Sometimes what food writers don’t tell you is that their favorite recipes are the hardest ones to post.

It’s not because it’s to protect a sekrit family recipe, or to save it for a future restaurant or cookbook publishing. It isn’t even because the recipe is so near and dear that the thought of having one single jerk ask if they will get the same results if they substitute one ingredient so key that it’s in the title of said recipe. Nah, it’s because we love the recipe so much, that it’s so intoxicatingly delicious, that we eat it all before there’s even a flash of a thought to remember to photograph it. There, I said it. I gave up the reality.

And for me, this slow cooker vegetable soup with cheese rind infused broth, is my true recipe love. I have eaten an entire five quart slow cooker of it in one day, all by myself, with no regrets. I’ve had Patrick wake up to the smell of it in the morning after I’d set it to slow cooking the night before, and he would think “Oh, I’ll get some for dinner.” Except… I ate it ALL. Breakfast, lunch, snack, and my own dinner. With no regard I can and will take down that entire vessel because I can’t get enough of it. And the best part aside from the fact that I just ate like three days worth of vegetable servings, is that the contents of the slow cooker can vary a bit but the results are consistent and flavorful.

And given that I don’t exactly measure or use the same combinations of ingredients every single time, the below recipe is going to have several notes in the ingredient list about ways to be flexible with this recipe. Add an -ish to these measurements to your favor and always remember that it’s easier to add more or something than to try and take it away.

Slow Cooker Vegetarian Vegetable Soup

Ingredients

  • 1 quart or enough vegetable stock to completely cover contents of crockpot
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced small
  • 1 russet or Yukon potato, diced small, peeled if desired
  • 2-4 ribs celery, diced small
  • 2-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 15 ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 2-3 cups frozen mixed vegetables (or any combo of frozen/fresh that includes peas, corn, carrots, lima beans, green beans)
  • 1/2 cup pearled barley
  • 1 cup or so Parmesan or other hard cheese rinds, cut into bite sized chunks (I save rinds in a bag in the freezer especially for this soup- Earth Fare also sells Parm rinds under the name “soup bones” or something like that. Cut off any printing or wax before adding.)
  • 1 Edwards & Sons Not Beef bouillon cube
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried basil
  • salt, to taste (add a little to start, more at end of soup’s cooking)
  • ground black pepper, to taste
  • shake of caynne, to taste
  • optional extras: dried lima beans, frozen shelled edamame, fresh tomatoes, 1/2 cup small lentils (red, green, brown)
Directions
  1.  Heat the slow cooker on high with the lid on while chopping the vegetables. Add the tablespoon of oil.
  2. Add the diced onion, celery and garlic. Stir to coat with the oil and keep preparing the remainder of the ingredients. Keep lid on.
  3. Add the rest of the ingredients, making sure to leave adequate room in the slow cooker (about an inch below the edge of the cooker).
  4. Add extra stock or water to cover the vegetables and cheese.
  5. Stir well and cook for four hours on high or eight hours on low.
  6. Remove bay leaf before serving.

You may be wondering about the cheese rinds and whether or not to remove them. NO WAY! They are perfectly edible and in fact are a great way to use what is normally considered food waste. They are chewy, warm, melty, cheesy chunks of umami flavor and really make the whole soup. And that is how you do a vegetarian vegetable soup that’s so good that it’s practically impossible to photograph!