Cream of Cauliflower Soup

IMG_1140As this creamy cauliflower soup prepares in about 30 minutes, you can get a light, healthy lunch on the table fairly fast. I found the basic recipe in Midwest Living magazine (Feb 2013), and it was titled “Cream of Any-Vegetable Soup.” I’ve done cauliflower and also broccoli, but we liked the cauliflower best. One problem—they must have taste-tested this recipe on a family of gnats, cause the first time I made it, it served up 2 small bowls. Not worth the effort for such a small yield! So I doubled it. I also found that their recipe used far too little vegetable, so I significantly increased that—more so than the other ingredients. If you prefer broccoli to the cauliflower, I’ve included the instructions for that at the end of the recipe as well.

Serves 6

4 cups cauliflower florets
¼ cup chopped celery
¼ cup chopped onion
¼ cup (4 tablespoons) butter
¼ cup all-purpose flour or Namaste gluten-free flour blend
1 teaspoon instant chicken bouillon granules or 1 cub chicken bouillon, crushed
1 teaspoon curry powder
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon course ground black pepper
4 cups milk
Dash Worcestershire sauce
½ cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese, optional (but really, since when is cheese in anything “optional”?)

Place half of cut cauliflower in microwave safe bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and microwave on high for 3 minutes. Repeat with other half of cut cauliflower, and set aside cooked vegetables.

In a heavy saucepan or small Dutch oven, sauté celery and onion in butter until tender. Stir in flour and bouillon granules, curry, salt, and pepper. Allow flour and seasonings to “toast” for about a minute to bring out flavor. Gradually stir in milk, whisking it into flour until combined to avoid lumps. Add Worcestershire sauce. Cook and stir until thick and bubbly, then cook and stir for another minute. Stir in cooked cauliflower. Allow mixture to cook slightly, then place in blender (1/3 at a time), and blend for about 3 seconds. Repeat until all of soup has been processed. Return to saucepan to heat through. Add cheese and stir until melted. Serve.

For Broccoli-cheese Soup: Add 4 cups cooked broccoli florets instead of cauliflower, omit the curry and use ½ teaspoon garlic salt or garlic powder instead, and increase the cheese to 1 cup.

Curried Sweet Potato and Lentil Soup

FullSizeRenderIf you’re one of the gazillion American’s who has “lose weight” as a #1 resolution in the New Year, here’s a low cal recipe for you. I figure it’s about 108 calories per bowl, if you get 8 bowls from this batch. And with lentils and sweet potatoes as the main ingredients, this is a super healthy, gluten-free soup, that’s surprisingly hearty and filling. The small amount of jalapeño cuts the sweetness of the potatoes, and it really is a necessary ingredient. I’ve tried making it without jalapeño when I didn’t have it on hand, and the soup was bland and tasteless, even with all that wonderful curry that usually holds it’s own in a recipe. Who knew a little pepper had so much power? It cooks up in about 30 minutes, so it’s not one of the more time-intensive soups in my arsenal. I cut this recipe from a Midwest Living magazine several years ago, and since stumbling on it, you’ll find it simmering on my stovetop at least once a month whenever there’s a nip in the air.

Serves 6-8

1 medium onion, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ or 1 medium fresh jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely chopped, or 1 teaspoons of canned, chopped, jalapeño peppers*
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1 cup dry lentils, rinsed and drained (that is ½ of a 1 pound bag of lentils)
2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into ½-inch pieces
1 can diced tomatoes, undrained
2 (14-ounce) cans vegetable or chicken broth (or 4 cups water and 3 teaspoons vegetable or chicken soup base)
1 cup water
1 tablespoon curry powder
Dash salt

In a Dutch oven, cook onion in hot oil over medium heat until onion is translucent. Add jalapeño, garlic, and ginger, and cook a few minutes more. Add dry lentils, sweet potatoes, tomatoes (with juice), broth, water, curry powder, and salt. Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer 25-30 minutes or until lentils and potatoes are tender.

