My Dad's mother used to do a LOT of canning and freezing. A LOT. As in, she had a little laundry room/pantry just off of her kitchen, filled with floor-to-ceiling shelves of home-canned fruits and vegetables. In addition, she had at least 3 or 4 LARGE chest freezers fully stocked with frozen home-grown vegetables, meats, or fish, freshly-caught from the pond on her land.
One of the things she canned was a hearty vegetable soup; the flavor was always a little bit different, as the soup was her way of using up leftover veggies that wouldn't fill up an entire bag or canning jar while she was preserving. My dad was an especially big fan of the soup, with huge chunks of home-grown Alabama tomatoes, sweet summer corn, and sliced freshly-picked okra. She passed away many years ago, when I was still in high school, but I still remember her soup...
Everyone needs a good "go-to" vegetable soup recipe. For YEARS, when I wanted vegetable soup, I'd simply grab a can of Campbell's Vegetarian Vegetable, and it was OK. Just OK, though. To me, vegetable soup is true comfort food, perfect for cold weather or sick days, or even those days when I need to clean out the freezer or vegetable drawer.
Speaking of freezer, this soup is one of those recipes that freezes BEAUTIFULLY, so don't be afraid to make a big batch - the recipe doubles (or even TRIPLES) really well, in case you've got plenty of freezer space or a large, hungry family. I LOVE having homemade soup at hand in the freezer, ESPECIALLY when at home sick. It keeps me from having to reach for the canned stuff, and saves me the expense of ordering delivery or takeout soup.
You can use fresh vegetables, frozen vegetables, or a combination of fresh and frozen for this recipe; you simply need about 8 cups (give or take, exact measurements really aren't necessary) of vegetables. Feel free to use whatever veggies you like. Personally, I ALWAYS have to have certain essential vegetables, like carrots, corn, potatoes, peas, green beans and lima beans. You can add okra, or even use the frozen mixed vegetables as well. The choice is completely yours - use what's in season, or substitute cabbage for the potatoes if you're avoiding starches!
On occasion, I like to add a little something extra to my vegetable soup. Sometimes it's pasta (maybe little stars or alphabet shapes), or wild rice. Sometimes I'll add shredded deli rotisserie chicken, or even brown up some lean ground beef seasoned with chili or taco seasonings. IF you like to add these kind of ingredients, do so AFTER reheating small portions; typically pasta/rice doesn't freeze well, and I'd rather add the meat fresh instead of freezing it in the soup.
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 cups frozen chopped onions
2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
2 tsp Italian seasoning
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp celery salt
1/4 tsp celery salt
4 quarts vegetable stock
2 cups vegetable-juice cocktail (V8)
2 Tbsp tomato paste
2 28oz cans diced tomatoes8-10 cups fresh or frozen mixed vegetables (corn, carrot, potatoes, beans, peas, etc)
Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed stockpot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onions, celery and Italian seasoning. Saute for about 5 minutes or until the onions are translucent. Season lightly with salt and pepper.
Add the garlic powder, onion powder, celery salt, vegetable stock, vegetable juice and tomato paste. Add the diced tomatoes and their juices (do not drain). Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, for about 30 minutes.
Add the vegetables (fresh or frozen) to the pot and return to a simmer. Cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender and heated through, about 20-30 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper, then serve.
To freeze the soup, let it cool before placing in the freezer. I like to freeze my soup in quart-sized freezer bags. After sealing, I lay the bags flat on a baking sheet, then place the sheet in the chest freezer. Once frozen, the bags are flat and don't take up a lot of freezer room!