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'Winter's Here' Means 'Soup's On'

by Kara Kimbrough

Snow, ice and in some areas, just freezing cold weather hit the state recently, precipitating the need to finally pack up flip-flops and shorts that were necessary as late as December. To combat the sudden chill, wool sweaters, warm blankets and sitting around the fire are a few remedies that come to mind. However, one of the most delicious ways to stay warm and cozy is to get in the kitchen and make something that'll warm body and soul. In my opinion, that means comforting soup.

Soup is my go-to comfort food because, quite simply, it's so delicious, and yes, so easy: Place ingredients in a big pot, bring to a boil and let them simmer largely unattended. Toast some bread or open a sleeve of crackers and just like that, dinner is ready. When the wind is howling outside, there's nothing better than curling up on the couch indoors with a hot bowl of satisfying goodness.

Whether you're in the mood for my classic chicken noodle soup or something a little more elevated, at least one should more than satisfactorily banish the winter blues. These recipes call for stovetop cooking, but you can just as easily prepare then in a slow cooker or Instant Pot by modifying the time.

First Cold Spell of 2021 Tortellini Soup

- 1 tablespoon olive oil

- 1-pound bacon, fried and coarsely chopped (or more favorite meat: ground chuck, sausage or chopped ham)

- 1 tablespoon minced garlic

- 1 medium onion, diced

- 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning

- Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

- 4 cups chicken stock

- 1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce

- 1 (9-ounce) package refrigerated three cheese tortellini (you can used dried pasta if you can’t find refrigerated)

- 10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and drained well

- 1/3 cup heavy cream

- 3 tablespoons chopped basil

Heat olive oil in a large stockpot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add cooked bacon pieces or other meat, then stir in garlic, onion and Italian seasoning. Cook, stirring frequently, until onions have become translucent, about 2-3 minutes; season with salt and pepper, to taste. Whisk in flour until lightly browned, about 1 minute.

Gradually whisk in chicken stock and tomato sauce. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until reduced and slightly thickened, about 10 minutes. Stir in tortellini; cover and cook until tender, about 5-7 minutes.

Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup

- 3-4 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts

- Olive oil

- Salt and ground black pepper, to taste

- Freshly ground black pepper

- 2 quarts homemade chicken stock or boxed variety

- 1 cup medium-diced celery (2 stalks)

- 1 cup medium-diced carrots (3 carrots)

- 2 cups wide egg noodles

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place chicken breasts on a sheet pan and rub the skin with olive oil. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Roast for 35 to 40 minutes, until cooked through. When cool enough to handle, shred or dice the chicken meat.

Bring the chicken stock to a simmer in a large pot and add the celery, carrots, and noodles. Simmer uncovered for about 10 minutes, until the noodles are cooked. Add cooked chicken meat and heat through. Add more seasoning to taste.

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