*If using fresh jalapeño or other peppers, wear gloves when handling peppers. Seeds from peppers can be extremely hot. Wash hands and all utensils thoroughly after handling any fresh peppers.

New England Clam Chowder

FullSizeRenderThis creamy dairy-based clam chowder warms you to the core when there’s a chill in the air. It can be a starter to your meal, or a whole meal in itself. This used to be a staple at our Christmas Eve dinner, but some how it fell off the menu over the last several years. So this year I resurrected the recipe, found in one of my Better Homes & Gardens cookbooks, and our family was glad I did! We’d forgotten what a treat this soup is, with the mild seafood flavor, and bits of hearty potatoes, clams, and bacon. I’ve altered some ingredient amounts from the BH&G recipe, adding more minced clams, bacon, and Worcestershire for fuller flavor.

And does anyone else besides me get confused about the different kinds of clam chowder? When we’re at a restaurant, I have to always remind myself that New England is the more popular cream-based soup, and Manhattan clam chowder is the tomato-based version, so I’m not disappointed when the food arrives. Or at least the New England style is more popular with our family… Give this recipe a try, and see where it ranks in popularity in your home.

Serves 6-8

3 (6.5 ounce) cans minced clams
4-6 slices of bacon
4 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2½ cups milk, divided
1 cup Half & Half light cream
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour or Namaste gluten-free flour blend
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
¾ teaspoon salt
Dash coarse ground black pepper

Drain the canned clams, reserving all liquid. You should have close to 2 cups clam juice. Add water if necessary, to get 2 cups liquid. Set aside. In large Dutch oven, fry bacon until crisp. Drain cooked strips of bacon on paper towels. Once cool, crumble bacon, and set aside for a topping. Add onions to the bacon fat in the pan and cook until translucent. Add the 2 cups reserved liquid and chopped potatoes, and bring liquid to a boil. Cover, reduce to simmer, and let potatoes cook about 10-15 minutes, or until tender. Stir in clams, 2 cups of the milk, and the Half & Half. In a small bowl, whisk remaining ½ cup milk with the flour until no lumps remain. Stir into chowder. Increase heat until mixture begins to boil, and immediately reduce to low again. Cook and stir until bubbly. Stir in Worcestershire sauce, salt, and pepper. Serve with crumbled bacon on top.

Smokey Fifteen-bean Soup

FullSizeRender-1Who loved Campbell’s bean with bacon soup as a kid? One whiff of this 15-bean recipe simmering on the stove top will transport you back to your childhood home, when Mom occasionally served this for lunch with a side of grilled Wonderbread and Velveeta sandwiches. But this hearty gluten-free soup has soooooo much more flavor than the canned variety. It’s also easy and cheap (great qualities in a soup, not great qualities in a woman…)with the shredding of the ham shank being the most time-consuming step—and it’s a budget-buster at about $11-12 a pot. This recipe is off the Hurst’s Hambeens 15 Bean Soup package, and I’ve always made it in a big Dutch oven on the stove top. But on their website,, they say you can make this 15-bean soup in the slow cooker (aka: Crock Pot) as well. Maybe I’ll try that next time, so I don’t have to stick around the house on a Saturday, keeping an eye on the pot. Oh, and when you’re shopping for a bag of dried beans, you may run across bags boasting a whopping 16-bean soup mix. But I think that’s taking it just one bean too far, don’t you? Let’s not go crazy, people.

Serves 12-16 (freezes well, if a gallon of soup is too much for you!)

Rating: easy

1 (20 ounce) bag Hurst’s HamBeens 15-bean Soup mix or other brand 15-bean soup mix
1 cup chopped yellow onion
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika (optional—my addition to Hurst’s original recipe)
Juice of 1 lemon
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large ham shank* or smoked sausage (leftover ham bone from the holidays works great too!)

