Warm up January days with steaming bowls of homemade soup

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Photo by Ann Cipperly Vegetable Soup with Beans goes together quickly and makes a hearty soup for lunch or dinner. You can use ground turkey or ground beef in the easy recipe.

By Ann Cipperly

Steaming, comforting bowls of soup are welcome on chilly January days. While soup is on the menu throughout the year, January is the most popular time for soup at our home. Whether creamy, thick or chunky, soup can be a meal in itself or served with bread, salad or sandwich.

On busy days working at an office or at home, having a batch of soup simmering in a slow cooker makes for a blissful supper. Soup freezes well, and it is great to have a batch tucked away in the freezer to thaw in the microwave and heat.

Vegetable soup is popular, and there are many versions to suit any taste. My mother made a simple recipe by boiling stew beef for a couple of hours, then adding a can of tomatoes and chopped potatoes to simmer for another hour.

We lived in a drafty old house with space heaters that didn’t provide much heat. It was only warm in front of the heaters, but we had to be careful not to scorch our clothes. No wonder Mom’s  hot soup was my favorite during winter months.

Our home now has three heating units, but our living room has 18-foot or maybe higher ceilings with towering windows, which makes it difficult to keep the room warm.  When I am sitting in this room reading, it reminds me my family’s home growing up. I start to think how wonderful a bowl of soup would be for supper.

Soup is one of the oldest known foods. It is believed to have been created by cooking animal bones. In the Middle Ages, soup became popular in villages, and it was an easy way to serve large groups of people.

Soup is one of the most varied foods, as it can range from clear broths to hearty stews or creamy chowders.

Broth is the liquid from boiling chicken, beef, fish or vegetables. It can be eaten as a clear soup or form the base for other soups, such as chicken noodle, chicken and rice and others.

A small cup of broth can be an elegant start to a meal. When I traveled with Don on his work trips and had lunch on my own, I would look for a Neiman-Marcus store to have lunch in their restaurant. It was generally filled with ladies who had been shopping.

The menu featured items that appeal to their lady customers, such as their chicken salad, which was popular (I was glad to get the recipes for the broth and  salad!). Whatever was ordered, a demitasse cup of hot chicken broth was served before the entrée.

I thought the hot, flavorful broth was soothing to relax and unwind. It added an elegant touch to the meal.  

While vegetable soup is my favorite for lunch at home, Don prefers creamy soup or chowders. His favorite is Crab Bisque made from a recipe Bobbie Umbach shared years ago. I have adapted it some by making a white sauce with half and half, but it can be prepared with milk. Canned crab can be used, but if you can find fresh, it will be better.

Kim Hudson shared her Crab and Corn Bisque a few years ago. It is even easier to prepare.   Kim uses two cans of potato soup as the base for this delectable creamy soup. 

Fresh crab is one of those foods that Chef Kevin Rathbun would have on the menu of his Atlanta restaurant as being “second mortgage plates.” Generally, I don’t like to share recipes for expensive dishes, but canned crab can be found at a reasonable price. 

Jennifer Faircloth also uses cream of potato soup for an easy Crawfish or Shrimp Soup. Jennifer and her husband, Mark, lived on the Gulf coast before moving to Opelika a few years ago. Now that shrimp is available at grocery stores, this would be a delicious soup to serve your family for something different.      

Another excellent choice for shrimp soup is Havlin Wise’s Shrimp J. Michael’s soup. After Frances Blackburn and her husband, Art, returned from being missionaries in Ecuador, I visited Frances for the recipes she cooked while living there. She included this recipe too, saying it was their favorite. Our friend, Havlin, managed to get the recipe from J. Michael’s Restaurant in Panama City, Florida.  

Whether you prefer a creamy or hearty soup, look over the following excellent recipes (on the next page) from some of Opelika’s good cooks. These recipes will become favorites at your house too! Stay safe and warm!

Ann Cipperly can be reached at recipes@cipperly.com.

Crab Bisque

Bobbie Umbach

1 cup minced celery

2 Tbsp. butter

2 cups white sauce, recipe follows

1 can (14 oz.) chicken broth

1/3 cup dry sherry

1 lb. lump crab (can use canned)

Salt and pepper to taste

In a saucepan, sauté celery in butter until tender. Stir in cream sauce and chicken broth. Add sherry and cook over heat until the mixture bubbles. Gently fold in crabmeat. Simmer two to three minutes and season to taste.  Serves 6. Easy to double.

White Sauce

2 Tbsp. butter

2 Tbsp. flour

2 cups half and half (can use milk)

Melt butter; stir in flour until blended. Add half and half stirring constantly until it bubbles.

Crab and Corn Bisque

Kim Hudson

½ cup butter, melted

½ cup chopped celery

½ cup chopped green onions

¼ cup chopped green pepper

2 cans cream of potato soup

1 can creamed corn

1 can corn

1½ cups half and half

1½ cups milk

2 bay leaves

½ tsp. dried thyme

1/8 tsp. hot sauce

1 lb. crabmeat

Sauté celery, green onions and pepper in butter.

