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Byline: Natalie Haughton Food Editor

If the thought of a bowl of comforting homemade soup conjures up the idea of long, slow cooking, you might be surprised to find out that you can toss together a from-scratch pot of several different kinds in half an hour.

Not all soups require long cooking times and complex procedures, especially if you rely on short cuts and handy step-saving ingredients liked canned broth, canned tomatoes, canned beans, cooked meats, frozen vegetables and more.

Even better, soups are low in cost, high in flavor and nutrition, and an excellent way to make good use of leftover vegetables, meats and herbs. Another bonus of these meals-in-one-dish is that they can be made in advance, so it's not a problem if family members eat in different shifts.

Delicious soups - every culture has its own flavor variations - awaken appetites and bring even the simplest menu to life.

What makes soups appealing and easy for cooks is that once everything goes in the pot, other chores can be tended to until the meal is ready to serve. Accompany with some interesting breads or perhaps a quickly assembled salad.

When cooking soups, keep in mind that pots with nonreactive linings are preferred, especially when using acidic ingredients such as tomatoes, so you don't end up with an undesirable flavor and a pitted pot.

There are plenty of possibilities that can be made on the spur of the moment after a busy work day, as you'll see from the collection of ideas here. On one recent night - within the half-hour time frame - I turned out a fast last-minute creation for someone under the weather. It went like this. Turn a 14-ounce can of chicken broth and both a 28-ounce and 14-ounce can of undrained cut-up tomatoes, some instant minced onions and 1/2 cup chopped green pepper into a large soup pot and heat to boiling. Then stir in 2 teaspoons ground cumin, 1 to 2 teaspoons chili powder, 1/3 cup prepared salsa, 1 (16-ounce) package of frozen corn and a few tablespoons tomato paste, if necessary, and return to boiling. Reduce heat to medium and heat 5 to 10 minutes. Stir in 2 cups chopped cooked chicken breast and heat a few minutes longer. Serve over a tablespoon or two of shredded Cheddar cheese in the bottom of a soup bowl and sprinkle with more cheese and a handful of crushed tortilla chips. It's delicious - and leftovers reheat well, too.

You get the idea. Use your imagination. Experiment with flavor variations and combinations. Don't follow recipes rigidly - use them as guidelines, especially once you get the knack of short-cut soup-making.

Remember that soups are one of the most forgiving and flexible dishes cooks can make. They tolerate additions, substitutions, deletions and minor changes.

If you don't have one vegetable, substitute another. The same goes for meats, poultry, fish and seasonings. If you have the time and inclination, you can even puree part of the vegetable or bean mixture in a food processor or blender and return it to the soup pot for a textural variation. Or add a little low-fat half-and-half or whipping cream to change the consistency and texture - and enrich a soup - the second time around, if desired.

If a soup lacks a little pizazz (be sure to taste before serving), add a splash of Worcestershire sauce, sherry wine, or balsamic or red wine vinegar or a dash of garlic pepper to liven it up.

With a well-stocked pantry and freezer of soup ingredients - like garlic, dried onions, herbs and spices, pasta, ravioli, noodles, cooked meats, assorted frozen vegetables, canned diced tomatoes, assorted canned broths (use low-sodium varieties if you like), rice, canned clams, frozen seafoods, assorted varieties of canned beans, bacon and such - you'll be on your way to success.

If you end up with too much soup - which rarely happens in my house - freeze it for up to six months. Keep in mind that some soups tend to thicken when stored. Just dilute with a little broth, water, cream or milk while reheating to thin to desired consistency. Reheat soups from the refrigerator on top of the stove or in the microwave until heated through, stirring often.

Don't give up on life's little pleasures like a bowl of satisfying soup. Whip up one with these ideas.


