My late grandfather, Gene Killian, did not believe in eating soup in hot weather. It almost made him mad. “You don’t make soup or chili until the weather turns cool” was a code he lived by, and although his bountiful gardens produced lots of fresh vegetables every year, he and my grandmother would not eat vegetable soup during the summer but would instead can mason jars full of soup to be enjoyed during the cooler months. Here in North Alabama, our weather is fickle, so we just roll with it. We wear flip-flops with sweatshirts until at least Thanksgiving. Are you ready for sweaters and soup? Is it cold enough yet to indulge in a big bowl of piping hot stew or chili? If so, then try one of these dishes during October--or you can wait until we have another cold snap.

Italian Sausage Soup

• 8 oz. hot or mild Italian turkey sausage

• 2 cups low-sodium, fat-free chicken broth

• 1 (14.5 oz.) can diced tomatoes with basil, garlic and oregano, undrained

• ¾ cup uncooked small shell pasta

• 2 cups baby spinach leaves (roughly chopped)

• 2 TBSP. grated Parmesan and Romano cheese

• 2 TBSP. chopped fresh basil (or 1 TBSP. dried basil)

Heat a large saucepan over medium heat and brown sausage, stirring to crumble. Drain; return to pan.

Add broth, tomatoes, and pasta to pan, and bring to a boil over high heat. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes or until pasta is done. Remove from heat; stir in spinach until wilted. Sprinkle each serving with cheese and basil. Makes 4 servings. Can also sprinkle with shredded mozzarella. Great with garlic bread.

Hearty Beef Soup

• 1 lb. ground beef

• 4 cups water

• 1 can (14.5 oz.) diced tomatoes, undrained

• 3 medium carrots, sliced

• 2-3 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed

• 1 medium onion, chopped

• 4 beef bouillon cubes

• 1 ½ tsps. salt

• ¼ tsp. pepper

• ¼ tsp. oregano

• 1 cup green beans (fresh, frozen or canned)

In a large saucepan, brown beef, drain. Add the next 9 ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for at least 20 minutes or until potatoes and carrots are tender. Add beans. Cover and simmer 15 minutes longer or until beans are tender. Serve with cornbread muffins.

Mom’s Chili

• 1 ½ lbs. ground beef

• 1 lb. bulk pork sausage (hot or mild)

• ½ cup chopped onion

• Salt and pepper to taste

• 3 -4 cups tomato juice

• 1 (14.5 oz.) can petite diced tomatoes, undrained (optional)

• 3 cans Bush’s Chili Beans (we prefer them rinsed and drained)

• 1 (6 oz.) can tomato paste

• 1 pkg. McCormick Chili Seasoning Mix

• 1 TBSP. lemon juice

Brown the beef and sausage with the onion in a skillet or large stockpot, about 6-7 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Drain well.

In a stockpot, stir in 3 cups tomato juice, tomatoes, beans, tomato paste, seasoning mix and lemon juice; add cooked meat and onions. Bring to a boil. Add more tomato juice if needed. Reduce heat to low, cover and let simmer for 45 minutes. Serve with shredded cheddar cheese and add hot sauce to taste.

Chicken Taco Soup

• 2 lbs. boneless skinless chicken breasts

• 2 (8 oz.) packages cream cheese, cubed

• 1 (1 oz.) package Ranch Seasoning and Dressing Mix

• 3 TBSP. Southwest seasoning (Mrs. Dash Chipotle Seasoning Blend or can use taco seasoning)

• 2 (10 oz.) cans Rotel diced tomatoes and green chilies

• 4 cups chicken broth

Place chicken, ranch seasoning mix, Southwest seasoning, 2 cans Rotel, and 4 cups chicken broth in a 6-quart crock pot. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours. In the last 30 minutes of cooking time, add the cream cheese cubes and stir well; cook for 30 minutes or until cheese is melted, stirring occasionally. Serve with baked tortilla strips, shredded Cheddar, and chopped cilantro.

— Amy Fischer has worked as an educator and librarian in the Fort Payne City School system the last 27 years. She loves to cook, plan menus and host large family dinners or small luncheons for friends. Her column, Set the Table, appears in the Times-Journal Wednesday editions.

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