Make it Work Soup: Using whatever ingredients are available

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Inspired by our self quarantine situation and the return of Tim Gun and Heidi Klum in the Amazon show Making the Cut, this weeks recipe is all about making it work with whatever ingredients you have available.

The key to going rogue from a traditional recipe is understanding flavor profiles – what belongs together and what’s needed to balance each other. Imagine pairing running shoes with a ball gown or wearing christmas jammies with a blazer and walking into work. Most people realize these do not go together. Food is no different, take a deep breath and try to find things that match. When looking at my dwindling pantry and fridge, I want to consider a few things.

  1. How can I stretch these ingredients to make them last?
  2. What even fits together in terms of flavor?
  3. Should anything be left out because it will compete with the other flavors, or because I might need it for other things?

Looking at my pantry and fridge I noticed I had some random carrots that were about to go bad, lots of spinach, not many onions, and three potatoes. I also was very low on grass fed beef but had plenty of sausage. These ingredients started to point to country home cooking with root veggies. I could have turned them into a grain free version of shepherd’s pie. However, that wouldn’t have stretched the ingredients very far.

I kept looking and Eureka! Somehow, I always seem to have a random cup of leftover pasta sauce. Does this happen to anyone else? I know I’m not alone. The tomato basil sauce led me to an italian flavor profile which would pair beautifully with the veggies and sausage. From here I knew my direction. I wanted to make some kind of stew with rich italian flavors that would make enough to feed us for many meals.

If you don’t have the same ingredients at home, I encourage you to be brave! Maybe your ingredients have more of a mexican flair. If so, try to make a version of my taco soup. If you have sweet potatoes and chicken, try my chicken sweet potato soup.

Do you have celery but not carrots? Perfect! They both are root veggies and can be traded easily. Do you have kale but not spinach? Awesome, because it’s the same family of veggie and it will work great!

Trust yourself to take a risk, but before you go crazy dumping things in the pot, remember to ask yourself if the ingredients belong. For example, I LOVE cumin and cilantro, but they do not belong with italian foods. I also had sweet potatoes but know that the sweet flavor would never blend well with the tomato basil sauce.

Ingredients – With Possible Substitutions

  • 1 lb ground sausage / Substitute turkey, beef, or 1 can of beans
  • 2 ½ cups carrots 
  • 3 cups of potatoes chopped / Substitute – 1 can of beans – kidney, pinto, northern, garbanzo
  • 1/2 onion about 1 1/2 cup / Substitute – shallots, green onions, leeks
  • 6 grape tomatoes – 1/2 cup / Substitute – 1 can of tomatoes
  • 2 cups of roughly chopped spinach or kale – optional
  • 2 tbsp oil – any kind, avocado and grapeseed are my favorite
  • 6 cups of chicken bone broth / Substitute for veggie stock, beef broth, or water
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper / Substitute paprika
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric – optional
  • Dash of chili flakes / Substitute cayenne pepper
  • 1 cup of tomato sauce / Substitute by adding sprinkles of basil, rosemary, oregano and thyme
  • Sprinkle of fresh parsley optional


In a large pot add 1 tbsp oil and heat to medium high. Brown the sausage or whatever ground beef you choose. For a vegan substitute skip this step and add a can of beans later.

Remove from pot and set aside in a glass dish for later.

Add another tbsp of oil bring the heat back up to medium high. Toss around the root veggies to begin the cooking process. Stir to be sure they do not stick to the bottom of the pot. Toss in tomatoes.

Add in the cooked sausage and the tomatoes. If using beans as a substitution, add them now.  

Pour in the broth making sure the veggies are covered. 

Add spices – be brave but start small. You can always add more later.

Add a cup of tomato sauce.

Bring to a boil then turn to medium low. Simmer for at least 30 minutes. 45 minutes will give you an even better flavor profile. In the last few minutes before you serve up the soup, add any greens like spinach or kale.

This recipe makes enough for 5 – 6 servings. I added some to a mason jar to add to my freezer meals.

Do you know someone who would like this clean recipe? Please share it!

What is your version of make it work soup? Share it on social media and tag us! We can’t wait to see and be inspired.

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Wishing you all peace through this storm.

Sending love and good health,

The Gurneys

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