2 (14 1/2-ounce) cans chicken broth

1 (16- to 20-ounce) package refrigerated precut potatoes

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon chili powder

1 (6-ounce) package fully cooked grilled chicken strips, each cut in half

1 (11-ounce) can whole kernel corn, drained

1 cup roasted red peppers, drained and cut into strips OR frozen bell pepper strips

1 (4-ounce) can diced green chiles

In a large saucepan, bring broth, potatoes, cumin and chili powder to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer 5 to 10 minutes or until potatoes are tender.

Stir in chicken, corn, red peppers and green chiles; heat through. Serve with lime wedges, if desired. Makes 4 servings.


This recipe comes from Courtenay High Taylor, a self-taught cook and baker who has been preparing fresh soups at John's Finer Foods in Chicago. It appeared in a winter soup story by Chicago Tribune food and wine columnist William Rice and was selected as one of the Tribune's 10 best recipes for 2000.

7 cups homemade OR canned vegetable broth

1 pound uncooked medium shrimp, peeled, deveined and shells reserved

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 large onion, diced

3 medium carrots, peeled and diced

3 ribs celery, diced

1 tablespoon ground coriander

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper OR less to taste

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 medium baking potatoes, peeled and diced

5 plum tomatoes, diced

1 (10-ounce) package frozen corn kernels

1 cup whipping cream OR half-and-half

1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro

Heat vegetable broth to a simmer in large saucepan. Add shrimp shells (set shrimp aside in refrigerator); simmer 10 minutes. Remove shells.

Heat oil in large pot; add onion, carrots and celery. Saute until onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add coriander, cumin, cayenne, salt and pepper to taste and vegetable broth; heat to boiling. Add potatoes, tomatoes and corn. Heat almost to a simmer; cook until vegetables are tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from heat; allow to cool slightly.

Transfer 1/3 of vegetables to food processor or blender; puree. Return puree to pan; add cream and shrimp. Cook over low heat until shrimp just turn pink, about 1 minute. Do not boil or shrimp will become tough. Serve hot in bowls; garnish with cilantro. Makes 6 servings.


1 pound lean ground beef

1/4 cup packaged, seasoned, dry bread crumbs

2 tablespoons minced onion plus 1 medium onion, chopped

2 tablespoons water

1 large egg

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 teaspoon Tabasco sauce

1 large green bell pepper

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 teaspoon chopped garlic

4 cups beef broth

1 (1-pound) can cut-up tomatoes, undrained

1/4 teaspoon saffron threads, crumbled

In medium bowl combine beef, bread crumbs, 2 tablespoons minced onion, water, egg, salt and 1/4 teaspoon Tabasco sauce; mix well. Shape into meatballs, 1-inch in diameter; chill.

Coarsely chop enough green pepper to yield 1/2 cup; cut remainder into julienne strips for garnish; reserve.

In large saucepot heat oil; saute 1/2 cup chopped green pepper, chopped onion and garlic 3 minutes. Stir in broth, tomatoes, saffron and remaining 1/2 teaspoon Tabasco sauce; simmer 10 minutes. Add meat balls; simmer 20 minutes longer. Garnish with reserved green pepper strips. Makes 6 servings.


1/2 pound cooked ham, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1 (16 1/2-ounce) can cream-style corn

1 (11-ounce) can whole kernel corn with green and red peppers, drained

1 (4-ounce) can chopped green chiles

1 cup light sour cream OR nonfat sour cream

1 cup low-fat milk

In a 4-quart saucepan, combine ham, cream-style corn, corn and green chiles. Cook over medium high heat, stirring occasionally, until mixture just comes to a boil (2 to 3 minutes). Reduce heat to low. Stir in sour cream and milk; continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until heated through (3 to 4 minutes). Makes 6 servings.


3 slices bacon, coarsely chopped

1 medium onion, chopped

1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves

1 pound frozen hash brown potatoes


2 (6 1/2-ounce) cans chopped clams with juice

1 cup heavy whipping cream

1/4 teaspoon pepper

In a large saucepan, cook bacon over medium heat, stirring frequently, until fat is rendered, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels, leaving 2 tablespoons drippings in pan.

