white or yellow onions, they just aren’t as sweet.

If you have red onions to keep, try making a quick refrigerator pickle recipe. It’s the best thing that ever happened to a grilled or roasted veggie sandwich.

  • Pickle

Red onions become beautiful pink pickles. The cost of a jar of pickled red onions in the local deli sent me home to make my own in minutes for pennies. PBH

Pickled Red Onions‬

1 tablespoon cane sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 ½ – 2 cups of white vinegar
herb sprigs or peppercorns (optional)

Slice 2 or 3 medium size red onions in 1/4” slices.

In a small sauce pan, add sugar, salt and vinegar. Heat and stir until sugar and salt are completely dissolved. Add onion slices. Heat through and cook for 1 minute.

Add a sprig of herbs or a few peppercorns to the bottom of each container or jar.
Pack onions into pint canning jars or a container with tightly covered lid.

Pour vinegar over onions to completely cover the onions. Close the jars or containers and refrigerate for 24 hours.

Keeps up to three weeks in refrigerator.

Suggested herbs: oregano, dill, thyme or  small nasturtium leaves.

  • Dehydrate

Cut onion in half, then slice big sweet onions about 1/4 inch thick. PBH

To Dehydrate Onions

Another method of preserving a lot of onions is to dehydrate them. That intense onion flavor will boost onion flavor in French onion soup, and enliven any veggie burger.

When onions are completely dry, put them in the blender to make onion powder. It is a perfect, space-saving, long-term storage method for onions.

Rich onion soup served in bread bowls or topped with croutons. PBH

It is hard to imagine a civilization without onions.  –   Julia Child

Onion Soup Recipe

  • 4 large sweet onions (about 3 pounds), thinly sliced*
  • 2 tablespoons white wine or champagne vinegar
  • 4 -6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced (your choice)
  • 1 or two fresh springs of thyme (or 1/2 teaspoon dry)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 cups of vegetable broth
  • slices of baguette to top soup bowls
  • 1/2 cup shredded vegan cheese
  • Fresh chives or  thyme leaves, for garnish

* any combo of mild or hot onions, leeks, shallots to equal 3 pounds

Instructions:

Heat a soup pot or dutch oven over medium high heat. Add onions and stirring often until onions begin to caramelize, about 15 minutes. Add wine and use a wooden spoon to scrape up any bits from the bottom of the pan. When the wine has evaporated, add garlic, thyme sprigs, salt, pepper and 6 cups of vegetable or mushroom broth (or water). Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer about 40 minutes and then remove thyme springs.

Ladle onion soup into oven-safe bowls. Top with a slice of baguette and spread each slice with 1 tablespoon of shredded vegan cheese. Place in a hot oven or under the broiler for 5 to 7 minutes, or until cheese is hot and golden.

Garnish with chives or green onions and serve.

The easiest way to grow alliums* and establish your own onion patch is with a starter pot of chives. Or, plant a clove or two of your kitchen garlic, or order onion starts from a commercial grower. The cheapest way to grow onions is to start them from seed.

*Allium is a genus of monocotyledonous flowering plants that includes hundreds of species, including the cultivated onion, garlic, scallion, shallot, leek, and chives.

Plant these little onions 1 or 2 inches apart. As they grow, thin the onions throughout the spring untill plants are properly spaced for bulbing. PBH

Grow an onion patch

To Grow

Onions prefer light, sandy, loamy soils, good drainage and full sun. They will grow in other types of soil, including clay. Green onions can be grown in partial shade.

Begin growing onions indoors from seed about six weeks before the last predicted frost date. Sow in flats, then transplant onions to 1″-2″ apart. Harden off onion seedling before transplanting outdoors to prevent sunscald.

I have my best luck growing onions from sets or starts. These baby onion plants are ready to plant. Even though sets are more expensive, they can be directly planted where the onions will grow. Or, plant them closer, thinning and using green onions until the remaining onions are properly spaced.

