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It's National Soup Month!

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By Jerianne Strange

  When the weather gets cool, or downright cold as it has over the past few days and as it is expected to be most of next week, I really like to serve my family soup, stew or chili. Most of the recipes I use are easy and economical – both key factors in remaining in my recipe file.

Since January is National Soup Month and since the weather has been decidedly colder, I thought I’d share some of my favorite soup recipes.

Crockpots or slow cookers are great for having a soup or stew simmer all day, ready in the evening when your family sits down for dinner. Making your own soups and stews is much healthier and economical than buying canned or pre-made items. And they are usually much tastier.

Several years ago, my friend Beth introduced me to Root Soup. It features baking potatoes, sweet potatoes, turnips and tomatoes. I was pleasantly surprised at how much my then-young son enjoyed it. It has become a fall and winter favorite. It’s a great meatless offering that’s filling and tasty.

My mom makes the best vegetable soup. Her secret? Leftovers. If there is a spoonful of corn left at dinner, she adds it to a container she keeps in the freezer just for leftover vegetables. Half a baked potato left over? Peel it, cut into cubes and put in the container. When the container is full or when she’s in the mood, she plops the contents into a stewpot, adds a can or two of diced tomatoes, several cups of water and one or two chicken bouillon cubes. She lets it simmer for several hours, adjusts the seasoning and viola! – vegetable soup. She also saves small pieces of leftover steak or roast beef and will toss them in for a vegetable-beef combination.

My husband absolutely loved her vegetable soup the first time he tried it and said I had to get the recipe. My mom explained her “recipe” to him. He was skeptical at first, but several weeks later I made it and he was hooked. Yes, we have a frozen veggie container in our freezer and we use it to make soup regularly. (If you are a little low on veggies, you can add a bag of frozen mixed vegetables. The frozen ones work much better than canned and taste better.)

Growing up, I watched and learned so much from my mom. When friends, neighbors or coworkers were facing a difficult or challenging time, my mom cooked for them. It’s something I now do and soup if often one of my offerings. When I make a pot of soup, I always make more than my family will eat, placing the surplus in the freezer. Either it will be served to my family at a later date, or I’ll have something available if I need to share a meal with someone. Either way, it never lasts long in the freezer.

 

ROOT SOUP

1 large onion, chopped

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 tablespoon olive oil

8 cups chicken or vegetable broth*

2-3 baking potatoes, peeled and cubed

2-3 sweet potatoes, peeled and diced

4 carrots, diced

3 stalks celery, cut in bite-size pieces

2-3 turnips, peeled and diced

1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cumin

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

3 bay leaves

1 teaspoon dried parsley

     Place onions, garlic and olive oil in a large pot. Saute over medium heat until onion is tender. Add vegetable or chicken broth, (*You can use prepackaged broth or make some with bouillon cubes.) Add baking potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, celery and turnips. Add the undrained can of diced tomatoes, salt, cumin, cinnamon, bay leaves and parsley. Turn heat up to medium high and bring to a slow boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 1 hour or until carrots are tender. Makes 8 servings

 

CHICKEN NOODLE SOUP

1 cup chopped celery

1/4 cup chopped onion

3 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil

1/4 cup chopped carrots

10 cups water

7 chicken bouillon cubes

4 cups chopped, cooked chicken

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 bay leaf

1 tablespoon dried parsley

4 cups chopped, cooked chicken

8 ounces egg noodles

     In a large stock pot, saute celery and onion in olive or vegetable oil. Add  carrots, water, bouillon cubes, oregano, black pepper, bay leaf and parsley. Simmer for 30 minutes. Add chicken and noodles; simmer for 20 more minutes. Makes 10 servings.

BEEF BARLEY SOUP

1 (3-pound) beef chuck roast

5 cups water

1 onion, quartered

1 bay leaf

2 tablespoons oil

3 carrots, chopped

3 stalks celery, chopped

1 onion, chopped

8 cups water

5 cubes beef bouillon cube

1 tablespoon white sugar

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/2 cup barley

1 (16-ounce) package frozen mixed vegetables

1 (28-ounce) can chopped diced tomatoes

Salt and pepper to taste

     Place roast in a slow cooker. Add water, onion and bay leaf. Cook on High for 3 to 4 hours, or on Low for 6 to 7 hours. Remove roast from slow cooker and cut into bite-size pieces; set aside. Discard cooking liquid and bay leaf.

     Heat oil in a large stock pot over medium-high heat. Saute carrots, celery and onion until tender. Add water, bouillon cubes, sugar, black pepper, barley, frozen mixed vegetables, undrained diced tomatoes and beef. Bring to a full boil, stirring occasionally. Cover and reduce heat to low. Cook for 45 minutes. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste. Serves 10.

 

POTATO SOUP

3 1/2 cups peeled, diced potatoes

1/3 cup diced celery

1/3 cup finely chopped onion

3/4 cup diced cooked ham

4 1/2 cups water

2 tablespoons chicken bouillon granules

1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste

1 teaspoon ground black pepper,

5 tablespoons butter

5 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 cups milk

Shredded cheddar cheese, optional

Dried chives, optional

     Combine the potatoes, celery, onion, ham and water in a stockpot. Bring to a boil, then cook over medium heat until potatoes are tender, about 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in the chicken bouillon, salt and pepper.

     In a medium-size saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Stir in flour with a fork, and cook, stirring constantly, until thick, about 1 minute. Slowly stir in milk. Continue stirring over medium-low heat until thick, 4 to 5 minutes. Stir the milk mixture into the stockpot and cook soup until heated through. Serve immediately. Top with shredded cheese and/or chives, if desired. Makes 8 servings

CHICKEN TORTILLA SOUP

2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into cubes

1/2 teaspoon olive oil

1/2 teaspoon minced garlic

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

2 (14.5-ounce) cans chicken broth

1 cup frozen corn kernels

1 cup chopped onion

1/2 teaspoon chili powder

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 cup chunky salsa

Corn tortilla chips

1/2 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese, optional

Sour cream, optional

     In a large pot over medium heat, cook and stir chicken in the oil for 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cumin; mix well. Add the chicken broth, corn, onion, chili powder, lemon juice and salsa. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes. Break up some tortilla chips into individual bowls and pour soup over chips. Top with the Monterey Jack c