Home Cooking: Vibrant, hearty winter soups (column)
When mid-winter hits, we need colorful, vibrant, vegetable-forward soups to remind us that spring is around the corner, even if that actually means spring skiing rather than spring flowers.
Which is why I love these gorgeous, healthy soups that are mostly vegetarian and incredibly easy to make — in fact most of these recipes require little more than adding ingredients to your slow cooker, which leaves you more time to get outside and enjoy our gorgeous Colorado mountains. What could be better than a bowl of soup after a day of biking, hiking or skiing? The bright colors will have you renewing your CSA membership or browsing through seed catalogues.
Slow cooker Butternut Kale Curry
2 quarts chicken stock
3 14 oz cans RoTel fireroasted tomatoes with green chiles
1 14 oz can Garbanzo (chickpeas) beans
3-4 cups butternut squash cut into small cubes
1 14 oz can Coconut milk
1 10 oz bag frozen mirepoix mix (chopped onion, celery and carrots)
1 bunch kale
1 1/2 tablespoons curry powder
1 tablespoon Turmeric
Salt and pepper to taste
Add all the ingredients to a slow cooker, turn on high for 1.5-2 hours, or low for 4 hours. Taste and adjust seasoning to suit your palate. A pinch of red pepper flakes will add a nice touch of heat.
Smoky Tomato Soup
In my mind, nothing caps a snowy day better than curling up in front of the fire with a good book, a cup of tea and this wonderful soup and sandwich combo.
Once you taste the depth that smoked paprika and alderwood smoked salt add to this super easy tomato soup and the richness of the butter and half and half, all for less cost than buying a can of soup… well, you’ll never visit the soup aisle of the grocery store again. I promise.
2 lbs ripe tomatoes or 1 – 32oz can whole fire-roasted tomatoes
1 medium sweet onion
6 tablespoons butter
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon alderwood smoked salt
Dash ground red pepper
1/4 cup half and half
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Cut tomatoes into quarters and the onion into chunks and butter into slices. Add all to saucepan and cook on medium-low heat. Allow to cook for 15-20 minutes until the onions soften and the tomatoes reduced to mush. (You could also use a slow cooker.)
2. Add in seasonings. Stir. Then using an immersion blender, blend until the tomato soup reaches the chunky or smooth consistency that you desire.
3. Gently fold in the half and half and bring to desired heat again. Taste and adjust seasonings.
4. If you’re feeling so inclined, finish with a dollop of pesto and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
Serve with your favorite grilled cheese sandwich or with an oven-melted pita pepper jack cheese sandwich.
Rustic Chicken Meatball Soup with Kale and White Beans
This is my one of my favorite slow cooker soup-stews and so simple to make! You can literally throw in the ingredients, turn on your slow cooker and come home to a delicious rustic stew that your entire family will love.
3 carrots quartered and diced
1 shallot or small onion diced
1 small bunch lacinato kale chopped into bite-sized pieces
2 or 3 cloves of garlic – finely diced
2 bay leaves
1 2-3 inch rind of parmesan cheese
2 or 3 15 oz cans of canelini or navy white beans drained and rinsed
Grating of fresh nutmeg to taste
1 package of your favorite pre-made chicken meatballs or if you want a spicier soup: take 1/2 pound of fresh chorizo ground pork, form into little meatballs and add them to the soup. They will cook with everything else.
Two quarts of low sodium chicken stock
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup of cream or half-and-half to finish
Pesto (homemade or jarred) to garnish soup
My quick food processor version of Pistou/Pesto:
1 bunch basil
1 handful walnuts
1 clove garlic
2 – 3 tablespoons olive oil
salt to taste
1. Combine all but the last two ingredients (the cream and the pesto) in your slow cooker. Turn on low and let cook for 4-6 hours, or on high for two hours.
2. At the end of the cooking, you can give some of the beans a mash with a potato masher or emersion blender to give the soup more body. Then, add in cream before serving. Garnish each bowl of soup with a dollop of pesto and serve with crusty bread.
Hot and Sour Soup – Vegan or Not
The other day I had the pleasure of having a bowl of hot and sour soup at our local soup store. It was delicious and the first time I’d had this soup outside of a Chinese restaurant. It turns out that it couldn’t be easier, especially making it with a slow cooker. Making it at home also allows you to control the ingredients and spice. Best of all, it’s very easy. You’ll notice that I’ve used “to taste” quite a bit, because this soup really is to taste. So, taste frequently as you go along.
Into a medium size slow cooker add:
One green cabbage chopped into small pieces
Two pints of mixed mushrooms
One 14 oz block of extra firm tofu
Vegetable or chicken stock or water to fill the slow cooker after ingredients have been added
Low sodium soy sauce to taste
Rice vinegar to taste
Ground hot pepper to taste
Ground black pepper
Set slow cooker to low and let it go for 4-6 hours.
At the end of the cooking time, taste and adjust seasoning again.
Broccoli Soup for Grownups
Cheese then wine. I found this combination elevates broccoli cheese soup to a perfect weeknight light dinner for grownups. Enjoy with a glass of the same wine you use in the soup.
4 Tablespoons butter
1 medium onion diced
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups half and half
2 cups milk
1 lb broccoli florets
2 cups grated gruyere cheese
1/4 cup white wine
2 garlic cloves minced
Grated nutmeg, salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper to taste
Serve in bread ‘bowls’
1. Gently sauté onion in butter for 2-3 minutes until tender. Sprinkle in flour and continue to cook for 2-3 minutes until flour is cooked.
2. Add milk and half and half, stir for one minute. Add broccoli florets, nutmeg, salt, pepper and pinch of cayenne. Cover and allow to simmer for 20-30 minutes until broccoli is tender.
3. While soup is simmering, cut the tops off of the bread bowl, scoop most of the bread out of the interior, so that you have an ‘empty’ bowl to hold the soup.
4. Stir in wine and gruyere cheese. Taste and adjust seasonings to your personal taste. Let wine and cheese meld with the milk and broccoli. If you like your broccoli incorporated into the soup: Use an immersion blender, regular blender or food processor to chop the broccoli to your desired consistency. At this point you can also thin the soup with more milk or more wine.
5. Pour the soup into the bread bowl, garnish with grated parmesan and fresh basil leaves.
Suzanne Anderson is the author of “Love in a Time of War” and other books. You can reach her at Suzanne@suzanneelizabeths.com or facebook.com/suzanneelizabeths.
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