Quick cook method: Rinse and drain dry beans, reserving enclosed flavor packet for later use. Place rinsed beans in a large pot with 10 cups water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 1½ hours. Stir occasionally. After boiling, add onion, diced tomatoes, chili powder, lemon juice, garlic, and ham shank (or sausage). Stir. Bring back to a rapid boil, and then reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes. Remove ham shank (or sausage) and let cool on plate. Stir in reserved flavor packet. Once ham shank is cool enough to handle, pull meat off bone, cutting away cartilage and membranes, and dice meat. Add meat back into soup. If using sausage, dice and stir into soup.

*NOTE: Sometimes I have trouble finding ham shanks, so ask your butcher for help if you can’t find them. If you can’t find the ham shank, try it with the sausage. I’ve never tried this recipe with smoked sausage, but I’m sure it would be delicious as well.

Savory Tomato Bisque Soup

FullSizeRenderGrilled cheese and tomato soup lovers will welcome this tomato bisque recipe—it’s leaps and bounds above a can of Campbell’s. I got this flavorful recipe from a restaurant in Stillwater, Minnesota called “Savories,” a delightful little place that has since closed. The soup recipe was requested by a reader of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, and it was my job to get it for her. The owners were happy to share the recipe, as it was a wildly popular item, but said in a very world-weary voice, “Please tell your readers to try one of our other 200 soups that rotate on the menu now and then…” I’m glad they were in a sharing mood, because every time I’ve served this soup, it’s been a smash hit with the soup slurpers at our table. I guess it’s become MY most requested recipe, too!

Lately, I’ve been making it with half and half instead of the suggested heavy cream—but you decide how much fat you want in your soup. (Using a stick and a half of butter right off the bat, I think the fat-for-flavor category is covered…) I’ve also added in tomato paste to give it more tomatoey goodness. So what’s the perfect partner for this creamy soup? We like to make grilled cheese panini sandwiches with a stiff sourdough or rye bread, pile on deli ham or turkey, some spinach leaves, and add sharp Cheddar and Colby cheeses to the other fixings. To borrow Campbell’s slogan, Mmmmm, mmmmm, good.

Makes 12-15 servings*

Ease rating: medium (compared to opening a can of Campbell’s cream of tomato)

1½ cup chopped yellow onion
¾ cup butter
2 teaspoons dill seed
2-3 teaspoons dill weed
2 teaspoons dried oregano
3 tablespoons dried parsley
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
1 cup flour
6 cups chicken stock (or vegetable stock, if you want to go vegetarian)
4 (14.5 ounce) cans diced tomatoes in juice
1 can tomato paste**
½ cup honey
2-3 cups half & half (or 2 cups heavy cream)

Sauté onions in butter until they are translucent. Add dill seed, dill weed, oregano, parsley, and salt, and cook over low heat to toast herbs. Sprinkle flour over onion mixture and stir until all flour is absorbed. Then continue to cook the flour mixture for 1-2 more minutes. Add chicken (or vegetable) stock, whisking while adding in liquid to avoid lumps. Add canned tomatoes, juice and all, and tomato paste, stirring to combine. Bring soup to a boil to allow to thicken. Just before serving, stir in honey and cream.

*NOTE:  As this recipe makes a gallon of soup, you could make it, stopping short of adding in the honey and cream, and freeze half of the tomato soup mixture. Then add in ¼ cup honey, and 1 cup cream, and enjoy a smaller batch now, and another batch later!

**If you don’t want to add the tomato paste, skip it, but reduce the honey to 1/3 cup.

Three-Bean Turkey Chili Con Carne

FullSizeRender-1It’s safe to say soup season is officially upon us, and this staple chili recipe is perfect for a filling lunch or a hearty dinner when the weather turns nippy. This is such a fave, that frankly, I’m surprised I’ve not posted it yet! Although, I need to give a disclaimer here. It used to be a family favorite for for everyone in our household, but when I first went back to working full-time a dozen years ago, I was hard-pressed to come up with recipes to throw on the table in a hurry after 5 p.m. I had previously been freelancing from home, and could putz in the kitchen between projects. That luxury was lost when I had to be elsewhere from 8-5. Sooooooo… I would whip up a batch of this chili in the evening or weekends to have on hand for dinner. But apparently, I relied on this a little too much, and my sons started groaning, “Chili, AGAIN???”

