Like it or not, the cooler days of fall are just around the corner followed by those blustery days of winter. Nothing warms the body and gives that warm fuzzy feeling like hot soup prepared with fresh vegetables in stock. Forget the days when a pot of soup bubbled on the back burner all day these fast and easy soups will fit every meal, or make it the main course served with bread, salad or sandwich.

Soups can be very creative, cost effective and nourishing. If you have a few spices, vegetables, rice, dried or canned beans or tomato paste on hand, you can create tasty hardy soup without making a trip to the store. If you have a few frozen chicken wings, turkey or other inexpensive pieces of meat or fish, not only do you have soup you have a meal.

The beginnings of any good soup is stock. Make a few cups or a couple of liters and freeze it for use later. Start with two quarts of water, two each carrots, onions with skins, ribs of celery, ten whole black peppercorns and a bouquet garni. To make a bouquet garni (adds a very deep full body to the stock) tie together 2-3 sprigs of fresh thyme, a bay leaf and 5-6 stalks of parsley with white cotton cooking string. For beef stock add a garlic clove and one Tbsp. tomato paste. For fish stock, add extra bay leaf and one cup dry white wine, or the juice of 1/2 lemon. Meat or fish stocks are always better when made with the bones. For vegetable stock increase the onions, carrots, celery and garlic and reduce the water. Other herbs good for making a tasty stock include basil, tarragon, oregano and sage.

Boil your stock slowly covered for up to three hours adding more water if necessary. Skim the top to remove excess fats. Meat and fish stocks become more flavorful with more cooking, while vegetable stocks are better if not over cooked, normally about one hour. Remove stock from the heat allowing it to cool, then strain. Now, let’s make soup.

I hope you and your family will enjoy the following.

Curried Indian Vegetable Soup

1 qt vegetable or chicken stock

1/2c each chopped carrots, cauliflower, potato, green pepper and onion

1 tsp. Curry powder, more if desired

1/4 c half n half

2-4 Tbsp. flour

1 tsp. Tabasco sauce (optional or more if desired)

Asiago cheese

Cook vegetables in stock until fork tender. Mix flour and half-n half and add for thickening. Stir in curry and Tabasco. Sprinkle with Asiago cheese just before serving.

Fresh Mushroom Soup with Tarragon

1 1/4 c vegetable stock

1 Tbsp. Butter

4 Shallots, minced

6 c minced mushrooms

1 1/4 c milk

1-2 Tbsp. Chopped fresh tarragon

2 Tbsp. Dry sherry (optional)

Melt butter in a large saucepan, add shallots and cook over low heat for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add mushrooms and cook gently for 3 minutes, stirring. Add stock and milk. Bring to a boil over low heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes until vegetables are soft. Stir in chopped tarragon and season with salt and pepper to taste. For a smoother texture cool slightly and puree in a blender or food processor then reheat carefully. Garnish with leaves of tarragon.

Irish Yellow Broth

2 Tbsp. Butter

1 Onion minced

l Stalk celery, minced

2 Tbsp. Flour

3 3/4 c chicken stock

1/4 c steel-cut oats

1 1/2 c chopped spinach

2 Tbsp. Cream

Parsley for garnish

Melt butter in a large saucepan. Add onion, celery and carrot and cook for 2 minutes until onion becomes clear and soft. Stir in flour and cook slowly 1 minute. Pour in chicken stock and bring to a boil. Lower heat, cover and simmer for 30 minutes until the vegetables are tender. Stir in oats, chopped spinach and cook for 15 minutes stirring occasionally. Stir in cream and season. Garnish with chopped fresh parsley.

Soup can be very creative. Add your own favorite vegetables, spices or garnishes. With soup simple is good.

Till next time, Rebecca.