Bland Soup Problems

Now that the weather is getting cooler, soup season is upon us! However, the cooler weather also means that people are getting sick. With more leaves falling, there’s more dust and other particulate matter in the air, triggering fall allergies and colds. (Plus, people are still going through midterms so their bodies under stress are more prone to sickness.)

Last time I went to the grocery store, I got really excited at a 14 bean soup mix and bought it for about $4.00. The mix from Harris Teeter was just beans, no spices or anything. By the time I opened the bag to discover the lack of spices, I should have known.

Now, normally I go for the Manischewitz soup mixes like lentils and minestrone. One packet of this soup plus some awesome toasted bread leaves me with enough soup for multiple leftover meals. These babies are so easy to make; Boil 5-6 cups of water, add the ingredients in the package, and wait 45-60 minutes. Sometimes, like with the lentil soup mix, there’s a packet of spices you add before the final finishing time. Bottom line: These things are super-easy to make and quite filling! But, back to the 14 bean soup…

The cheap soup alternative to Top Ramen, folks. Image from http://www.manischewitz.com
All the beans you could ever want. Image from harristeeter.com/

2 pounds of dried beans later plus a cup of (dried) rice, I made a huge vat of bland soup. I’m probably going to be eating this for a week since the soup is incredibly filling and I can barely finish a bowl-full during one sitting.

Try 1

To my one bowl that I ate the first evening, I added about one tablespoon of chives and 2 teaspoons of Italian spices from my spice rack. (I tasted rosemary, oregano, and basil for sure.) The soup did not improve but I managed still ate all of it.

Try 2

Fast forward to the next day. My mom suggested adding paprika so to about one bowlful, I added a healthy heaping of around 2 table spoons. In went about a teaspoon or so of garlic powder. Add a sprinkle of dried basil because why not. For an extra kick, in went a smidgen of Asian garlic chili paste. I had myself a mediocre college-kid-made soup/stew since the mixture was super thick. It was quite filling but I still felt meh after finishing my lunch. I definitely didn’t taste much of the Asian garlic chili paste.

The ultimate solution to bland food: Cheese. Lots and lots of cheese. Image from Sargento.com

Try 3

I have a friend coming over tonight to study for an exam the next day. I continue adding paprika (for about two bowlfuls of soup, 5 tablespoons or so). I added even more garlic powder than last time because the flavoring was great. It definitely made a difference. I even added some Asian garlic chili paste (no more than 1/2 teaspoon because that stuff is HOT). I added 1/2 to 3/4 cups of water as well to make my soup a bit more like “soup” rather than “stew.” The paprika and garlic flavors really came out, plus there was a spicy kick due to the Asian garlic chili paste.  After taste-testing this over and over, I took out my secret weapon: Cheese. Thankfully, I had a bursting bag of Monterey Jack and Colby cheese from the grocery store so I simply took a handful and plopped it on the bowl of hot soup/chili. Thankfully, this saved my taste buds and I managed to finish my leftovers in this manner.

For future trials, I would definitely look into adding maybe slices of sausage to change up the texture and add new flavor. I don’t think I should necessarily add more spices otherwise my senses will be overstimulated. Another regret I have is adding the rice with the intention to make the soup more filling. All the rice did was soak up the liquid soup leaving me with that chili-like texture. Plus, since the liquid soup itself didn’t have any taste to it, the rice was bland as well. Ugh.

Hopefully this review has given some insight to the excellent struggles of college cooking on a budget. Lesson learned: Just because an item at the grocery store may be cheap and have an enticing name, it may not be the case at all.

Cover image from southernsavers.com

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