My mantra for weeknight meals is keep it simple. This may seem obvious, but if you're a Kitchn reader, you probably share the love of food that can easily send you down a culinary rabbit hole. What we often need — at the end of a work day, and as the countdown to the kids' bedtime has begun — is nourishment that is straightforward but really good.
This end-of-summer soup fits that bill: zucchini, bratwursts, a homemade slow-cooker stock with some brown rice to fill it out, and hunks of buttered bread alongside.
This soup is another way I stretch our weeknight roasted chicken into a few more meals. We've eaten most of the meat itself (I'll save the last scraps for our Friday "use-it-up" meal!), so it's time to turn the bones into a stock. To keep things really simple, I do this in the slow cooker and let the stock bubble all day — it's totally hands-off. When it's time to make dinner, I strain the stock and use what I need for this night's meal.
→ Read More: How To Make Chicken Stock in the Slow Cooker
I'm especially eager to keep our dinners simple these days. With a three-year-old and one-year-old by my side, our evenings flow far differently than they did just a few years ago. I'm often wearing the baby on my back, while my toddler helps me in a Learning Tower next to our butcher block. I almost typed that as "helps," in air quotes, but at this point, he's actually had so much practice that he does truly help! For this meal, he was my sous chef, chopping onions, zucchini, and sausage.
The baby is growing up, too. A few months ago, I may have set aside some of the soup to puree for her, but now she can chew cooked meat, vegetables, and grains like a champ — I'm so impressed by what bare gums are capable of. I plate up the stock and remaining ingredients separately for her, so she can feed herself from one plate, while we occasionally spoon her some stock throughout the meal.
Before I know it, I won't be modifying her meals at all and they'll both be helping me at the butcher block.
Sausage and Zucchini Soup
3/4 to 1 pound
uncooked bratwursts (or any sausage you'd like)
medium onion, diced
1 1/2 pounds
zucchini (about 3 medium), cut into 1-inch pieces
cooked brown rice
chicken stock, store-bought or homemade
Salt and pepper
Coat the bottom of a large pot with olive oil and place over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add the sausage and cook five minutes on each side, until browned. Move to a cutting board and cut into 1/2-inch slices. Meanwhile, add the onion and a pinch of salt to the pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the zucchini, cover, and cook until just tender, another 5 minutes.
Remove the lid, return the now-sliced sausage to the pot, and sauté until the sausage is cooked through. Stir in the rice and, once warmed through, add the stock and raise the heat to high. Stir occasionally until the soup is steaming. Season to taste with salt and pepper before serving.
If using fully cooked sausages, skip the initial cooking step.