Add onion and thyme to drippings and cook over medium-high heat, stirring, until onion is softened, 2 to 3 minutes. Add potatoes and 3 cups water. Bring to a boil over high heat; reduce heat to medium, cover, and cook until potatoes are softened, 5 to 6 minutes. Add clams and their juice, cream and pepper. Cook just until heated through, about 1 minute.

Ladle chowder into bowls and top with cooked bacon. Makes 4 servings.

From ``365 Great 20-Minute Recipes,'' by Beverly Cox, HarperCollins.


1 pound ground beef chuck

1 large onion, chopped

3 (15 1/2-ounce) cans Mexican-style chili beans, undrained

1 (15 1/4-ounce) can whole kernel corn, undrained

1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce

1 (14 1/2-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained

1 (4-ounce) can diced green chiles

1 (1 1/4-ounce) envelope taco seasoning mix

1 (1-ounce) envelope Ranch-style dressing mix

1 1/2 cups water

Corn chips, shredded lettuce, chopped tomato, sour cream and shredded Cheddar cheese for top

Cook beef and onion in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat until meat is browned and onion is tender, stirring until meat crumbles; drain off excess fat.

Stir beans and next 7 ingredients into beef mixture; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer, uncovered, 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Spoon soup into bowls; top with desired toppings. Makes 8 to 10 servings.

From ``The Best of Mr. Food,'' Oxmoor House.


1 (46-to 49 1/2-ounce) can chicken broth

4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves


2 (5-ounce) packages Japanese curly noodles (chucka soba)

1 (6-ounce) package frozen snow peas, thawed

3 medium carrots, peeled and cut into thin strips

3 green onions, thinly sliced

3 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro plus 6 sprigs

1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger

1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons Chinese chile paste with garlic

Place chicken broth, chicken and 4 cups water in a large saucepan. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook uncovered 8 minutes, skimming off and discarding any foam that rises to top.

Remove chicken and shred or dice it. Return chicken to boiling broth. Add noodles, snow peas, carrots, green onions, minced cilantro, ginger and chile paste.

Cook until noodles and vegetables are tender and chicken is white throughout, 4 to 5 minutes. Ladle soup into bowls and garnish with cilantro sprigs. Makes 6 servings.

From ``365 Great 20-Minute Recipes,'' by Beverly Cox, HarperCollins.


1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 pound lean ground beef

1/2 teaspoon pepper

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 (15-ounce) cans Italian-style stewed tomatoes

1 (14 3/4-ounce) can beef broth

1 1/2 teaspoons Italian seasoning

1 (1-pound) package frozen mixed vegetables

1/3 cup alphabet noodles OR other small pasta


1/4 cup chopped parsley

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

In a large saucepan, heat oil. Add beef and pepper to pan. Cook over high heat, stirring, until browned, about 5 minutes. Drain off any excess fat. Add garlic and cook 1 minute.

Add tomatoes, beef broth, Italian seasoning, frozen vegetables, pasta and 2 cups water. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce heat to medium, and cook uncovered until pasta and vegetables are tender, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in parsley and cheese and serve. Makes 3 to 4 servings.

From ``365 Great 20-Minute Recipes,'' by Beverly Cox, HarperCollins.


1 3/4 cups water

1 (14 1/2-ounce) can reduced-sodium chicken broth

1/2 pound skinless, boneless chicken, cut into bite-size pieces

1 to 2 teaspoons chili powder

1 (11-ounce) can whole kernel corn with sweet peppers, drained

1 cup chunky garden-style salsa

3 cups broken, baked OR fried corn tortilla chips

1/2 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese with jalapeno peppers (2 ounces)

In a 3-quart saucepan combine water, chicken broth, chicken and chili powder. Bring to boiling. Reduce heat; simmer, covered, 8 minutes. Add corn. Simmer, uncovered, 5 minutes more. Stir in salsa; heat through. To serve, top each serving with chips and cheese. Makes 4 servings.

