Like it or not the cooler days of fall are here, and just around the corner are the blustery days of winter. Nothing soothes the body and gives that warm fuzzy feeling like hot soup prepared with fresh vegetables in stock.

Soup is simple; it’s very creative, cost effective, nourishing and can fit any meal. Make it the main course severed with bread, or balance it with pasta or a sandwich. No need to run to the store, if you have a few spices, vegetables, rice, dried or canned beans and tomato paste, you’ve got soup. Throw in a few frozen chicken wings, necks, turkey or other inexpensive pieces of meat, a piece or fish and not only do you have soup you have a meal.

First let’s talk about stocks, the basis for all good soup. Make a few cups, or make a couple of liters and freeze it for use later. Fill a six-eight stock pot with water (the amount depending on how much you are making) add two or more each carrots, onions skin and all, ribs of celery, about ten whole black peppercorns, plus a bouquet garni. Make a garni (which adds a very deep full body to the stock) by tying together 2-3 sprigs of fresh thyme, a bay leaf and 5-6 stalks of parsley with white cotton string. Boil your stock slowly covered for one hour adding more water as necessary.

For beef stock add a garlic clove and one Tbsp. tomato paste. If using fish add extra bay leaf and one cup dry white wine, or the juice of _ lemon. For chicken or turkey add rosemary, tarragon, basil, and garlic. Meat and fish stocks are always better when cooked with the bones. Meat stocks are better then cooked 2-3 hours. Be sure to skim off excess fat.

White Mushroom & Rice Soup

1 lb button mushrooms

1 celery rib, carrot, onion, bay leaf and garlic clove

6 sprigs fresh thyme

4 Tbsp clarified butter

4 C chicken stock

1 C long grain white rice

1 C light cream

2 Tbsp cut chives

Slice and roughly chop mushrooms. Dice celery, carrot and onion. Crush garlic clove and discard the skins. Strip all thyme leaves from springs. Cook rice in boiling salted water until tender- drain and set aside. Remove bay leaf from the broth and puree broth until finely chopped but not smooth. Return purée mushroom soup to heat and stir in drained rice and cream. Heat until very hot but do not boil. Stir in cut chives and season to taste.

Light Vegetable Broth

1 each large leek and small fennel bulb

2 each celery ribs, fresh basil sprigs and flat leaf parsley

3-4 small carrots

1lb tomatoes

6 C vegetable stock

Trim and slice leek and dice celery. Trim stalk and root ends of fennel bulb, discarding any tough outer pieces from the bulb- cut lengthwise into quarters and thinly slice. Peel and trim carrots. Cut grooves in sides with a small sharp knife, then slice thinly. Tear basil and chop parsley leaves. Peel and coarsely chop tomatoes. Bring stock to a boil and add vegetables- simmer until tender about 5-7 minutes. Stir in chopped tomatoes and simmer for two minutes. Do not over cook.

Hearty Borscht

1 Sml green cabbage

2 carrots and 3 onions

3 sprigs parsley and dill

1 1/2lb tomatoes

6 beets

4 Tbsp butter

8 C chicken or beef stock

1 Tbsp sugar

Juice of one lemon

2-3 Tbsp red wine vinegar

_ C sour cream

Slice cabbage, carrots and onions. Chop herbs and tomatoes. Cook beets with skins on, when cooled peel and grate. Melt butter in a large saoucepan. Add carrots and diced onions. Cook until soft but not brown- 3-5 minutes. Add sliced cabbage, grated beets, chopped tomatoes, stock and sugar to saucepan. Bring to a boil simmering for 45-60 minutes. Add salt or more sugar if required. Add more stock if the soup remains too thick. Just before serving reheat the soup, stir in chopped parsley, dill lemon juice, and red wine vinegar. Garnish with sour cream.

Enjoy, till next time, Rebecca