Food For Fitness: Low Carb Beef Soup

I love soup. It is by far my favorite meal. I love making soup. Dicing the vegetables, browning the meat, sweating the mirepoix, adding delicious stock, playing with seasonings until its just right, bringing everything to a boil, and dropping it down to a simmer. I love it all. I love the smell it fills the house with. I love that while it simmers, I can spend time chatting with my guests. I love sitting around the table and happily eating soup. I love hearing the contented sounds my guests make as they are enjoying something I created from base ingredients. I love eating food made from ingredients that don’t have ingredients. I love being healthy. I love the feelings, sensations, and memories a good soup brings up. For my family and I, good soup is one of the things that connects us.

Soup is also in the category I like to call “Poor People Food”. It is made from simple, inexpensive ingredients, combined and cooked to perfection for incredible flavor. Don’t break the bank buying ingredients. In fact, try growing your own! If that doesn’t work for you, support a local farmer. Failing that just remember that you don’t need to use filet mingon to make delicious beef soup.

Unfortunately, in trying to lose weight I need to limit my intake of certain ingredients. Even more unfortunately, I need to eliminate some ingredients entirely. Most unfortunately of all, most of the recipes I grew up loving contain the very ingredients I need to avoid. This has been a significant challenge for me in both the healthy eating arena and the cooking arena. Luckily, I don’t give up easily and have found some creative ways to adapt what I love to my current lifestyle. This is my first “recipe” post, so please let me know what you think.

As all cooking starts with ingredients, we’ll start there as well. I also know that its incredibly annoying for me to have to read through a whole post just to get a look at the ingredients of a recipe I’m researching, and I don’t want to do that to you. Here we go!

Ingredients

  • 2 Pounds of Beef – I use stew beef if its on sale or some other inexpensive chunk of beef (even burger) if it is not.
  • 2 Celery Stalks  – Frozen works fine (more on this later)
  • 2 Large Spanish Onions – I prefer Spanish (Red) Onions for most things as they have a more savory flavor to my palate. If you like other types, use those.
  • 1 Pound of Carrots – This is the only ingredient that is not expressly recommended for the Keto diet. You can eat carrots in small quantities, and if you’ve been diligent you should be fine. You can use whatever carrots you want for this. I usually just use peeled baby carrots, but if you have garden fresh, organic, or whatever you can use those.
  • 1 Large Head of Cauliflower – Don’t run off yet. It will work out, I promise. This is to replace high carb potatoes in the original recipe. I’ve found that the Cauliflower (just like the potato) adds to the substance of the soup without impacting the flavor.
  • 1 to 1.5 Pounds of Tomatoes – You can certainly use fresh tomatoes here (and should), but if the season is wrong, you are in a hurry, or are simply feeling a bit lazy feel free to use a 23 oz. can of diced tomatoes.
  • 1/4 Cup of Worcestershire Sauce – I use Lea & Perrins.
  • Kosher Salt – There’s no measurement on this because it is a matter of individual taste, and dietary restrictions. I actually don’t measure it, and sort of guess based on experience. If you don’t yet have a good grasp, start with 1 Teaspoon, and work your way up from there.
  • Black Pepper – Again, let your taste buds be your guide. I usually start with 1/4 teaspoon.
  • Thyme Leaves – Guess what? Yup, let your palate be your guide. Start with 1 teaspoon.
  • Allspice – You know the drill, start with 1 teaspoon. You need to be a bit more careful with the Allspice than the other ingredients though. It has a VERY strong flavor and can overwhelm everything else.
  • Dried Bay Leaves – Usually, I use two. You need to have them as they certainly add something, but for me too much creates an unpleasant aftertaste.
  • Garlic – I use a MINIMUM of 2 Tablespoons of minced, or 2 Cloves. Then again, I think that the only recipe in which you should use only 1 clove of garlic is when what you are actually making is 1 clove of garlic (and even then you should probably use 2). As per usual, let your taste be your guide.
  • 64 oz. of Beef Stock – I use this one, but you can certainly use whatever beef stock you prefer. One thing to keep in mind: Not all stock is created equal, read the ingredients. You can even make your own (though I have had limited success doing so). In fact, when this recipe was made by my mom she used Bullion Cubes, and water.
  • Olive Oil – This is just the cooking fat I use. It adds some flavor, but is mostly there to keep stuff from sticking to the pot. You can use whatever fat you like (butter, pork fat, coconut oil). Just remember that it will add SOME flavor.

History

This recipe is a comparatively recent discovery in my family. Back in the mid 1990’s my Dad won a hunting trip to Canada. It was the chance of a lifetime for him, and he successfully brought home several hundred pounds of Caribou meat. As with most wild game, most of the meat is either burger or stew meat. He chose to keep it as stew meat. He then proceeded to look up several different game soups, and experiment a bit until he came up with the version that served as my base. I have tweaked it over the years, but at its core, it is one of my favorites. Incidentally, if you happen to have a VHS player, and find yourself in Woodsville, NH my Dad will almost certainly be happy to show you his video of the trip.

