Category Archives: Soups

Tortilla Soup

Since the winter storm warnings keep coming, I think it’s time for another soup.  I know some very picky eaters who claim not to like tomatoes but devour this Tortilla Soup.  I promise to take a nice long break from soups when the weather warms up.  But until then, here’s another favorite…

Difficulty:  Easy

2 tablespoons butter or Smart Balance

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 quart chicken stock

2 cans Italian style stewed tomatoes

1 cup Pace Picante Sauce (I prefer mild)

2 cans black beans, drained

1 tube frozen white cream style corn

1 16-ounce bag frozen white shoe peg corn, loose pack

1/2 cup chopped cilantro

Serve with:

diced Monterey Jack Cheese (or cheddar if you prefer)

sour cream

Tostitos or Fritos


I’m the worst about jumping into a recipe head first without reading it all the way through and preparing things before starting.  This causes some hectic moments where things cook longer than intended while I furiously chop or wash or pull my food processor out of its hiding place.  So here are some things you might find helpful to prepare first…

Up to a day ahead:  Move the tube of cream style corn to the refrigerator.  It will be much more cooperative (read:  quick to break up in the soup) if it’s defrosted a little before you start cooking.

When you’re ready to start:  Put on an apron or something you don’t care about getting splattered.  There are lots of splatter opportunities as you pour these ingredients into the soup.  Open all of the cans (tomatoes and beans), and drain the black beans.  I’m not a perfectionist about getting ALL of the liquid out of the black bean cans.  Also, this day I could only find a family size (24-ounce) pack of white shoepeg corn, so I did not use the entire bag.


Whirl the tomatoes in the food processor until there are no chunks bigger than you would like to encounter in your soup.  I like to get rid of all of the chunks.

a sort of dark picture of the tomatoes before processing them to bits
another dark picture – this time after running the food processor

Mince the garlic.  If you get frustrated trying to separate the cloves of a garlic bud, try this trick:  place the garlic bud on the counter and put the side of a big chopping knife on top of it (blade of knife is parallel with the counter).  Hit the knife with the heel of your hand, and voila!, the bud will shatter into several cloves.


Saute garlic in butter and add cumin, stirring until cumin is spread throughout and heated through.


Add chicken stock, tomatoes, and Picante Sauce.  Bring to a boil and add tube of frozen corn.


If the cream style corn is coming straight from the freezer, it will take awhile to get the corn fully defrosted and blended through the soup.  Once it’s blended, add the loose corn and black beans.  Continue to heat on the stovetop for a little while to heat the corn and beans and to let the flavors blend.


Five minutes before serving, add the chopped cilantro.  You may not want to use an entire half cup of cilantro, so go easy and taste before you add all of it.  Also, when I’m giving this soup away, I just leave the cilantro out and deliver the soup with a bunch of fresh cilantro to be added to the taste of the recipient when it’s reheated .

Into soup bowls, drop tiny diced Monterey Jack cheese.  Ladle hot soup over cheese and serve with Tostitos or Fritos to crumble on top.  The diced cheese makes melty cheesy puddles in the bottom of the bowl – delicious!  Sour cream makes a nice garnish too.


The Story:  When my parents are dieting, this soup makes regular appearances at dinnertime.  They use Smart Balance, skip the sour cream, and limit the Monterey Jack and Tostitos.  When my dad was on his major diet a few years ago, he lost 40 pounds, so that’s a pretty good recommendation to me!


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Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

Here’s another warm soup for this cold January weather.  I like this Chicken and Wild Rice Soup because the flavor is simple and an old favorite – who doesn’t like chicken and rice?  It’s creamy but not at all thick… unless you leave it on the stove for awhile, in which case it will thicken up.  This soup is one of my go-tos for serving a crowd.  The recipe makes just under 4 quarts, so there is plenty to share.

Difficulty:  Medium

This recipe has several steps and some chopping, and it uses a very thin white sauce.  The steps aren’t difficult, but it does take a few hours to make this soup.

Source:  My sister (the graham cracker sister, as a friend called her after reading the story from the Graham Cracker Crust recipe)

1/4 cup olive oil

1/2 cup butter

1 cup sliced carrots

3/4 cup sliced celery

3/4 cup chopped onion (Recipe calls for sweet yellow or Vidalia, but I use frozen chopped onions to avoid the eye-burning, teary disaster that occurs when I chop onions.  Plus, using frozen onions cuts down on the chopping.)