Add potato soup, corn, half and half, milk baby leaves, thyme and pepper.

Cook until thoroughly heated. Gently stir in crab.

Discard bay leaves before serving.

Crawfish or Shrimp Soup

Jennifer Faircloth

1 onion, diced

Minced garlic to taste

1 stick butter

Two pkg. (12-14 oz. each) fresh or frozen raw crawfish tails or shrimp, peeled without tails, deveined

Two 14 oz. cans cream style corn

Two 12 oz. cans evaporated milk

3 cans Campbell’s cream of potato soup

Creole seasonings, such as Tony Charchere’s

Sauté onion and garlic in butter. Add remaining ingredients. Heat on low to medium for 1 hour. Can place in crock-pot.

Makes  6 to 8 servings. 

Havlin Wise’s  Shrimp J. Michael

Frances Blackburn

¼ cup chopped green onions

¼ cup chopped bell pepper

¼ cup chopped celery

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 Tbsp. olive oil

2 cans cream of celery soup

2 cans cream of mushroom soup

1-2 cans water

¼ cup Rotel tomatoes

½ Tbsp. black pepper

½ Tbsp. curry powder

½ Tbsp. seasoning salt

2 lb. peeled, uncooked shrimp

Sauté onions, pepper, celery and garlic in olive oil.  Add remaining ingredients, except shrimp, and simmer 20 minutes.  Add shrimp and cook 4 minutes.

Serve over rice and have extra Rotel tomatoes at table. Serves 8.

Neiman Marcus Chicken Broth

Serve as a first course in demitasse cups.

5 lbs. mixed chicken parts (from 2 fryers)

2 cups coarsely chopped celery

1 cup peeled and chopped carrots

2 cups onion wedges

3 garlic cloves

5 black peppercorns

1 dried bay leaf

3 fresh thyme sprigs

1 bunch fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley stems only

2 chicken bouillon cubes, crumbled

Rinse chicken pieces under cold running water and place in a heavy-bottomed stockpot. Add celery, carrots, onions, garlic, peppercorns, bay leaf, thyme, parsley and bouillon powder. Add about 1-gallon cold water or enough to cover the ingredients by about 2 inches.

Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, turn down heat to medium-low, and let simmer for 3 or 4 hours; skim surface occasionally to remove fat and impurities. Partially cover the pot with a lid but do not let stock cook above a slow simmer; this ensures a clean stock.

Pass stock through a fine-mesh strainer into a clean saucepan and skim again.

Easy Weeknight Vegetable Soup

Becky Brown

1 lb. ground beef

1 chopped onion

2 cans diced tomatoes

1 can water

12 oz. can tomato juice or V8

2 beef bouillon cubes

Salt and pepper

1 pkg. frozen vegetables (I use the gumbo mix with okra)

Macaroni noodles

Brown ground beef and onions. Drain excess fat.  Add all other ingredients and simmer about 1 hour.

Chicken Noodle Soup

Dena Haynes

1 whole (2 split) chicken breasts, bone in, skin on

Olive oil

Kosher salt

Freshly ground pepper

2 quarts chicken stock (homemade is best)

1 cup medium-diced celery

1 cup medium-sliced carrots

2 cups wide egg noodles

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley 

Preheat oven to 350. Place chicken on sheet pan; rub skin with olive oil and season generously with salt and pepper. Roast 35 to 40 minutes until cooked through.

When cool enough to handle, remove meat from bones, discard skin and shred or dice chicken.

Bring stock to a simmer in a large pot; add celery, carrots and noodles. Simmer uncovered about 10 minutes or until noodles are cooked. Add chicken and parsley; heat through.

Season to taste and serve.

Slow Cooker Tomato Basil Parmesan Soup

Carol Pridgen

2 (14 oz) cans diced tomatoes, with juice

1 cup finely diced celery

1 cup finely diced carrots

1 cup finely diced onions

1 tsp. dried oregano or 1 T fresh oregano

1 Tbsp. dried basil or 1/4 cup fresh basil

4 cups chicken broth

½ bay leaf

½ cup flour

1 cup Parmesan cheese

½ cup butter

2 cups half and half, warmed (or skim milk if you’re trying to cut some calories)

1 tsp. salt

¼ tsp. black pepper

Add tomatoes, celery, carrots, chicken broth, onions, oregano, basil, and bay leaf to a large slow cooker.

Cover and cook on low for 5 to 7 hours or until flavors are blended and vegetables are soft.

About 30 minutes before serving prepare a roux. Melt butter over low heat in a skillet and add flour. Stir constantly with a whisk for 5 to 7 minutes. Slowly stir in 1 cup hot soup. Add another 3 cups and stir until smooth. Add all back into the slow cooker.

Stir and add the Parmesan cheese, warmed half and half, salt and pepper.  Add additional basil and oregano if needed (the slow cooker does a number on spices and they get bland over time, so don’t be afraid to always season to taste at the end).

