Heat about 4 cups of water or broth to a simmer. Put in two tablespoons of natural peanut butter (the kind that has only two ingredients: peanuts and salt). This gives the soup a heartiness that makes people ask, "What makes this soup so good?"
Grab whatever vegetables you have in the fridge, leftovers included (even most salad vegetables work in soup, including lettuce). In the Fall, it's good to have on hand some cheap root veggies (turnips, parsnips) and squash from your local farmer's market or supermarket.
Cut the root veggies up small so they'll cook through – remember, this is a 45-minute soup! Cut up and add onions and carrots (and crushed or chopped garlic for extra flavor and healthfulness if you like).
Simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, then add a half cup of uncooked millet or white rice. (If you have leftover grain already cooked, add it five minutes before the end instead. Note: Yes, brown rice is healthier. But it takes longer to cook. Use brown rice if you have it already cooked – add five minutes before the end.)
Simmer/stir for five more minutes, then add any softer vegetables (squash, greens, celery...) If you're short of fresh veggies, frozen peas work well here too; so do frozen corn and green beans.
Add a 15-oz. can of beans (any kind, rinsed) and/or half a cake of firm or extra-firm tofu, cubed small. If you have leftover cooked chicken, cut it up small and add that.
Add two tablespoons cider vinegar, one tablespoon olive oil, some salt and pepper, a teaspoon or two of spicy mustard, and (if you can get it) a teaspoon or two of Lee Kum Kee chili garlic sauce – the hurried cook's best friend.
Simmer for another 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. The result? The soup my family swears by. Eat with a slice of bread or some crackers and you've got a hearty one-pot meal perfect for a crisp Fall day.