I buy onions and leek plants from Dixondale Farms. Start with well worked soil before planting. Onions are successful in the garden or in containers.

Spacing depends on the variety of onion. Generally, planting to 3″ – 4″ inches apart for green onions and thinning to at least 5-6 inches apart for bulbing onions. Proper spacing will affect the size of the mature onion.

Harvest onions a week after the tops have start to yellow and fall over

Most home cooks love having a year round supply of onions. They are easy to grow, take up little garden space and the varieties are endless. Onions are a recipe staple used in all cuisines of the world.

Julia’s Ratatouille

The Ratatouille harvest basket.

Ratatouille makings. Tomato, eggplant, peppers, squash.

An old fashioned vegetable dish, ratatouille is a combination of all the things I grow in my garden. Julia’s Ratatouille is garden gold in your freezer.

Once you master a great dish like ratatouille, you become confident enough to try variations.

I can hear Julia Child talking about this dish. The full name of the stewed vegetable dish is Ratatouille Niçoise. Her recipe is the classic, start there and then adapt it to your taste.

It’s time to make ratatouille when there is an abundance of eggplant in the garden. Usually the last main crop vegetable to produce in my vegetable patch, eggplant is the star of my version. If your don’t like eggplant then leave it out of the recipe. 

This dish very quickly uses up the seasonal glut of produce that happens in August. By now, I have all the zucchini, tomatoes and eggplant that I can eat. I grow every vegetable that goes into this simple French peasant dish.

This dish is a celebration of my garden bounty. It’s a thanksgiving meal at the peak of the growing season.

Cabin fever cure

Make a double batch because this stew reheats well for the next day or hoard it for your lunches. Make this dish and freeze it. This winter, when the snow is falling,  a reheated ratatouille meal will taste like a garden party in your mouth.

Reading seed catalogs while eating a steamy bowl of home-grown and homemade ratatouille is a ritual guaranteed to cure cabin fever. That vegetable casserole inspires my wintertime seed order.

Julia’s Ratatouille is garden gold in your freezer, A true example of your garden prowess.This versital vegetable casserole can be a featured entre, a side dish, lunch for many cold winter days.

I freeze it in portions for one or two.Serve it over noodles or rice for a heartier meal. Add a slice of crusty bread. Make plans to go to Paris some day.

Here is my version:

Ratatouille home-grown and homemade  IMG_2132

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Grow your own leeks, garlic and onions

A Little Leek Love

Known best in French cooking, leeks are often overlooked in our home gardens. Leek Potato Soup, or vichyssoise, is a cold soup that every French chef has mastered. I use leeks in potato leek soup, three onion pie, and vegetable soup.

Leeks are expensive at the grocery store but you can grow them for pennies. They take up little space, have very few pest or disease problems and can be grown in containers.

Plant leeks deeper than onions. Continue to mulch plants as they grow to increase the tender white part.

Plant leeks deeper than onions. Continue to mulch plants as they grow to increase the tender white part.

Grow leeks from seed or starts. It will probably be your first late-winter or early spring crop. Onions, leeks, garlic can take a late snow or freeze.

Tender young leeks can be used as scallions or green onions.

Plant starts deep er than onions. The deeper, the better able to retain moisture. Select well worked soil with plenty of organic matter.

As leeks grow, continue to mound soil over the stems to blanch them, creating more of the white, tender part of leek. Consistent moisture will encourage tender leeks. Thin leeks to grow six inches apart.

Use only the tender green and white parts.

Use only the tender green and white parts.

Grow vegetables – Make Soup

Grow your own soup. Garden fresh vegetables are loaded with nutrients and cost very little to make. If you don’t think you have time to make soup, make a double batch and freeze half for a busy day. Make soup in the crock pot. Soup usually tastes even better the next day. What could be faster than that?

Chili, chicken and noodle soup, vegetable soup and stews of any kind are better and usually have less salt when made from scratch. I love soup and will be sharing some soup gardening and soup making tips from time to time.