Cover and cook on low for another 30 minutes or so until ready to serve. Makes about 2 quarts (about 8 servings)

Broccoli Cheese Soup

Mary Alsobrook Carl

Copycat version of Panera Bread’s Broccoli Cheese Soup

1 Tbsp. butter, melted

½ medium onion, chopped

¼ cup melted butter

¼ cup flour

2 cups half and half

2 cups chicken stock

½ lb. fresh broccoli

1 cup carrots, julienned

Salt and pepper to taste

8 oz. grated sharp cheddar cheese

Sauté onion in butter. Set aside. Combine melted butter and flour, using a whisk over medium heat for 3 to 5 minutes. Stir constantly and slowly; add half and half. Add chicken stock, whisking the entire time. Simmer for 20 minutes.

Add broccoli, carrots and onions. Cook over low heat for 20 to 25 minutes or until vegetables are tender.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Taste for seasoning and plate topped with a dollop of lime sour cream.

Vegetable Soup with Beans   

Matha Jackson Hill  

2 pkg. frozen soup vegetables

1 can tomato soup

1 or 2 cans diced tomatoes

32 oz. (4 cups) container chicken broth 

1 lb. ground turkey, browned (can use ground beef)

1 can pinto beans

Combine all ingredients. Bring to boil, reduce heat. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally for 30 to 45 minutes.

Uncle Jack’s Mushroom Soup

Mary Alsobrook Carl

2 medium onions, finely chopped

1 lb. fresh mushrooms, sliced with some whole small caps or in half*

3 Tbsp. butter

4 Tbsp. four

1-quart chicken broth

1 pint half and half cream

Salt and white pepper

Cook onions and mushrooms in butter on low to medium heat until the onions are soft, but not browned. Add flour and stir to blend. Add chicken broth and simmer until thickened, about 10 minutes. Add half and half. Add mushrooms and heat to simmer. Do not boil.  Season with about ½ tsp. salt and a few shakes white pepper, being careful not to overdo. Soup is better made a day ahead and reheated.

*Instead of fresh mushrooms can substitute 6 oz. jars of mushroom caps, sliced mushrooms and mushroom stems and pieces.      

Chicken Vegetable Soup

1 chicken, cut up

1 medium onion, chopped

2 to 3 celery ribs, chopped

2 carrots, scraped and sliced

1 large potato, diced

1 (10 oz.) pkg. frozen lima beans and any other vegetables

2 (14.5 oz.) cans tomatoes

Salt and pepper to taste

Place chicken in large saucepan; cover with water. Add onion and celery. Bring to a boil and simmer until chicken is cooked. Remove chicken; debone. Discard bones and skin.

Return chicken meat to soup pot. Add remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to simmer and cook about 45 minutes. Add more water, if necessary.

Beef, Gumbo Vegetable and Rice Soup

Betty Hill

1 lb. ground beef

2 regular sized cans Italian diced tomatoes (do not drain)

1 can water

1 bag frozen gumbo vegetables

½ to 1 cup corn or lima beans

1 bag frozen chopped onions or chopped fresh onions

¾ cup rice

Few drops Tabasco

Brown beef, drain fat. Add remaining ingredients except rice and Tabasco. When mixture boils, add rice and Tabasco. Bring to a boil and simmer 45 minutes to an hour.

Salmon Chowder

4 large potatoes, chopped

4 carrots, sliced

2 large onions, chopped

1½ qt. water

½ lb. bacon, cooked and chopped

Dash of cayenne pepper or to taste

1 lb. fresh or canned salmon, bones and skin removed and chopped

1 can creamed corn

2 cups heavy cream or half and half or milk

¼ to ½ cup unsalted butter

1½ tsp. salt

1 tsp. pepper

Boil potatoes, carrots and onion in water 20 minutes. Add bacon and salmon and cook 15 to 20 minutes longer.

Add remaining ingredients and simmer until hot. Do not boil.

Serves 8.  

French Onion Soup Gratinee

Scott Girard

10 Tbsp. unsalted butter

4 large onions, halved and sliced ¼-inch thick

2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour

10 cups chicken broth

1½ tsp. kosher salt

½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper

2 sprigs of fresh thyme

2 sprigs fresh parsley

2 dried bay leaves

1 small French baguette, sliced into ½-inch thick slices

12 oz. Gruyére cheese, grated

Melt butter in a large Dutch oven over medium heat.  Add the onions and cook, stirring often, until they are soft and very caramelized, about 45 minutes.  Dust the onions with flour and stir 1 minute, then add broth, salt, pepper, thyme, parsley, and bay leaves.

Cook over medium-low heat for 40 minutes.  Meanwhile, cut the bread into ½-inch slices and lightly fry in a 250 oven.

Remove the bread from the oven and increase heat to 450.  Discard thyme sprigs and bay leaves from the soup.  Place the bread slices in 6 ovenproof soup crocks on a shallow baking sheet, and then ladle the soup mixture over the bread and cover with cheese.

Put crocks in the oven to melt the cheese, about 10 minutes, then broil an additional 1 to 2 minutes until cheese is golden brown.

Makes 6 Servings.

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