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Soup's on!

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The angle of the sun has changed, the sky is bluer, the mornings are crisper and the smell of campfires and stew pots is in the air. Even though our Texas temperatures may take a warm turn again, it is time for soups and stews. To be truthful, I could eat soups and stews year ‘round if the room was cool enough. I look forward to this time of year for the deep, rich flavors and the comfort of this favorite cool weather food.

The array of soups and stews available is dazzling. There are cream soups, bisques that are filled with delicious seafood, clear soups, soups made from purees, vegetable soups, soups from other countries and cultures, and one-pot meal stews.

Books and recipes abound.  Why are soups so popular? They are great for any type of cook. They range from very simple prep to recipes with a long list of ingredients and a long cooking time.

Soups and stews fit any size family. A large family can make a great one-pot meal with inexpensive and easy to find ingredients. The single adult or empty nesters can take the same recipe and have leftovers for later or freeze the extra for an easy meal down the road. Best of all, they are great for giving to friends and neighbors who are new on the block, ill or just need a friendly hug.

The following recipes are some of my favorites along with the Chicken Enchilada Soup and the Tomato Basil Soup I wrote about earlier this year. I am also determined to try some new ones this year. Time to crank up the crock-pot and break out the stockpot.

To all the Hopkins County Stew aficionados, be warned. This recipe is a quick, got to have it now version that in no way competes with the slow, stewed version. It does make a great dinner when you have that HC stew craving and only need a family size serving.

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Quick and Easy Hopkins County Stew
4 cups chicken broth
4 medium potatoes, diced
1 large onion, chopped
2 deli-roasted chickens, meat de-boned and chopped
1 can Italian diced tomatoes
1 can tomato sauce
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
Salt and pepper to taste
1 can whole kernel corn
1 can cream-style corn

In a large stock pot, combine broth, potatoes and onion. Simmer until potatoes are tender. Add the chopped chicken, tomatoes, tomato sauce, and spices. Bring to a boil. Add the cans of corn and continue stirring to prevent scorching. Reduce heat to a simmer and add water if necessary to bring stew to desired consistency. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring frequently. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.
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My friend Miss Jane Kivell served this taco soup one cold December night and I immediately knew she found it in New Mexico because of the hominy and green chiles.

New Mexico Inspired Taco Soup
2 pounds ground beef, browned and drained
2 cans hominy
2 cans chili-ready diced tomatoes (spicy)
2 4 oz. cans chopped green chiles
2 cans chili beans
2 tablespoons chili powder
Salt and Pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a large soup pot. Bring to a boil. Simmer for 15 minutes to combine flavors. Serve with grated cheese, tortilla chips, tortillas or your favorite crusty bread.
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One of my favorite soups at Olive Garden is the Toscana Soup.  This is a close facsimile complete with Italian sausage and kale.

Italian Potato Soup
1/2 pound spicy Italian sausage
3 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 medium russet potato
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon crushed pepper flakes
2 cups chopped kale

Grill or sauté' the sausage. When cooked and cooled, cut the sausage at an angle into slices about 1/2 inch thick. Set aside. Combine the stock and cream in a saucepan over medium heat. Slice the unpeeled potato into 1/4 inch slices, then quarter the slices and add to the soup. Add the sausage, spices and kale.  Simmer the soup on low heat for about 1 hour. Stir occasionally.
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For the past 20 years, Cindy Welch has been involved with all aspects of cooking, including formal culinary training, experience as food service director for First Baptist Church of Euless, a personal chef and owner of Cindy’s Casa Cuisine. Cindy’s favorite hobby is “providing delicious food for the people of Sulphur Springs.”
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