Souper-Duper

If you’re hungry for a home-cooked dish but basically all cooked out after the holidays, consider whipping up a big batch of soup. These liquid meals are one-pot wonders that you can usually put together pretty quickly, easily make enough to freeze for later and clean up in a jiffy. While there are almost endless options to choose from, below are two healthful favorites. Both are versatile, so you can add or delete ingredients to suit your tastes (and what’s currently in your fridge and pantry), and both are sure to deliver the soothing comfort that comes from cradling a hot bowl in your hands and slurping savory sips from your spoon. If it’s nice and chilly outside, soup will warm you from the inside out. And, if we happen to be suffering through a mid-winter hot streak (as we sometimes do in Alabama), just crank up the AC and stick with your soup plans!

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Winter Minestrone

The soup is a heartier rendition of a classic Italian recipe. You can add or delete any veggies you like and even sub meatballs for the sausage and ground beef or leave out meat completely. The two things you can’t mess with are the pancetta and the Parmesan rind. Without these ingredients, this soup will fall flat. Oh, and if you don’t gobble it up all at once, it’s even better the next day.

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup shredded carrots
  • 3 to 4 small sweet peppers, chopped
  • 3 ounces thinly sliced pancetta, coarsely chopped
  • ½ pound ground beef
  • ½ pound spicy Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 pound Swiss chard, kale or collards stems trimmed, leaves coarsely chopped
  • 1 (14 1/2-ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 fresh rosemary sprig
  • 2  (15-ounce) cans cannellini beans, drained, rinsed
  • 2 (14-ounce) cans beef broth
  • 1 ounce piece Parmesan cheese rind
  • Salt and pepper

NOTE: Remember to save the rind next time you use up a wedge (or block of Parmesan) so you’ll have it for this recipe. Just put it in a ziplock bag and stash it in the freezer. It will be good there for 6 to 8 months.

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Sweet Potato Soup

Even if you think you don’t like sweet potatoes, you should try this soup. Its creamy texture, the pop of ginger and crispy, crunchy  toppings make it a satisfying dish that balances sweet potatoes’ natural sweetness with spice and smoke.

  • 5 cups sweet potatoes, chopped (about 3 medium potatoes)
  • 4 slices of bacon, diced
  • 1/2 cup diced shallots
  • 1 tablespoon diced jalapeno
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3.5 cups chicken stock or broth
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/3 cup half and half

In a large, heavy pot, boil the sweet potatoes in water until fork tender, about 10 minutes. Drain and set aside. In the same pot, cook the bacon until crisp. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and place on paper towels to drain. Add the shallots to the bacon grease and cook over medium heat until tender. Add the chopped pepper and garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add potatoes and the chicken broth and simmer for 20 minutes. Use an immersion blender to blend the mixture until creamy. If you don’t have an immersion blender, carefully transfer the mixture to a blender, blend until smooth and return to the pot. Add the chili powder, cumin, salt and ginger and cook 10 minutes. Stir in the cream and remove from heat. Serve topped with a dollop of sour cream, the bacon bits and crispy shallots (see method below).

Crispy Shallots

  • 3 to 4 shallots, sliced into thin rings
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil or vegetable oil

In a large skillet, heat the oil on medium-low heat and add the shallots, spreading them out into one layer in the pan. Cook them slowly and stir often. Do not be tempted to turn up the heat. The shallots will burn before you know it! Once they are golden brown, place them on a paper-towel-lined plate to drain and sprinkle them with salt.