Brrr! The North Pole is spilling its guts all over the U.S. You know it’s bad when cities like Chicago and Minneapolis, which are used to temperatures we in Austin don’t really believe exist, cancel school, set fire to railroad tracks (really!), and tell people to stay indoors.
When the lows dip, I go for some soup. I mean, it’s hard to enjoy a hot liquid when ambient air temperature means everything you touch is soon slippery with sweat. (And that’s “fall.”) Since three of Texas’s four seasons are just too darn hot, I go nuts when I can legit turn on the heater and cook up some soup.
In honor of National Soup Month and out of respect for everyone braving #PolarVortex2019, here are some of my favorite soup recipes.
Easy Homemade Broth
Lots of time inside plus leftover bones means great broth. I always have a ziplock bag of chicken bones (after Thanksgiving, turkey, too); anytime you take the meat off that store-bought rotisserie chicken, throw its carcass in a bag, write the date on the outside, and freeze for later.
Fun Fact: “Ziploc” refers to the brand; “ziplock” is an adjective, meaning “having an interlocking groove and ridge that form a tight seal when pressed together”~ Merriam-Webster
Select from vegetables on hand, typically onion, celery, carrots, and some random root vegetables, like turnips, parsnips, and radishes. Chop these in big chunks (you’ll be straining them out later).
Put those frozen chicken bones in a large stock pot. Add veggies. Season with a couple of bay leaves; I also add sage, thyme, and rosemary sprigs from my garden. Then, cover with water. Simmer for at least two hours. When the meat falls off the bones and veggies are soft and limp, strain. Discard everything but the broth, which is ready to eat as is or can be used later in soup. Bonus: your house smells like heaven.
Sausage, Bean, and Fennel Soup
Seasonal vegetables always influence my cooking. Often, I’m trying to figure out how to use an abundance of something we don’t usually eat. Like fennel.
This green and white feathery veggie starts showing up in my CSA box around late December. I like the crunchy white bulb in salads; the green fronds look nice when arranged in a decorative vase (I love pretty food!). But I get the most use out of those big ol’ fennel bulbs in a soup, like this Portuguese White Bean and Fennel Soup with Sausage.
Fun Fact: Fennel is a member of the carrot family and an excellent source of vitamin C.
I cut corners by using canned white beans (for this very reason, a few cans of cannellini or other white beans are always in the pantry during the winter months). This recipe calls for 7 cups of chicken stock; store-bought is fine (one 14-ounce can equals 2 cups) but I’ve found that rotisserie chicken carcass yields approximately 6–7 cups of broth.
Other than these and the kielbasa sausage and fennel seeds, which don’t come with the bulb (they’re dried and on the spice aisle), the other ingredients for this soup are all commonly stocked. Oh, there’s the sherry or Perod, but that’s a bar issue.
More: Healthy Eating from My Own Backyard: the Kitchen Garden (full recipe)
Healthy Vegetable Soup
Now, this is one of the few soups I do eat year ’round. Most often, it’s on the table in the summer because that’s when zucchini is in season. Still, in this day and age, it’s possible to grow zucchini indoors all year (hello, greenhouse!).
Fun Fact: “Zucchini” is plural. If you have one, it’s a “zucchina” (which AutoCorrect hates)
This vegetable soup, though, is especially good for January because of all those healthy eating resolutions. Its creator, Thomas Connelly, “recommends this soup for back pain, ligament problems and other symptoms of depleted adrenal function.”
This cookbook also has a few pages of “tonics,” which are described as medicinal, rather than epicurean, and “useful for fasting and detoxification.” One is Bieler Broth; it has essentially the same ingredients as Dr. Connelly’s Vegetable Soup . . . though it sounds like it doesn’t taste nearly as good.
Gluten-Free Cream of Mushroom Soup
My favorite comfort foods usually involve Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom soup. (Hey, don’t judge–I grew up in the 1970s; everything had a highly salted, creamy, canned base!) However, as a gluten-free, healthy-eating grown-up, this old traditional is off limits; the fourth ingredient is “wheat flour.”
Unlike the previously mentioned Dr. Connelly’s soup, cream of mushroom is decadently rich. The recipe from genius kitchen.com calls for one cup of light cream or evaporated milk, for goodness sake. But like I said, this is comfort food, not a nutritional bowl of medicinal tonic.
Fun Fact: Campbell’s top soups are Tomato, Cream of Mushroom, and Chicken Noodle; Americans eat approximately 2.5 billion bowls yearly.
Because the original recipe contains wheat flour, I substitute King Arthur Gluten Free Multi-Purpose Flour. It’s my favorite go-to gluten-free flour (no, I’m not receiving any compensation for this plug–totally free–though feel free to talk to me, King Arthur!).
Fancy Pumpkin Soup
Am I the only one who still has decorative pumpkins left over from October? (Yes, I know it’s January.)
Near the end of October, I bought 20+ small white pumpkins. First, I used them as table decorations for 2018 Get Smart conference I organized. Then, all came home, where they beautified tables and decorated our mantel for Halloween, Thanksgiving, and the annual Nyfeler family “Thankful” pig roast.
Fun Fact: Those mini whites are less-than-ripe Baby Boo pumpkins. When fully mature, they turn slightly yellow.
When Supper Club rolled around in December, I looked at those pumpkins and thought, “Hmmmm . . . surely I can cook those suckers!”
Not only those pretty little white pumpkins make a wonderfully tasty soup but each served as its own fancy tureen. Basically, you carve them just as you would a jack o’lantern (sans the face), roast the outside in the oven while the inner flesh cooks up top, with butter, potato, onions, garlic, stock, and cream. Easy!
My little white soup pumpkins transported well and looked great on the Christmas table.