When I was a kid, it seems like we ate a lot of soup.

I remember chili, white chili, split-pea soup, and beef and barley stew, specifically. I think my mom Jan served us soup because it was easy to make ahead, and when you’re a working mom it’s a hell of a great feeling to know that dinner’s already done and waiting for you at home (with a short jaunt in the microwave, of course). It’s also very cost effective, and can be a healthy choice for feeding your family. And I suppose it goes without saying that when it’s really, really cold out, there’s nothing like a good bowl of soup.

Beware, you CAN “over-soup” yourself — I’ve found this out the hard way. There were some nights coming home to family supper and finding it was “leftovers night” and all you had to choose from was soup was sometimes a downer. Also when working my way through sections of cookbooks or finding a cache of recipes to try I suddenly realize “holy crap, I’m serving my family and friends waaaaaay too much soup!” Don’t be that guy/gal.

(On the other hand, you can bond over soup with someone you love.)

Well, with this current arctic blast sawing at us I thought I’d share my thoughts on… yeah, soup. Wow, this is a blog post for the archives, isn’t it?

Tonight we’re having bean and ham soup. In an effort to cut down on kitchen waste (inspired in part by an episode of Home of the Brave where Scott Carrier recorded a cooking session with his son, who was very focused on not wasting anything and found a lot of inventive uses for kitchen scraps) I began making soups with bones and creating my own broth. My husband is a big meat eater, so we often have bird carcasses, turkey necks, and ham bones on hand that would otherwise be thrown away.

For tonight’s meal, I took a spiral ham bone out of the freezer (with leftover meat attached) and tossed it in a big pot with water about 2/3 of the way full. To this, I added 16 oz navy beans. This is the base for thousands of variations — you can switch up the type of beans and the veggies you add, but I’ll give you the basic recipe and let you go from there.

Boil the bone and the beans in the water for about two hours. Then add one cup chopped celery and about 4 chopped carrots. Add some salt and pepper and cook for another hour or so. Strip what meat you can from the bone, and toss the bone. Be careful to remove any bone shards or big bits of fat. And voila, you have ham and bean soup.

Adding potatoes about 20 minutes before taking the soup from the stove is also really good, but again you can do dozens of combinations. Tonight I’m making the basic recipe, but towards the end I’m adding some kale and sweet potatoes. (I tried to ribbonize my sweets with that veggie spaghetti maker they show on TV, but it’s pretty much a hunk of junk and a beast to clean, so I gave up and just chopped up the rest).

Every time you have a ham, SAVE THE BONE! Hell, if you aren’t going to use it, send it my way!

I make my own chicken and turkey broth from the carved carcass of the bird by putting it in a pot, filling the pot with water about 2/3 of the way up, and adding some of that “kitchen waste” that Scott’s son was so good at getting rid of. Carrot tops, onion peelings, sketchy garlic, and the leaves of celery stalks are great. Toss in a little salt, and some peppercorns. I also put in some onion powder and garlic powder. Simmer it a couple of hours, then toss the carcass in the garbage, and strain the broth into a bowl. Let it cool and you can freeze it for next time you need broth.

It’s much more flavorful than store-bought broth, and you made it out of garbage you were going to throw away anyway! You can control the salt content for health’s sake. I recently made some cornish game hen broth that was a great addition to other recipes. If it has bones, it can be made into broth!

Also, don’t throw away the turkey neck! There are a lot of great Southern recipes that you can use it for, as well as obviously using it to make broth.

Take a turkey neck, put a little oil at the bottom of a big pot, and brown it on both sides. Put about two inches of water over it, and add some creole spices. Cook the neck until it starts to fall apart and you have a thick, rich, spicy broth. Remove the neck and pull the bones out, and then return the meat to the broth if you wish (if it’s too much work, discard). Then, use the broth to cook your collard greens. You can serve this over rice or quinoa if you choose.

Well, it’s about time for me to go add in the vegetables. Happy souping!