Potato Leek Soup

Jazz up your favorite potato  or cauliflower soup recipe by adding leeks.

Potato soup is a winter time favorite of mine. The leeks in the garden will continue to grow and I will pull them as I need them for Potato Leek soup. Simply add leeks or replace the onions in your favorite potato soup recipe.

I make this big batch because this soup is even better the next day. You can make half this recipe, but I bet you will wish you made more.

Basic Potato Soup

Makes about 8 servings (about 2 quarts).

  • 6 medium potatoes, peeled and sliced
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • water to cover
  • 6 celery ribs, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped OR, chop 2 or 3 leeks
  • 6 tablespoons butter, cubed
  • 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1-1/2 cups milk
  • nutmeg to garnish

Directions:

In a large sauce pot, cover chopped potatoes and carrots with water. Cook in water until fork tender.

Drain and set aside carrots and potatoes, reserving cooking water.

In a Dutch oven, while potatoes are cooking, saute onion and celery in butter until tender. Sprinkle in flour.

Slowly add milk. Bring to gentle boil, stirring until thickened. Add carrots and potatoes, salt and pepper. Gradually add cooking water until the soup in the desired thickness. Taste and adjust seasonings. For smoother soup, use a potato masher or stick blender. This will thicken the soup and create a smoother texture. Add additional cooking water or milk to taste.

Grate a little nutmeg to garnish soup.

potato leek soup with sausage

Potato and Leek soup with kielbasa.

Go Gourmet:

Top your soup as you would a loaded baked potato, crispy bacon, grated cheddar cheese, green onions, a dollop of sour cream or a pat of butter.

Bake: Use baked potatoes instead of boiling potatoes.

Veggies: Add a cup of frozen or fresh vegetables in the last few minutes of cooking to thoroughly heat through all ingredients. Try green peas, chopped kale, corn

Meat: Plan on adding a half a strip of crumbled bacon on top of soup. Use crumbled chorizo or Italian sausage

Herbs: Stir in chopped parsley, celery leaves, chives or thyme.

Enrich: texture and flavor with 4 ounces of sour cream, plain Greek yogurt, cream, butter. Add a little at a time.

Leeks, chopped

Chop tender young leeks to freeze for soups and casseroles.

If you do not like onions, try leeks. They are  milder and easier to digest. These mild alliums are beneficial for cardiovascular and digestive health. Research points to leek’s  potential to fight cancer.

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Today’s Harvest Basket

Wrapping up the summer garden.

Celery, baby leeks, carrots, red onion, white potatoes, mild little red peppers.

img_2557

You never know what you will get with carrots. This curvy carrot grew right next to the straight 10″ carrot in the basket.

As I clean up the vegetable beds, I discovered a few veggies that were overlooked during the earlier harvest. I found a few potatoes, a couple of carrots, a red onion and two tiny sweet peppers. While this may sound like the beginning of a stone soup story, it’s just end-of-summer garden clean up.

I planted a few celery plants but forgot about them hiding behind the hearty and fern like asparagus. Celery would have done much better if it had received fertilizer and mulch. You can see the many skinny little stalks.

That curvy carrot was a surprise, all the other carrots were long and straight. But they all taste the same.

What to do with leeks

Use the tender reen and white parts.

Use the tender green and white parts.

I gathered a few leeks while young and tender to clean, chop and freeze. These little leeks will go into soups, and a 3 onion pie. There are more leeks still in the garden. They will stay in the garden until I want to use them for soup or stuffing.

 

Leeks, chopped

Leeks can be frozen and later added directly to soups or casseroles.

You can continue to harvest leeks from the garden up until the soil freezes. Those few leeks will overwinter. Their giant globe shaped flowers will be amazing next summer. They attract pollinators and are a novel addition to a wildflower bouquet.

 

A little later into fall, I’ll plant garlic. I have a few tiny broccoli plants in the raised beds and pots. A window box of green beans are just coming up. So the pending rain is much-needed and I am grateful.

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