We took a much-needed break from chili, and I found other recipes I could make in a snap when we needed to eat and run to guitar lessons or hockey practice, etc. (Many of those fast favorites have been posted on this blog.) Were my offspring a little harsh on me regarding this dutiful recipe? I think so. Especially when my son Brandon made this for a church youth group chili cook-off fundraiser, and won the coveted first prize trophy—an ancient can of beans glued to a block of wood bearing a “First Prize” plaque. (Helped that he’s stinkin’ cute and there were lots of teen girls voting…) Who’s dissing my chili NOW, huh?

The original recipe came from my Mom’s friend Arlene, one of those women who always makes great food. I believe she got the recipe from the St. Paul Pioneer Press sometime in the 70’s, but I’m not sure. (Feel free to comment, Arlene!) I’ve altered to suit our changing tastes, and now use turkey instead of hamburger, and have added black beans (unheard of among suburbanites in the 70’s), butter beans, more vegetables, and some additional seasonings. Serve this with the Corn Bread recipe previously posted, and you’ve got a winning combination. Maybe even first place.

Serves 10-12 (But freezes well, if that’s more than you need!)

Rating: Easy

1-1¼ pounds ground turkey (or hamburger)
1 medium or large yellow onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
2-3 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 small zucchini, chopped (optional)
3 (14.5 ounce) cans diced tomatoes
2 (14.5 ounce) cans tomato sauce
2 (15 ounce) cans black beans with cumin and chili spices (do NOT drain)
2 cans corn
1 (15 ounce) can dark red kidney beans
1 (15-16 ounce) can butter beans
1-1½ tablespoons regular chili powder
1 tablespoon chili con carne seasoning (optional)
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1½-2 teaspoons salt


Grated sharp cheddar cheese
Chopped scallions
Sour cream

In large fry pan, cook turkey until no pink remains. Put into large Dutch oven, or other large pot in which you will be simmering your chili. Using same fry pan, sauté onion for 2-3 minutes. Add green pepper, carrots, and zucchini (if using). Sauté until onions are translucent, and other vegetables are slightly softened.

Add diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, and black beans to pot with cooked turkey. Stir in sautéed onion mixture. In colander, rinse and drain corn, kidney beans, and butter beans. Once drained, add to pot. Stir in chili powder, chili con carne seasoning (if using), cumin, and salt. Bring mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce to simmer, and cook on low for 30-60 minutes. Serve with toppings. Or store in frig to serve later.

Cheesy Corn Chowder

FullSizeRenderMade from kitchen staples and some common vegetables, this soup goes together quick, and goes down the hatch even quicker. My son Mitchell says this is hands-down his favorite cold weather soup, and he’ll eat it for lunch every day until the whole batch is gone. Where did I find this winner of a recipe? I ripped a page out of a Woman’s Day magazine back in 1999 (hopefully it was my mag and not my dentist’s), and have been making it a dozen times a year ever since. It was listed as a budget-buster, and rang up at $1.08 per serving. Keep in mind, that was in ’99, but even with inflation or cost of living increase (or whatever means things costs more than they used to), you’ve still got a very affordable lunch or light supper. I like this recipe because it’s thick and creamy, and you get the results of a roux, without the trouble of making one. This is especially great paired with a toasted ham or turkey sandwich. OK, now I’m just making myself hungry…

3-4 strips bacon or 2 tablespoons butter
1 cup chopped yellow onion
2 cups chicken broth (from can or make with 2 bouillon cubes), or fresh chicken stock*
3 cups cubed potatoes, leaving skin on
1 cup diced carrots, peeling carrots first
1-2 cans (15 ounces) corn, drained (we like it extra corn-y, so I make it with 2 cans)
1 box (10 ounces) frozen, or 2 cups fresh chopped kale, optional
4 cups milk
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour or Namaste gluten-free flour blend (found at Costco)*
½ teaspoon salt
1½ cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Optional Garnish