Method

This recipe is incredibly knife intensive. You will spend a good deal of time cutting, chopping, and dicing. Now, it is not ABSOLUTELY critical to cut things up super tiny, but with soup, stew, and chili the point is that a diner can get a bit of everything on their spoon to create the perfect bite. Feel free to play around with the sizes of the various ingredients. I usually look at what I have and cut for aesthetics as well as flavor. I also only use 1 pot when I cook soup, stew, and chili. I find that lots of flavor comes from the fond. When multiple pots & pans are used, some flavor is lost. Also, washing dishes isn’t fun. I strongly recommend getting all of your cutting and chopping out of the way before you start cooking, but do what makes you happy.

Meat

I cut mine up into chunks of roughly half an inch. Next, put those chunks into a mixing bowl, and get out your stock pot. Put the pot on the stove on Medium High heat, and let it get hot. You will know it is hot enough when you can toss a drop of water in the pot, and it sputters. Next, add the 1/4 Cup of Worcestershire Sauce, followed by about the same amount of Olive Oil. NOTE: Do Not add the oil first then dump the Worcestershire into the hot oil, it will splash and likely burn your face. Finally, add the meat to the pot, and brown. Once it’s nicely browned put it aside, and move on to the mirepoix.

Mirepoix

This is where you’ll prep the Celery, Onion, and Garlic (Unless you used Minced). This is also the stage where you’ll add your initial seasoning. Start by finely dicing the Celery, followed by the Garlic, followed by the Onion. I use this order because cutting Onions makes me cry. You can find your own order if you would like. As you finish dicing each ingredient, put it in a bowl and move on. Once all of the mirepoix is in the bowl, add a bit more olive oil to the pan and add the diced vegetables. Once you’ve got all of the lovely aromatics in there add your seasonings. I put in my first bit of the salt, pepper, thyme, and allspice here. You will then saute the mixture in the oil until the onions begin to turn translucent. This is called “Sweating” the mirepoix. Once you have the mirepoix, nice and translucent move on to the Veg.

Vegetables

Some of you may be cooking aficionados yourself. Good on ya! You also may be thinking: “Why are your carrots not part of your Mirepoix?”. You would be correct to be concerned. Mirepoix adds flavor, in this case though I certainly want the carrot flavor, I am more interested in it adding substance, and don’t want to dice it up small. You are certainly welcome to change it, but this way works best for me and my palate. If you’ve been working as you go without having taken my advice about getting the chopping done ahead of time you may be feeling a bit panicy right now. No worries. Just turn off the heat, and continue.

Okay, now you’ll cut up your tomatoes, carrots and cauliflower. I cut the carrots up to about the size of the meat, and the cauliflower into individual florets. The tomatoes I cut up to about a quarter inch(Note: Cold Tomatoes cut more easily than warm ones. Stick em in the fridge for an hour or so before cutting for superior results). Put the carrots & cauliflower in 1 bowl, and the tomatoes in another.

Construction

At this point you should have some browned meat set off to the side, “sweatted” mirepoix in your stock pot, some cut up carrots & cauliflower in a bowl, 64 ounces of stock standing by, a bunch of diced tomatoes (or an open can of diced tomatoes), and a couple of bay leaves ready to go. If you did all your cutting before you started cooking, your pot should still be at cooking temp with the mirepoix in it. If so, just add the browned meat back in, and stir it up a bit. If not, you should get the pot back to cooking temp first. Once you’ve got your browned meat and mirepoix mixed and heated up, add the carrot and cauliflower. Stir all of this around as you are cooking on Med-High to High heat until you are certain your ingredients are well mixed and warm. Finally, pour in your stock, the tomatoes, and drop in the bay leaves.

Bring the soup to a hard, rolling boil, reduce it to a simmer, and let it cook for 1-2 hours, stirring occasionally. Make sure you are tasting as you go and adjusting your seasonings accordingly. Once cooked, serve hot and enjoy. I used to pair this with Sourdough Bread, but as bread is the enemy of weight loss I no longer do.

Other Stuff

In the past I have used barley, cous cous, quinoa, or brown rice to add substance to this dish. As none of those are “Low Carb” I have omitted them here. You could add Riced Cauliflower instead if you choose, but I find this soup to be plenty hearty as outlined above.  If you eat potatoes, feel free to sub them in for the cauliflower. This recipe was originally made with potatoes, and will be again once I have hit my weight loss goal.

A Note On Celery

Here’s the deal with Celery. Almost every recipe I have calls for it. It adds flavor, so I like to use it. I don’t use it for anything other than soups, and I hate wasting food. There are a couple of solutions for this problem that come to mind: Either use it more, or preserve it. The trick is that I only like Celery IN things. As such, I preserve it. Specifically I freeze it. Best practice is to break of the individual stalks, and wrap them in something so you can take as many or as few as you want. I use frozen Celery all the time, and it works great.

Enjoy your meal, and thanks for stopping by!

 

 

 

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