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Time to break out the soup pot

Each year when the weather turns chilly, I break out the soup pot and gather my favorite soup, stew and chowder recipes. It seems there is nothing more comforting, and mouth-watering, than a pot of soup simmering on the stove.

There are hundreds of recipes and no matter a person’s preferences there’s a soup for everyone. I like my soup thick and chunky, loaded with goodness like little meatballs, tiny pasta and an array of vegetables. Is it any wonder Italian Wedding Soup is a favorite of many a soup connoisseur?

If I’m looking to spice things up a soup with southwest flavor is my go-to. Delicious Southwestern Ground Beef Stew goes together with little more than a few clicks of the can opener, a few spices, ground beef and a diced onion. Easy, cheesy, ole!

For creamy comfort what could be better than a soup that tastes like a favorite summer sandwich — the BLT? Bacon, lettuce and tomato in a creamed chicken broth topped with a mayo dressing and more crispy bacon is heaven in a bowl.

So as the seasons change, take comfort in sweatshirts, sweaters and a hot bowl of soup.

Italian

Wedding Soup

Meatballs:

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/4 cup dry bread crumbs

1 T. minced parsley

2 T. milk

4 garlic cloves, minced

4 tsps. grated onion

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. pepper

1/2 tsp. grated lemon peel

1 1/2 pounds ground chicken

Soup:

2 T. olive oil

4 medium carrots, chopped

4 ribs celery, chopped

2 small onions, chopped

6 garlic cloves, minced

4 (26-ounce each) cartons chicken stock or homemade

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. pepper

1 1/2 cups acini di pepe pasta

2 (10-ounce) packages frozen spinach or fresh spinach

Grated Parmesan cheese for garnish

Directions: For meatballs, combine first 10 ingredients in large bowl. Add chicken and mix lightly, but thoroughly. Shape into 1-inch or smaller balls, as desired.

For soup, heat oil in large stockpot over medium-high heat. Add carrots, celery and onions; cook 6 to 8 minutes till onions are tender. Add garlic and cook 1 minute longer.

Stir in stock, salt and pepper; bring to a boil. Drop meatballs into soup and cook, uncovered 10 minutes. Gently stir in pasta and cook another 10 to 12 minutes, or till meatballs are cooked through and the pasta is tender. Stir in spinach.

Serve soup topped with Parmesan cheese. Serves 12.

Southwest Ground Beef Stew

1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef

2 T. cooking oil

1 large onion, chopped

2 (14.5-ounce) cans diced tomatoes, undrained

1 (16-ounce) package frozen corn

1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained

1 (14.5-ounce) can chicken broth

1 (10-ounce) can diced tomatoes and green chilies, undrained

1 tsp. garlic powder

1 1/2 tsps. salt-free Southwest chipotle seasoning blend or taco seasoning

1 1/2 cups cooked rice

1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Sour cream, optional for garnish

Tortilla strips for dunking

Directions: In large soup pot cook beef and onion in oil over medium heat till no longer pink; drain.

Stir in all tomatoes, black beans, corn, broth, garlic powder and seasoning blend. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; cover and simmer 1 hour. Stir in cooked rice; heat through.

Serve in bowls topped with cheese and a dollop of sour cream with tortilla strips on the side. Serves 11.

BLT Soup

3 strips bacon, cut into small dice, cooked till crisp, for garnish

5 strips bacon, cut into small dice

1/2 cup diced green onions, white and green parts

2 T. butter

3 1/2 cups iceberg lettuce, julienned

1/2 cup instant flour (Wondra)

3 1/2 cups homemade or canned chicken broth, heated to a simmer

1 cup diced fresh Roma tomatoes or canned

1/8 tsp. nutmeg

1/8 tsp. ground red pepper

1 cup heavy cream

1/4 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup sour cream

Directions: In 3-quart pot, cook 3 slices bacon over medium heat till crisp. Remove from pot with slotted spoon and drain on paper towels; set aside for garnish.

Add remaining 5 slices diced bacon to pot and cook till lightly browned. Add onions and cook, stirring till wilted. Add butter and stir till melted. Add lettuce and saute 2 minutes. Sprinkle flour into pot, stirring constantly till well blended.

Remove pot from heat and slowly add hot broth, stirring constantly to prevent lumps. Stir in tomatoes, nutmeg and red pepper. Return pot to stove and heat soup to boiling, stirring constantly, then reduce heat to low and simmer gently 5 minutes. Add cream and mix well.

In small bowl combine mayonnaise and sour cream. Serve soup in bowls garnished with a dollop of the mayonnaise mixture and topped with crumbled bacon. Serves 8.

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