1/4 cup sliced scallions

Fry bacon in Dutch oven until crispy. Drain on paper towels, then crumble and reserve for topping soup later. Drain all but 2-3 teaspoons bacon fat from pot. (If not using bacon, melt butter in bottom of Dutch oven and continue following directions.) Add onions to pot and sauté until tender. Add the chicken broth or stock, and potatoes, carrots, and kale (if using). Bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer. Cover and cook for 10-15 minutes, or until vegetables are tender. Add corn to pot.

In medium bowl, whisk together milk, flour, and salt until blended and smooth. Add to pot and return mixture to a boil. Reduce to medium, and gently boil and stir until mixture is slightly thickened, about 3 minutes. Add shredded cheddar and turn to low. Stir until cheese is melted. Serve with crumbled bacon, and scallions, if desired.

*NOTE: The last time I made this, I used the gluten-free flour blend and it worked perfectly. So while it’s not dairy-free, it can be gluten-free! If you want to skip the bacon and use vegetable stock instead of chicken, you’ve got yourself a vegetarian soup, too. But who wants to skip the bacon, for Pete’s sake?

Split Pea Soup

IMG_0775Some find the color off-putting. In fact, I almost posted this split pea soup recipe sans photo, as it isn’t likely to win any beauty contests (unless it could really nail the talent competition). But those who can get past the unappealing color are rewarded with a healthy, hearty, full-flavored soup. We have a pot of this in the frig at least once a month, making for an easy lunch at home or work. It doesn’t magically appear in the refrigerator, lest you think we have a shoemaker-and-the-elves situation in our kitchen. No, it takes a couple hours to make, but it’s not hands-on labor. You get it simmering, and let it be.

I used to only make this soup when I could beg the ham bone off my mother after she’d hosted Christmas or Easter dinners. Then I discovered most grocery stores carry ham shanks just for making soup. Who knew? Now I make this high-fiber soup outside of holiday seasons. Making it yourself means you can control the sodium, a problem with the canned varieties. Making it yourself also means you’re saving big bucks—this is another soup that figures in at about a buck a bowl. Budget buster…BAM!

If a gallon of soup is more than you can handle, no worries. This soup freezes really well. You can have some now, and save some for later. I usually give a quart to my son Justin, who lives on his own, or my co-worker Annette, who loves it as much as we do. Just spreading the love. Oh, and where’d I find this recipe? In my Better Homes & Gardens cookbook, copyright 1981. It’s the one where the homemakers are rockin’ really hot helmet hair-dos as they assemble Jell-O molds. 

Serves 8-10

1 pound bag dried green* split peas, rinsed and drained
8 cups water
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 cube chicken bouillon
1 teaspoon marjoram or summer savory
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 ham shank (or ham bone)
4-6 carrots, peeled and chopped
3-4 stalks celery, washed and chopped
salt and pepper to taste

In Dutch oven, combine dried peas, water, onion, bouillon, marjoram, pepper, and ham shank. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer. Cover and simmer for 1 hour. Stir occasionally. Remove ham bone and let cool. Add carrots and celery. Bring to boiling again, then reduce to simmer for additional 30 minutes. Once bone is cool enough to handle, remove meat and coarsely chop. Return meat to soup and season with additional salt and pepper, if necessary.

*NOTE: I once tried the yellow split peas, thinking it would be a fun change of pace. It was the most sickening shade of pale chartreuse I’ve ever seen. You practically had to close your eyes to eat it. Never again.