From ``Recipes to the Rescue,'' Meredith Books.


1 tablespoon vegetable oil

2 large leeks (white and tender green), rinsed well and chopped

2 tablespoons flour

2 (14 1/2-ounce) cans chicken broth

5 cups cut-up fresh broccoli (about 1 1/2 pounds)

1 cup heavy whipping cream

1 1/2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese (about 6 ounces)

1 1/2 cups cut-up cooked chicken

1/4 teaspoon pepper

In a large soup kettle or Dutch oven, heat oil until hot. Add leeks and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until limp, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in flour and cook 1 minute. Stir in broth and heat to boiling, whisking until thickened. Add broccoli and cook 5 to 7 minutes, until tender.

Stir in cream and cheese. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook 1 to 2 minutes, stirring often, until cheese is melted. Add chicken and season with pepper. Simmer 1 minute to heat through. Makes 4 to 5 servings.

NOTE: If you don't have any cooked chicken handy, you can prepare some up in the pot before cooking the leeks. Simply stir-fry cut-up raw chicken (2 to 3 skinless, boneless breast halves) in a little hot oil and remove to a dish. Add to soup as directed in recipe above.

From ``365 Easy One-Dish Meals,'' by Natalie Haughton, Harper & Row.

Quick ideas

--Make a corn chowder instead of clam and toss in some diced cooked ham, chicken or turkey along with diced green chiles. Or add some frozen canned corn to your clam chowder.

--Try a quick shrimp or scallop chowder - or a tomato-based soup with frozen fish.

--Warm the soul with a quick ham and vegetable soup made with julienned cooked ham pieces, onions, carrots, celery, diced potatoes, parsley, watercress and chicken or vegetable broth. Toss in a handful of rice, if you like.

--Potatoes cook quickly if finely diced - and it's possible to turn out a potato-cheese soup with half-and-half or a mixture of whipping cream and milk and Cheddar cheese in a hurry. Flavor with dill weed, for a change of pace.

--Whip up a hamburger vegetable soup with ground beef, onions, carrots, celery, crushed canned tomatoes, beef broth, a little water, chopped Swiss chard or spinach leaves, long-grain white rice and basil, salt and pepper. Vary it with zucchini, canned beans and small macaroni.

--Chicken alphabet soup can be quickly prepared with cut-up chicken breast, chicken broth, onions, carrots and small pasta alphabet letters. Toss in green veggies, as desired.

--For an Asian-style soup, combine chicken broth, sugar snap peas or Chinese pea pods (or diagonally sliced bok choy), thinly sliced carrots, thin dry angel hair pasta or noodle strands, garlic, ginger and diced cut-up chicken or tofu. Add a splash of lemon juice, if needed.

--A tomato-vegetable soup is a winner - combine vegetable, chicken or beef broth, cut-up canned tomatoes, assorted frozen or fresh vegetables of your choice, canned, rinsed and drained beans (black, kidney, pinto, etc.), plenty of dried basil, garlic, onions and seasoned black pepper. Add cooked, cut-up turkey sausage (cook in the microwave oven a few minutes to defat the sausage) and toss in some fresh spinach or chard, and a bit of orzo, if desired. If you want to thicken or give this soup or others more body, stir in some canned tomato paste.

- N. H.


4 photos, box


(1 -- cover -- color) Short-cut SOUPS

Ready to serve in a jiffy

(2 -- 4 -- color) Warm the soul with hurry-up scratch soups like Spicy Shrimp Chowder, top left, other assorted chowders like clam and corn, left, and zippy Albondigas Soup, above.

Chicago Tribune

(5) Soups are quick and easy to make using canned broth and frozen vegetables.

Box: Quick ideas (see text)
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:L.A. Life
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Recipe
Date:Jan 17, 2001
Next Article:NEW & NOTEWORTHY.

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