SOUPer Sayisfying (and Sexy, Too)! 

Even though we live in hell (also know as Arizona), I crave fall. It’s my favorite season and I adore everything about it. 

Unless we make a trip up the mountain at just the exact right time, we miss any real fall color. It literally happens over night, and being off by a week or even a day or two, can make the difference between seeing those luscious crimsons and fiery oranges, and seeing the same dead, dirt brown that blends with everything else here. 

We have several mulberry trees in our yard that go from green to gold and then dead. Also, an overnight thing. And, honestly? Doesn’t count. Not when you pine for radiant rubies, glorious golds, opulent oranges and vivacious violets, all mixed in a dazzling array, sprinkled with the last bits of Summer’s shades of emerald, kelly and lime; a final farewell. 

The weather cools a bit – this mostly means it will be 100+ during the day and 40- at night. The only freaking state I’ve ever been in I’ve had to blast the AC during the day and the heater at night…in November. 

Sweater weather? Hah! Try, if “death by heatstroke”, is your ideal way to go, then by all means wear a sweater. Layer it over a tank top though, because I guarantee that sweater is coming off by noon. If it doesn’t spontaneously combust first. 

The afternoons are nice though. The sun “softens” and the scent in the air does change a bit. I’ve mentioned before, we live north of the metro and at a higher elevation, so we do get a bit more of the fall feeling here.

 The days are shorter and every so often you get a slight chill in the air that makes you crave something, warm, comforting and satisfying to eat – both to warm your body and soul. 

What’s more warm and satisfying than soup? 

Can you smell it? that warm, soothing scent, filling your home…and belly!

I’ve been craving soup for days now, since a front came through and gave us a few stormy days and nights. Not cold…just rain and thunder and the kind of weather that makes you want to curl up with a good book or movie, a cup of coffee or cocoa and have a bowl of…soup. 
I’m not typically a soup person. I’m pretty picky about what kinds of soup I’ll eat, when and how. Many have ingredients I can’t or don’t eat, if we’re at a restaurant or buying pre-made. Many just taste watered down and flavorless to me. I do enjoy making my own (as you’ll notice on the list I’m about to share, potato soup did not make it simply because it was shoved down my throat as a child and unless I make, what I call, “mashed potato soup”, which is basically a loaded potato soup made with both mashed potatoes, made from baked potatoes, and small chunks of potatoes I bake to a crisp or fry, I don’t touch it), and it’s a cozy way to warm up a chilly house, on a chilly day and satisfy your hunger (let’s face it…after you’ve smelled it simmering for hours, you’re starving!) with what you probably already have on hand or can easily get. Plus, substitutions and/or omissions/additions (like, I’m allergic to pork, so I just omit it), make soup a hard thing to screw up. 

(While writing this blog, I must say, I had the most hilarious conversation with my sis, because as I was sourcing graphics, I asked her what she thought made soup, “sexy”. Let’s face it…it’s not the most fascinating thing to look at. As a PSA, do not search for “sexy soup” via Google. At the very least, wait until you’ve made some of these beautiful bowls, before you do.)

Here’s my top ten SOUPer soups, that I’ll eat or make, pretty much anytime (well, nine – the last is one of my husband’s favorites and a soup staple for many), in no particular order. These aren’t my recipes – I rarely write recipes down and I’m even less likely to measure what I do and don’t add – and, as previously mentioned, I work a lot with what I have on hand. But, this is a jumping off point to bring family dinners, or cozy company, into fall. 

1. Broccoli Cheddar 

Classic! Who doesn’t love cheese! Even kids get into this if you keep the bits of broccoli small enough! Sneaky way to add veggies! This is a Panera copy-cat recipe of their famous version. If you’re in a hurry and still want a great Broccoli Cheese soup, Bear Creek brands makes a fantastic one (look for a dark green bag in the soup aisle, near where the boxes of chicken noodle packets are). Plus, the dehydrated powder makes it easy (once you get the hang of it), to make a cup, a bowl, or a whole pot, to taste. Also stores well and is “non-perishable”, so all you do is literally add water and heat. Fantastic if you’re traveling, camping or otherwise unable to store perishable items for long periods. 

2.Hot and Sour

Classic! My fave at any Asian restaurant (although, Miso runs a close second). Traditionally considered medicinal, a spicy way to warm up your day! Add mushrooms, onions, bamboo shoots – all found in the “ethnic food” aisle of most major grocery chains, in cans, bottles or jars. If you want protein, but not meat, firm tofu, cut into thin strips or small cubes, is a great way to go. Miso broth, like found at Trader Joe’s in the carton, or paste, makes a great, vegetarian broth substitute for most soups. Add some of the aforementioned veggies or tofu and it’s a delicious, healthy way to warm up as well. Look for brown or red Miso; it has more cancer fighting benefits and flavor. If you’re not familiar, good Miso has a light, refreshing, slightly chive/scallion (table onion) flavor. 

3. New England Clam Chowder

Yes, we can debate all day whether Manhattan or NE is better. It all boils down to whether you want that creamy goodness, or a tomato based, soup version of Clamato. If I’m feeling Manhattan, I treat it the same way I do a Bloody Mary. So, I do make both (and we all know by now how much I adore a good Bloody Mary!), but there is something about NE style that keeps it my fave. Bacon is becoming very popular in NE clam chowder. And, while I use turkey bacon, does add a nice touch. Cook your bacon of choice and then use the drippings to sauté onions, even some of your potatoes. Add all that goodness to your chowder and then add the cooked bacon in before serving or crumble on top as garnish. Cheese and croutons are also fantastic! 