Italian Sausage, Butternut Squash, and Spinach Soup

IMG_1058Cooler weather ushers in soup season, and nothing warms you better than a bowl of this hearty and savory butternut squash and sausage soup. I got the recipe from Café Latte on Grand Avenue in St. Paul, Minnesota when the recipe was requested by one of my readers of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Had to scale it down to make it fit for home use, and it was well worth the effort. BTW, this recipe tastes way better than it looks—the spinach adds flavor, texture, and nutrients, but takes away from its visual appeal. But I’ve brought this to several people in need of meals, and they’ve always raved about the flavor, after they’ve said, “It didn’t look like it would be good…” And since it makes a monstrous batch, it’s helpful that it freezes well!

Serves 10-12

Large butternut squash, approx. 3 pounds
1–1½ pounds Italian sausage
1½ cups diced yellow onions
3–4 red potatoes, diced
1½ cups peeled and sliced carrots
1½ tablespoon fresh garlic, minced
1 can (14 oz.) diced tomatoes, undrained
1–1½ tablespoons dried basil
6–8 cups water
3 tablespoons vegetable or chicken soup base
3 cups frozen chopped spinach (16 oz. package)
1½ teaspoons salt or to taste
1½ teaspoons pepper or to taste

Preheat oven to 400° Fahrenheit. Cut butternut squash in half lengthwise. Lay cut side down in 9″x12″ glass baking dish. Add 1-inch water to pan. Bake in oven for 1 hour, or until squash is tender when pierced with a fork.

Meanwhile, cook sausage in fry pan until no longer pink. Set aside. In large Dutch oven or stock pot, sauté onions until translucent. Add diced potatoes, carrots, and garlic. Sauté until carrots are tender to the fork. Add tomatoes and basil. With heat on high, add 6 cups water and soup base, stirring to combine base. Bring to a boil.

Scoop out cooked squash and add to pot along with cooked sausage. Stir to combine. Once mixture returns to a boil, add spinach. Add salt and pepper to taste. Reduce to low and let soup simmer for 30 minutes or more. Add 1–2 cups more water if needed.

Black Bean Soup

Black Bean Rice Bowl IMG_0601You’ll yield a wonderful, slow-cooked flavor when you simmer this black bean soup on the stove top. This is a Saturday soup as it needs a few hours of simmering to soften the beans, but it’s totally worth the wait. Serve this over some über-healthy brown rice and it’s a whole meal. 

It makes a hearty batch—about a gallon—so you’ll have plenty leftover for lunch at the office, or dinner some night when you’re in a rush. I usually package up a quart to give to my son Justin who lives on his own, and he’s always thrilled to get this in his “mom” bag. Another plus to this recipe? It’s a budget buster. I think I figured this costs about a buck a bowl to make. As for the origins of this recipe, I got it from my girlfriend’s mother several years ago, and it’s scribbled on the back of a hockey practice schedule. I can’t tell you any more than that!

(My husband thinks I should have captioned this photo: “Husband starves to death while wife does photo shoot of his dinner for blog.” He’s fine, people, really, he’s just fine.)

Serves 8

1 pound dry black beans
1 teaspoon vinegar
1 ham shank or meaty ham bone
1 yellow onion, chopped
¾ cup celery, chopped
½ to 1 green pepper, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 can (15 ounce) tomato sauce
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon oregano
1 cup brown rice, cooked according to package directions
Sour cream (optional)

Cover the black beans with cold water in large Dutch oven, and soak overnight. Drain and rinse beans, then add fresh water to 1-inch above beans. Bring beans to a boil, then add vinegar and ham shank or bone. Reduce to simmer and cook for 2 hours.

Remove ham shank or bone from soup and set on plate to cool. In sauté pan on medium heat, cook onions until translucent. Add celery and green pepper, and cook until tender. Add garlic and cook a minute more. Add tomato sauce, salt, pepper, cumin, and oregano and stir to combine. Stir vegetable mixture into cooked beans. Return heat to high and bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer, and cook another hour with cover cracked open to allow steam to escape. Soup should reduce down and thicken as it cooks.

Remove as much meat as possible from the ham bone and shred. Add meat to soup and stir to combine. Serve over cooked brown rice. If desired, top with sour cream.