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Chef's Hat: Warm up this fall with a homemade soup

Try these recipes for Cheesy Broccoli Soup with Chicken and Sausage Soup with Vegetables and Tortellini

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Photo illustration / Shutterstock.com
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With temperatures dropping and grocery store prices increasing, now is the perfect time to start cooking your own homemade soups.

Making soup from scratch is not as easy as opening a can; but it is not a difficult culinary venture. Soup can be quite simple – a bit of broth and a few vegetables, using mostly whatever you have on hand.

While you can just throw some liquid into a pan, add some vegetables and a bit of chicken or beef, your soup might not turn out to be an appetizing dish. A little thought beforehand, and you can have an award-winning soup at your fingertips.

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So what's the trick to a mouth-watering dish? Following a few simple rules will make your homemade soup a dish your family will crave.

  • Begin with a broth or stock base. You can purchase a broth or stock at the store or make your own. There is a difference between a broth and a stock. Broth is a liquid in which proteins (chicken, vegetables, etc.) have been added. A stock is slow cooking of bones (chicken, turkey or beef) and creates a rich, savory flavor. The best turkey soup I ever made used a stock that I made from slowly simmering turkey bones. But it was a very time-consuming task.
  • Vegetables add a lot of flavor and, of course, a large amount of vitamins and nutrients. If using fresh vegetables, cut them into bite-sized pieces, and cut them into about the same size so they will cook evenly.
  • A delicious soup is built on adding flavors. Begin with sauteing onions, carrots and celery in a bit of olive oil or butter. This will enhance the soup's overall flavor.
  • Most soups use a variety of ingredients. You need to consider the cooking time for each one. For example, a pea will cook much quicker than a chunk of carrot. The cooking time for various ingredients will have to be staggered so everything is finished at the same time, and items are not undercooked or mushy.
  • When preparing the actual soup, sauté the vegetables first and then put them into a pot with liquids. The heat should be brought to a boil and then reduced to a simmer. The soup should be left at a simmer while it finishes the cooking process. If boiling the soup too vigorously, the meat can become tough and the vegetables mushy.

A homemade soup can be fairly simple – start with your base, some kind of broth or stock. Saute a handful of vegetables, such as onions, carrots and celery – or whatever your imagination desires. Place everything together into a stock pot, add some chicken, beef or pork and a few seasonings and let the soup simmer.

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Once you have the basics, then it's time to jump into recipes that are a bit more complex. Broccoli Cheese Soup is a knockoff from a chain restaurant. It is not a hard recipe to master, but there are a few steps that need to be followed.

Once the soup is cooked, you can run it through a food processor if you want a creamy type soup. However, you can also lightly mash the broccoli with a potato masher and the various tastes will meld together, though without that smooth, creamy appearance.

Sausage Tortellini Soup is a great way to warm up on a chilly day. If you want more of a bite, you can use a spicier sausage. This soup makes great leftovers, but as it has pasta in it, it is not an ideal soup to freeze because the pasta can turn into mush once frozen.

Forget about grabbing a can of soup off the shelves at your local store. Pack a few more items into your grocery cart and you can easily whip up your own batch of homemade soup and even customize it to your particular taste.

It won't be as fast as opening a can, but it will be much more satisfying. Happy Eating!

Cheesy Broccoli Soup with Chicken

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Homemade Cheesy Broccoli Soup with Chicken can be made with ingredients you may have on hand at home.
Donna Evans / Echo Journal Correspondent

  • 1 large head of broccoli
  • ¼ cup butter
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 carrots, cut into small strips
  • 1 celery stalk, cut into thin pieces
  • 1 teaspoon jarred garlic
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 cups chicken or vegetable broth (or stock)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon summery savory (or you can use thyme, parsley or oregano)
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • ¼ cup shredded Parmesan cheese (for topping)
  • 1 cup cooked chicken, shredded (this can be left out)

Rinse the broccoli. Cut the florets off and discard the stalks. Cut florets into evenly sized pieces.

Place a stock pot (or large pot that can hold all of the liquids) onto the stove and turn the heat to medium. Add the butter. Once the butter melts, add the onion and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, just until the onion starts to get tender. Add the carrots, celery and garlic and stir well. Cook for about 10-15 minutes, until the vegetables are slightly softened.

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Add the ¼ cup flour and stir continually until the flour is mixed in and slightly browned. This should take 3 to 5 minutes. Slowly add the broth, making sure to stir well so the flour is thoroughly mixed into the broth.

Lightly season with salt and pepper. Add the broccoli and turn the heat to simmer. Cook until the broccoli is tender, approximately 20 to 25 minutes. Once tender the soup can be run through a food processor (if desired) or lightly mash the broccoli with a potato masher. Once you have the consistency you desire (using the potato masher or food processor), add the milk to the soup and mix well.

Add the cheese and mix well. Continue cooking over low heat until the cheese melts. Add the shredded chicken and the summer savory. Taste, and if desired add additional salt and pepper.

Place the soup into individual serving bowls. Sprinkle the Parmesan cheese over the top of each bowl.

Sausage Soup with Vegetables & Tortellini

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Photo illustration / Shutterstock.com

  • 1 pound ground Italian sausage (you can use a mild or hot sausage or turkey sausage)
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 2 carrots, peeled and cut into matchstick-sized pieces
  • 2 teaspoons jarred garlic
  • 2 cubes beef bouillon
  • 3 cups beef broth
  • 2 tablespoons Italian seasoning
  • ¼ cup flour
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • 3 cups milk (you can also use cream or half and half for a richer soup)
  • 12 ounces of cheese tortellini
  • Shredded Parmesan cheese (if desired)
  • Fresh parsley leaves (if desired)

In a stock pot (or large cooking pan), cook the sausage. Drain off most of the grease. Add the onion, celery, carrots and garlic into the browned sausage. Cook until the vegetables are slightly softened, about 10 to 15 minutes.

Add the beef bouillon cubes, beef broth and Italian seasoning and mix well. Turn the heat down to a simmer, cover and simmer for 30 to 60 minutes. Skim any fat off the top of the broth.

Add the flour to ¼ cup water and mix well. Add the mixture to the broth and mix well. This will slightly thicken the soup. Season with the salt and pepper.

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Add the milk (or cream) and mix. Let simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. Add the tortellini and turn the heat to low. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes, just until the tortellini is cooked and the soup is slightly thickened. If you desire a thicker soup, you can add another tablespoon or two of flour at this stage. (Remove some liquid from the pot, add the flour and mix and then return the flour-water mix to the soup and stir it in well.)

Spoon ample amounts of soup into serving bowls. Top with the Parmesan cheese and parsley.

Donna Evans is an Echo Journal correspondent.

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