2 quarts chicken broth

2 chicken bouillon cubes (or soup starter)

1 6-ounce package of long grain and wild rice mix such as Uncle Ben’s original (not quick cooking) with herbs

8 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced (baby bella and portabella are my favorites)

1/2 cup all purpose flour

1 quart milk (I use 1%, but whatever you usually buy should be fine)

1-1 1/2 teaspoons salt (If you’re someone like me who tends to add salt to things, go with 1 1/2.)

3 cups chopped cooked chicken (two pounds of chicken tenders should yield more than you need)

Saute chicken tenders until just done.  Then cool and slice.


Put in refrigerator – the chicken will be added at the very end of the process.

Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in stock pot over low to medium heat.  Add the carrots, celery, and onion.


Saute for about 10-15 minutes or until the onions are tender.  The carrots and celery will continue to soften throughout the rest of the process.


Stir in the broth, bouillon cubes, wild rice mix, and seasoning packet.



Simmer for 30-40 minutes or until rice is tender.

Meanwhile, in a small skillet, saute the mushrooms in a little butter or oil until tender.



Make a white sauce:  Heat 2 cups of the milk in the microwave for a couple of minutes until hot but not boiling.  In a medium saucepan, melt 1/2 cup of butter over low heat and whisk in flour.


Gradually pour in milk while whisking.

This shows the flour/butter/milk after the first cup of milk has been whisked into the mixture.

Add salt.  Add remaining milk and stir constantly until thickened.  As you stir, make sure you are scraping all around the bottom of the pan to prevent a faster cooking layer developing on the bottom.

I stopped mixing long enough to take this picture, and then I changed to a flat edged wooden spoon for better coverage of the bottom of the pan.

Add white sauce, mushrooms and chopped chicken to the rice mixture and stir, cooking just until thickened to the level you desire.


I like this soup fairly thin, so I do not leave it on the stovetop very long.  If you’re serving a crowd and have the soup sitting on the burner for awhile, it will thicken as it sits.  The higher the heat, the faster the thickening occurs.  Serve with toasted bread.


If you’re not serving immediately, separate into a few containers for faster cooling.  Refrigerate once it has cooled.  This soup keeps well in the refrigerator for a few days and freezes well too.  I have served this at gatherings in the past couple of years, and it’s always a favorite.



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Potato Soup

Creamy soup is so appealing to me in this cold weather.  So here’s one of my favorites – Potato Soup.  Potato Soup is a great comfort-food soup that doesn’t take long to make.  It works great to make it ahead and add the cream just before serving.

Difficulty:  Easy (as long as you have a blender or food processor)

5 cups potatoes, peeled and diced

1 tablespoon salt

7 cups water

3 cups leeks, thinly sliced

1 cup cream, sour cream, or low fat yogurt

Cut leeks lengthwise first and check for dirt.  Then cut in thin slices across the stalk.  Use only white and pale green parts of the leeks.  Soak in plenty of water to get all the dirt out of the crevices.  When ready to make soup, swish leeks around in the water and lift them out so that the water drains away.  Dirt stays in the bottom of the bowl.


Peel and dice the potatoes early in the day and put in bowl of water to keep them from turning brown.


Simmer potatoes and leeks in 7 cups salted water for 30-45 minutes, until potatoes break apart when speared with a fork and leeks no longer make a crunching sound when cut with the side of a fork.


Put leeks and potatoes into blender or food processor to puree.  I used an immersion blender (leaving the potatoes/leeks in the water), which is fast, easy, and makes for significantly less bowl washing.  Return pureed potato/leek mixture to liquid if you used a blender or food processor.


If you are not serving the soup immediately, refrigerate after it cools a bit.  When ready to serve, reheat and add about 1 cup cream, sour cream, or low fat plain yogurt.  Stir to blend, then serve.

Potato Soup

The Story:  Potato Soup is our family’s traditional Christmas Eve dinner, as it is easy to reheat after the Christmas Eve service and perfect for a cold night.  We serve it with grilled cheeses made on homemade bread and then get straight to work on last minute gift wrapping!

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