“Be careful what you wish for,” I can hear my mother admonishing me. I wished for winter weather and winter weather has, indeed, arrived.
My Carson-Newman College “sisters,” most who reside in Tennessee, were exchanging their tips for braving the bone biting chill of a cold winter. One said that she liked wearing fleece-lined leggings, another an old fashioned granny gown, while another still sung the praises of flannel sheets. These may be their answers to beating the cold but I have one better (and tastier!) — a bowl of steaming hot soup.
Nothing beats the bleak midwinter cold like a bowl hot, homemade soup. It’s my answer all season long as we draw closer to home and the welcome of nourishment found in a bowl full of comfort. A simple bowl of soup is far greater than the sum of its parts.
A steaming bowl of soup is my favorite comfort food. The enticing aroma of a soup, stew or chowder simmering on the stove is like an embrace of love and comfort — a welcome home hug for hearty appetites and weary souls.
I hope you’re in the mood for a bowl of comfort and cheer. In my family we eat a lot of soup (chowder, chili, etc.) but I’m not talking about the store-bought canned stuff, although they’ll do in a real pinch. Most soups can be prepared with little fuss and minimum culinary skill necessary.
Cheesy Vegetable Chowder is stick-to-your-ribs satisfyingly yummy with plenty of sauteed carrots , celery, mushrooms and onions along with the one ingredient that makes a soup a chowder — potatoes. And this chowder is also generously seasoned with the addition of smoked ham — double yummy!
Thai Chicken Soup is one of my favorite chicken soup creations. The flavors and textures of this soup are so perfectly balanced. A bit of heat (though, not too much!) is balanced by coconut milk and the finish of basil, cilantro, and lime is such a pleasing, fresh touch.
Southwestern Corn Chowder is truly a delight made using convenience products like taco seasoning, canned Rotel tomatoes and boxed potatoes and cheese sauce mix. It’s great to keep the ingredients on hand to prepare for a meal on the rush. Serve with a salad or a sandwich and it’s a complete meal. This recipe is a real family pleaser.
Black Bean Chili is a super savory chili that is a stick to your ribs kind of a meal. This chili is super quick and easy, and is a recipe in my book, “The Sweet Magnolia Cookbook” (co-written with best-selling author, Sherryl Woods).
All of these delicious creations taste wonderful when just prepared, but their flavors really do improve when prepared ahead. Hey, here’s a really great idea. Why not prepare several of your favorite soups ahead, then store either individual servings or meal-size portions in the freezer. Don’t forget to label and date the containers. Food really looks different when frozen. And although you think you’ll remember what that is in the freezer, just take a few extra seconds to label — to eliminate the guess work of that mystery food in the freezer.
Cheesy Vegetable Chowder
1/4 cup butter
2 cups medium dice onion
1 1/2 cups thinly sliced celery
1 cup thinly sliced (peeled) carrots
8 ounces thinly sliced mushrooms
6 cups chicken broth
4 cups baby potatoes, cut into chunks (I use a variety)
2 pounds white American cheese, cut into 3/4 –inch cubes, room temperature
2 cups cubed smoked ham
1 cup heavy whipping cream
Freshly ground black pepper and salt, to taste
Melt butter in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Cook the onion, celery carrots and mushrooms until tender, stirring often. Meanwhile, cook the potatoes in boiling chicken broth just until tender. Reserving the chicken broth, drain the potatoes from the broth and flush with cold running water. Return chicken broth to the heat and add the cubed American cheese. Whisk until the cheese is melted. Add the smoked ham. Return the sauteed vegetables to the pot along with the cooked potatoes. Add the whipping cream and heat through. Season to taste with freshly ground pepper and salt, if needed.
Note: You can choose to serve this is in warm crusty bread rounds. Simply purchase medium bread rounds (one for each serving) then hollow out the center. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes.
Thai Chicken Soup
3 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup very thinly sliced carrot
1/2 cup very thinly sliced mushrooms
1 (13 1/2 - to 14 ounce) can unsweetened coconut milk
1 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon Tabasco sauce (or more if you prefer)
2 cups cooked, cubed chicken breast
Freshly grated zest and juice of 1 lime
2 green onions, very thinly sliced on the diagonal
2 tablespoons corn starch
1/2 cups water
2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro, optional
2 tablespoons minced fresh basil
1 1/2 cups freshly cooked white rice
6 lime wedges – to serve with the soup
Bring chicken broth to a boil. Add carrots and mushrooms to broth and cook until crisp tender. Stir in coconut milk, curry powder and Tabasco. Add cooked cubed chicken to soup. Stir in lime zest, lime juice and green onion. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Dissolve corn starch in water. Stir into soup. Cook until thickened a bit. Stir in cilantro and basil. Spoon a bit of rice into each soup bowl. Ladle soup over rice. Serve with lime wedges.
Southwestern Corn Chowder
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup diced onion
1 envelope taco seasoning
4 cups chicken broth 1 (4.5 ounce) box
Julienne potatoes with cheese sauce mix
1 (20 ounce) roll frozen cream style corn, thawed
1 (10 ounce) can original Rotel tomatoes
2 cups milk
Garnishes: Sour cream, grated cheddar or colby jack cheese, diced ham or bacon
In a large heavy saucepan, saute onion in butter until just tender. Stir in taco seasoning. Cook at least one minute, stirring constantly. Gradually whisk in broth. Add package of potatoes (from box of potatoes with cheese sauce), reserving cheese sauce mix for later in the recipe. Add thawed corn along with canned tomatoes and their liquid. Whisk cheese sauce mix into milk. Add to chowder. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for at least 20 minutes or until the potatoes are tender. Ladle soup into bowls. Garnish as desired.
Black Bean Chili
1 pound ground pork breakfast sausage
1 1/2 cups diced onion
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 envelope taco seasoning
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin
3 cups water
1 (15 ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 (15 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
3 (15 ounce) cans black beans, rinsed well and drained
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
In a large medium soup pot, brown the sausage over medium-high heat, stirring to crumble. Add onion and cook until crisp tender. Add garlic and cook for one minute before adding the taco seasoning, oregano and cumin. Add the water and the remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil, then lower heat, cover pot and let chili simmer for at least 15 minutes.
Note: This is my favorite “go to” for a quick and easy chili — but oh, so tasty! The flavors are so well balanced and complex that you would swear she had been slaving over a hot stove all day. In truth, it can be made and served in about half an hour — start to finish! Another great thing about this chili is that the ingredients can be easily doubled (or tripled) to suit your size gathering. Any leftovers freeze well.