This winter weather calls for warm bowls of soup. Add some toasted garlic bread, cornbread muffins, soup crackers, or fresh croutons to your soup, and you have a comforting, classic meal. Bisque has a creamy, smooth texture that can’t be beat, and gumbo is loaded with so much goodness due to its essential ingredients, but soup, in general, can be creamy, brothy, thin, or chunky and served as an appetizer or main course. If your soup is too thin, you can make a roux with flour and butter or a slurry with cornstarch to add to the soup pot, or try adding in a half of a cup of rice and simmering for 20 minutes or so. If you use a crockpot, simply remove the lid when the time is up and turn the heat to high; this will allow some liquid to boil away. Another tip for preparing soup or stew is to use homemade soup stock or store-bought low-sodium broths; it is easier to season as you go and adjust the sodium content to suit your taste.

Beef Stew

A crockpot allows the meat to cook in a broth, cream, or other liquid for several hours rendering it tender and juicy.

• 1 lb. beef stew meat, cubed

• 1 lb. round steak, cubed

• 1 ½ cups onion, chopped

• 5-6 potatoes, diced

• 3 carrots, cut into 1-inch pieces

• 1 ½ tsp. Worcestershire sauce

• 2-3 TBSP. tomato paste

• 1 ¼ tsp. salt

• ½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper

• 1 (28 oz.) can Italian-style petite diced tomatoes, undrained

Place all ingredients in a large capacity slow cooker, and cook on low for 8 hours.

Two different soups featuring beans and spinach. The first recipe contains meat and the second is a vegetarian version:

Sausage and Bean Soup

• 1 ½ TBSP. olive oil

• 1 lb. mild Italian sausage

• 1 onion, chopped

• 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

• 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth

• 1 (15.5 oz.) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

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

• ½ tsp. kosher salt

• ½ tsp. black pepper

• ¼ tsp. thyme

• ¼ tsp. crushed red pepper

• ½ tsp. oregano

• ½ tsp. basil

• 2 cups baby spinach, chopped

• ½ cup Parmesan cheese, shredded

In a large Dutch oven or stock pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat; add the sausage and break into pieces. Cook for about 5 minutes. Add the onion and garlic and sauté until tender. When the sausage is no longer pink, add the salt, pepper, thyme, crushed red pepper, oregano, and basil to the pot and cook for about 2 minutes. Stir in the chicken broth and the can of diced tomatoes and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat, and simmer on medium heat for about 10 minutes. Stir in the spinach and beans; put the lid on the pot and simmer on low for an additional 6-8 minutes. Stir in the shredded Parmesan cheese. Optional: you can add a chopped carrot or a small chopped red pepper to this soup; sauté additional vegetables with the onion and garlic until tender.

Navy Bean Soup

• 1 onion, chopped

• 1 tsp. minced garlic

• 1 TBSP. olive oil

• 1 large potato, diced

• 4 cups vegetable broth

• ½ tsp. kosher salt

• ½ tsp. black pepper

• ¼ tsp. oregano

• 1 TBSP. white wine (or white cooking wine)

• 1 (15.5 oz.) can Navy or Northern beans, drained

• 1 cup baby spinach, chopped

• Parmesan cheese, grated

In a Dutch oven or stock pot, sauté the onion and garlic in olive oil until tender. Add the diced potatoes and cook for about 5 more minutes. Add the 4 cups vegetable broth, salt, pepper, and oregano; boil for 25 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Stir in the white wine and beans and simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in the spinach; simmer an additional 3-5 minutes. Sprinkle freshly grated Parmesan over the bowls of soup.

— Amy Fischer lives in Fort Payne, Alabama, and is a Southern food enthusiast who loves to spend time in the kitchen creating tasty recipes. You can contact her at

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