4. Cream of Mushroom

It’s not just for cooking! However, if you have leftovers, let them cool, pour into ice cube trays and freeze (stash the cubes in a freezer safe storage bag once you’ve popped them out of the tray), and add to chicken or rice dinners later in the week. 

5. Squash Soup

As in Butternut. I’m sure pumpkin or other hearty, winter squashes would work as well with this recipe – just make sure you find baking pumpkins, which are smaller, as opposed to Jack-O-Lantern types, which can be very bitter when cooked. If you use pumpkin purée, make sure it’s the 100% pumpkin and not pie filing (which has less nutritional benefits, added sugars and spices you may not want in soup, as well as a “thinner” consistency). Don’t forget the nutmeg (I use Chinese Five Spice), which really does illuminate the flavor of your squash! Even if I’m just baking acorn squash, Five Spice is a must! 

6. Chili

Not a soup, per se, but still warm, hearty and satisfying! Accessorize (yeah, I went there!) with sour cream, cheese and tortilla chips or some people add ketchup and saltines. However you like it, it’s easy to add or swap proteins to work with what you have (I use ground beef and some kind of steak/roast type meat in mine). Swap beef for turkey for a lighter alternative. Or, use chicken and white beans for a white chili. Options here are endless! Five alarm or luke-warm, it’s up to you! I also love adding corn and garbanzo beans to mine. Great way to use canned veggies that may be reaching their shelf life and get kids to eat them! 

7. Gumbo

Traveling through Louisiana last May, on our way back from New York, we so desperately wanted to get some good gumbo! It was hot and humid and just not gumbo weather (not to mention, we were on a bit of a time crunch at that point…and money crunch. Hey, that 2016 Dodge Charger surprised me; averaging 28 MPG, but still). Don’t deny yourself this Creole classic because of okra. The slimy texture adds to the base of the soup, lending to its thicker, more stew-like consistency, as opposed to using a roux (flour/butter/milk/cornstarch/however you roux). And, like chili, add veggies and proteins you have on hand. Just remember, a good gumbo has a “surf and turf” protein ratio. 

8. Smoky Eggplant Soup

Mediterranean  flavors are some of my favorites! Finish this with some pita bread and a sprinkle of good feta cheese? Heaven in a bowl! Personally, I’d add some zucchini and yellow squash as well. Slimy eggplant? Slice and dice the night before, salt and cover in paper towels. Refrigerate. The salt will help pull out the excess moisture and the paper towels soak it up. Works for any eggplant application -grilling, frying, stuffing, Parmesan-ing, etc. 

9. Green Chile Soup

Perfect base to add protein like chicken, and some tortilla strips or crushed Doritos (cheese and chilies?!? Plus, kids and junk food?!?), and have a tortilla type soup. Have it plain one night, soup it up the next. Get the freshest chilies you can – preferably Hatch chilies (from Hatch, NM) – it makes a huge difference in flavor. Watch though – real, Hatch chilies are mild with a deep, green, earthy (almost umami) flavor. If you want spicy, toss in a few jalapeños. For spice with less heat, remove the seeds and ribs of a pepper – this is where the Capcasian, or heat, is predominant. Oh! And, wear gloves when handling spicy peppers. Otherwise, you will inevitably have to scratch your nose, fish something out of your eye and use the restroom almost immediately – and suffer the consequences. 

10. Chicken and Dumplings

One of Craig’s favorites, this classic is easy to add frozen veggies or whatever you have on hand, to, without sacrificing flavor. Don’t have time to make dumplings (which are actually super easy)? Canned biscuit dough works in a pinch! He says mine remind him of the Chicken and Dumplings his mother used to make. No bigger compliment than that! 
Consider adding frozen or fresh tortellini or ravioli to soups. Trader Joe’s has some great lobster ones (refrigerated) and dry with a cheese blend. Dumplings (Asian style) or Crab puffs can also be an easy addition (look for wonton wrappers in your local grocery store; sometimes near produce, sometimes by dairy. They’re refrigerated, so that helps narrow the search. Stuff them with whatever you like – about a TBSP per large wrap. For dumplings, stuff and drop them in – they’ll cook with the soup as it simmers. Crab puffs are an easy mix of cream cheese, spring/table onion or chive and crab or imitation crab, finely diced and blended into the cream cheese. Fry and serve as garnish. Have a bowl of water and pastry brush handy – it makes sealing the edges of the wonton wrappers easier). Pastas,  like macaroni or bow tie can add an extra level of satisfaction (especially if your family is mostly boys/men, who are always starving), as will rice, and both will cook as you simmer the soup. Beans are also filling and fabulous. I love black beans and garbanzos in most everything. Just open the can, drain and rinse, first. 

Veggies that are still good but a bit wilted or not as appetizing looking can be thrown in to cut down on waste. And, garnish, drizzle, dollop or dunk as you see fit. Most soups can be up-cycled (the mushroom, for example), for late week leftovers or protein/veggie leftovers from earlier in the week can be tossed in to use them up! 

For some more SOUPer ideas, as well as ways to minimize food waste, check out Good Housekeeping Magazine‘s October issue. Lots of fabulous ideas (and some suburb pumpkin decorating tips, too – which, if you’re hosting a Halloween bash or just a fun family/friend get together, pumpkins, hollowed and cleaned out {save those seeds! Roast them and snack or add as a garnish to your soup!}, with a small crockpot inside, set to warm, makes a super cool way to serve your SOUPer supper! Great for dips and beverages too!)!

Let us know if you try any of these recipes, or share your own! 

And, don’t forget to follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest! 
Photos: BettyCrocker, Pinterest, pesto.co.za, societi.co.za 

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