Hearty Beef Vegetable Soup

Hearty, nutritious and flavorful, a bowl of delicious beef vegetable soup hits the spot on a cold winter day. For pregnant and postpartum moms in particular, it doesn't get much better than this! Enjoy a steaming bowl with a loaf of crusty bread and butter. This soup also freezes well if you want to make a large pot and stock up for a quick and easy meal. Ingredients: For stock: 1/2 pound meaty beef bones (soup bones) 2-3 stalks of celery, cut into thirds 2-3 carrots, cut into thirds 1-2 medium onions, quartered 1-2 bay leaves 1/4 cup whole peppercorns For soup: 2-3 pounds stew beef, cut into half-inch chunks 2-3 29-ounce cans of crushed tomatoes 1/4 to 1/2 head of cabbage, chopped 1 1/2 cups chopped onion 1-2 cups green beans 1-2 cups lima beans 1-2 cups navy or great northern beans 1 cup diced carrots 1 cup corn 1 cup broccoli 1 cup diced potatoes 1 cup pearl barley Salt and pepper to taste Directions: For stock: Place all of the above ingredients in a large pot or kettle and fill with water. Bring to a boil, then turn down heat and simmer for at least three hours. Strain the broth and discard all solids. Refrigerate or freeze stock until ready to use for soup base. For soup: Heat soup stock and add stew beef. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for two hours. Cool and place the broth in the fridge for a few hours to let the fat rise and solidify; remove hardened fat from surface of the chilled soup. Add crushed tomatoes and cabbage to the broth. Simmer for an hour or two until cabbage is reasonably tender. Add remaining ingredients and simmer until all vegetables are tender. It's impossible to overcook, but be careful to add more water periodically if the soup starts to get too thick. You can also add a little beef bouillon if you think the broth requires more flavor. This recipe lends itself very well to general measurements and allows for a great deal of variation.

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