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Some soup to warm your tummy

Vegan Feast Catering, Wikimedia Commons

There’s a chill in the air, but one can find delicious warmth in a bowl of homemade minestrone soup.


Well, it may still be fall, but if you go by what’s in the stores, we are full swing into the Christmas season. I will never get used to seeing all the decorations when we haven’t even had Halloween and Thanksgiving yet. Many in my family decided to jump off the merry-go-round and leave gift-giving out of our annual tradition. If we ever feel we must give each other something, we stick to simple handmade or very inexpensive items.

(This no-gifts rule does not apply to children in the family.)

One thing we do still cherish, however, is sharing a meal of hearty, hot soup and a batch of homemade rolls or other breads to go with it. It’s nice to have the time to make rolls and soup, since we no longer need to deal with the rush and pressure of shopping. This is not to say it’s bad or wrong to join the throngs of shoppers, as many dearly love to do holiday shopping. I’m just saying that for various valid reasons, it had become something to dread for us.

Whether you holiday shop or not, one thing we can all agree on: enjoying a big bowl of homemade soup and watching a pat of butter melt on a hot-from-the-oven roll is a joy to savor throughout the fall and winter months. Today we are just focusing on the soup recipes.

Slow cooker beef soup

1 pound beef stew meat (1-1/4-inch pieces)

3/4 pound potatoes (about 2 medium), cut into 3/4-inch cubes

2 cups frozen corn (about 10 ounces), thawed

2 medium carrots, cut into 1/2-inch slices

1 medium onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

2 cups beef stock

1 can (10 ounces) diced tomatoes and green chiles, undrained

Sour cream and tortilla chips, optional

1. In a 5- or 6-quart slow cooker, combine first 12 ingredients. Cook, covered, on low until meat is tender, 6 to 8 hours. If desired, serve with sour cream and chips.

Spicy lentil soup

The olive oil adds a lot to the flavor of this soup.

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 medium yellow or white onion, chopped

2 carrots, peeled and chopped

4 garlic cloves, pressed or minced

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon curry powder

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1 large can (28 ounces) diced tomatoes, lightly drained

1 cup brown or green lentils, picked over and rinsed

4 cups vegetable broth

2 cups water

1 teaspoon salt, or more to taste

Pinch of red pepper flakes

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1 cup chopped fresh collard greens or kale, tough ribs removed

1 to 2 tablespoons lemon juice (1/2 to 1 medium lemon), or to taste

1. Warm the olive oil in a large Dutch oven or pot over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and carrot and cook, stirring often, until the onion has softened and is turning translucent, about 5 minutes.

2. Add the garlic, cumin, curry powder and thyme. Cook until fragrant while stirring constantly, about 30 seconds. Pour in the drained diced tomatoes and cook for a few more minutes, stirring often.

3. Pour in the lentils, broth and the water. Add 1 teaspoon salt and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Season generously with freshly ground black pepper. Raise heat and bring the mixture to a boil, then partially cover the pot and reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Cook for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the lentils are tender but still hold their shape.

4. Transfer 2 cups of the soup to a blender. Securely fasten the lid, protect your hand from steam with a tea towel placed over the lid, and puree the soup until smooth. Pour the pureed soup back into the pot. (Or, use an immersion blender to blend a portion of the soup.)

5. Add the chopped greens and cook for 5 more minutes, or until the greens have softened to your liking. Remove the pot from the heat and stir in 1 tablespoon of lemon juice. Taste and season with more salt, pepper and/or lemon juice until the flavors are to your liking. For spicier soup, add another pinch or two of red pepper flakes.

6. Serve while hot. Leftovers will keep well for about 4 days in the refrigerator, or can be frozen for several months.


4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

1 medium yellow onion, chopped

2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped

2 medium ribs celery, chopped

1/4 cup tomato paste

2 cups chopped additional vegetables (potatoes, yellow squash, zucchini, butternut squash, green beans, cabbage or peas all work)

4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1 large can (28 ounces) diced tomatoes, with their liquid (or 2 small 15-ounce cans)

4 cups (32 ounces) vegetable broth

2 cups water

1 teaspoon fine sea salt

2 bay leaves

Pinch of red pepper flakes

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1 cup small pasta, such as ditalini or small shells

1 1/2 cups cooked beans, such as cranberry, pinto or cannellini

2 cups baby spinach, chopped kale or chopped collard greens

2 teaspoons lemon juice

Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for garnishing (optional)

1. Warm 3 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large Dutch oven or stockpot over medium heat. Once the oil is shimmering, add the chopped onion, carrot, celery, tomato paste and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring often, until the vegetables have softened and the onions are turning translucent, about 7 to 10 minutes.

2. Add the additional vegetables, garlic, oregano and thyme. Cook until fragrant while stirring frequently, about 2 minutes.

3. Pour in the diced tomatoes and their juices, broth and water. Add the salt, bay leaves and red pepper flakes. Season generously with freshly ground black pepper.

4. Raise heat to medium-high and bring the mixture to a boil, then partially cover the pot with the lid, leaving about a 1-inch gap for steam to escape. Reduce heat as necessary to maintain a gentle simmer.

5. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes, then remove the lid and add the pasta, cooked beans and greens. Continue simmering, uncovered, for 20 minutes or until the the pasta is cooked al dente and the greens are tender.

6. Remove the pot from the heat, then remove the bay leaves. Stir in the lemon juice and remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Taste and season with more salt and pepper until the flavors are at their best. Garnish bowls of soup with grated Parmesan, if desired. Makes 6 servings.

Cajun corn chowder

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 medium white onion, diced

1 green bell pepper, diced

2 ribs celery, stringed and diced

4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed

6 cups vegetable broth

1 1/2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, diced into 1/2-inch cubes

1 bag (14-ounces) frozen corn

1 cup red lentils*, rinsed and picked over

1 to 2 tablespoons Cajun seasoning, to taste

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon salt

1 can (14-ounces) coconut milk

Optional toppings: chopped green onions or chives, bacon, oyster crackers, etc.

*Whole red lentils take about 15 minutes to cook. But if you are using split red lentils, they only take about 7 to 8 minutes to cook, so I would recommend adding them in halfway through the potatoes’ cooking time.

1. Heat oil in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Add onion and saute for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add bell pepper, celery and garlic, and continue sauteing for 5 more minutes, stirring occasionally.

2. Add vegetable stock, potatoes, corn, lentils, Cajun seasoning, thyme and salt. Stir to combine.

3. Continue cooking until the mixture reaches a simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and cook for 10 to 15 more minutes, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes and lentils are tender.

4. Stir in the coconut milk until combined. Taste and season with additional salt and/or Cajun seasoning, if needed.

5. Serve hot, garnished with your desired toppings. Or refrigerate soup in sealed containers for up to 3 days, or freeze for up to 3 months. Makes 8 to 10 servings.

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