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Sherrie Norris Lovin’ Spoonful Cooking Column: Bring Out the Big Pots, It’s National Soup Month

By Sherrie Norris

Whether or not we knew it was officially National Soup Month, in these mountains we do know that now is the best time of year for soup —and homemade, if at all possible.

Since the sweet treats of the holiday season have been removed from easy reach, and ideas for healthier eating returned (at least for a few days!) photos of soups and stews have become a daily appearance on social media sites. And the bigger the pot, the better, since most soups seem to taste even better after a day or two in the fridge.

As I write this column on a cold, but clear January morning, I’m hearing rumblings about something, thousands of miles away, that might turn into the big snowstorm of the year for the High Country and beyond.

And, yes, I’m already thinking about dragging out the big pot, again.

It’s amazing what a piping hot bowl of soup can do for you after playing with the kids in the snow or shoveling the sidewalk or driveway.

So, let’s get ready to dig in and stay warm from the inside out. 

Ham and Potato Soup

¼ cup butter

¼ cup flour

¼ cup chopped onion

2 stalks celery, chopped

1 lb. cubed ham

4 cups finely cubed or shredded potatoes

6 cups milk

1 cup American or Velveeta cheese

Cook vegetables together (with enough water to cover) until tender. In separate pot, melt butter and add 5 cups milk. While milk heats, make a “thickening” with flour and remaining cup of milk. Add to hot milk, and when it comes to an easy boil, add vegetables. Add ham and cheese, salt and pepper to taste. Stir until cheese is melted. 

Note: Don’t drain vegetables before adding to white sauce, and don’t let the milk boil over!

Homemade Tomato Soup

2 Tbsp. margarine

2 Tbsp. onion, chopped

3 Tbsp. flour

2 tsp. sugar

1 tsp. salt

1/8 t. black pepper

Dash of each:

Garlic salt, basil, oregano, thyme, and rosemary

2 cups tomato juice

2 cups cold milk

Melt margarine in large skillet; sauté onion. Blend in flour, sugar, salt and seasonings. Remove from heat. Gradually stir in tomato juice. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Boil 1 minute and then turn down to low. Stir milk gently into hot tomato mixture. Heat, but do not boil.

Cream of Broccoli Soup

½ cup margarine

1 cup minced onion

1 cup finely chopped celery

1 cup finely chopped carrot

20 oz. chopped broccoli, fresh or frozen

1 cup flour

6 cups chicken broth or bouillon

1 bay leaf

1 ½ tsp. salt

¼ tsp. pepper

1/8 tsp. garlic powder

5 cups milk

Sauté onion, carrots and celery in margarine. Cook until soft. Add broccoli and cook 15 minutes. Stir in flour. Add chicken broth and seasonings. Mix together. Simmer 30 minutes. Add milk and heat to serving temperature. 

Mushroom Soup

2 Tsp. butter

1 onion, diced

2 garlic cloves, chopped 

1 pound mushrooms, cleaned and trimmed 

½ cup chicken stock 

1 qt. cream or milk

1 fresh bay leaf 

1 tsp. fresh chopped thyme 

Salt and pepper to taste

Ground nutmeg, optional

Cayenne pepper, optional

Melt butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add onion and garlic, and sauté until translucent. Add mushrooms and continue to sauté until all the liquid has evaporated. Add chicken stock, cream, bay leaf and thyme. Season to taste with salt, pepper, nutmeg and cayenne pepper. Continue to cook over medium heat for about 30 minutes. Remove bay leaf from mixture. Stir well

Simple Vegetable Beef Soup 

1 lb. ground beef

4 medium potatoes

4 medium onions

4 medium carrots

1 qt. tomatoes

1 (16 oz.) can pork and beans

1 stick margarine

Brown ground beef on top of stove. Dice vegetables, and together with beans, ketchup and margarine, add to beef. Simmer until vegetables are tender. May use any combination of vegetables, adding water for thinner soup; salt, pepper and other spices to taste.  

Easy Cheesy Chicken Vegetable Soup

3 (10-oz.) cans condensed chicken broth

2 soup cans water

1 Tbsp. dried onion flakes

2 (7-oz) cans chicken, or approximately 2 cups chopped cooked chicken

2 (10 oz.) packages frozen mixed vegetables

1 (8 oz.) jar Cheez Whiz

½ cup milk

Combine broth and water in 3-qt. saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Add onion flakes, chicken and frozen vegetables. Return to a boil, stirring occasionally. Cover and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer for about 10 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Add Cheez-Whiz and milk, cooking until cheese melts, stirring occasionally. Serve with crackers or hot buttered bread.