By Kara Kimbrough
“Is it too early for soup?”
I actually asked someone this question this week because technically: A. Fall is just around the corner, therefore, it’s time to start thinking about/making seasonal foods; and B. I will find any excuse to make my favorite comfort food. I didn’t get an answer in the affirmative, but that didn’t stop me from gathering the ingredients for one of my favorite soups.
I tell readers and friends that ask for ideas on the perfect, easy meal that you can’t go wrong with soup. It’s easy to make, especially if you let it simmer in a Crockpot all day. Second, it's the full meal deal when paired with a simple salad, bread or savory crackers (in other words, you can fool others into thinking you prepared a real meal) and last, in these challenging economic times, it’s relatively inexpensive to make.
I was inspired to start adding soup back to the menu after watching an online video series called Harper’s Bazaar Food Diaries. The magazine creates short videos of celebrities detailing everything they eat in a day. One of the most interesting was from plus-size model Ashley Graham, whose descriptive words and accompanying photos of her hearty breakfast of scrambled eggs on top of buttered bread and a slice of ham thrown on top for good measure caused me to rethink my own hurried breakfast.
As expected, Martha Stewart’s daily food diary was over the top, but actress Catherine Zeta-Jones’ leisurely meals filled with hearty salads packed with everything under the sun and topped with dressings I actually wanted to recreate reminded me that meals don’t have to be sparse to be healthy.
However, the simple diet of Yolanda Hadid, a “Real Housewives” reality star (don’t ask me which one) was the most inspirational. Each night, she ends her day with a simple soup filled with chicken broth and chopped vegetables. Without any specific recipe in mind, she boils together whatever she can find in the refrigerator into a hot, healthy and light soup.
Her simple soup looked so good I immediately went to my refrigerator and retrieved leftover cabbage and carrots from Labor Day’s cole slaw and defrosted a chicken breast from last month’s chicken spaghetti. Defrosting time included, I had a flavorful soup ready for a light supper in about 30 minutes.
I hate to play favorites among my soups, but one of the best – and it's relatively new to my soup repertoire – is Cheesy Vegetable Soup. I was introduced to it by a co-worker, who brought a Tupperware bowl of the hot soup to me during a difficult work week fraught with personal and professional challenges. Made with ground chuck, chopped vegetables and a light (depending upon your preference) cheese sauce, it was the perfect antidote to the problems I was facing at the time.
I was surprised to learn the recipe for this cure-all soup had been under my nose all along. It's included in a cookbook I compiled in 2018 to commemorate a historical occasion. Her recipe was previously published in a collection of recipes from the past that I edited (obviously not very thoroughly, as I didn’t remember this particular one) and included with a new section of recipes, historic photos and more. I somehow overlooked a recipe that has turned out to be a favorite. And, knowing a friend brought it to me when I needed it the most makes it even more special.
Cheesy Vegetable Soup
1 pound ground chuck
4 cups water
1/2 cup onions, chopped
1 cup whole kernel corn
1 cup potatoes, chopped (I use diced, not shredded, hash browns to save time)
1 cup celery, chopped
1 cup carrots, chopped
2 tablespoons Tabasco sauce, optional
1 16-ounce jar regular or jalapeno Cheese Whiz
4 beef bouillon cubes
Brown meat and drain; add salt and pepper to taste. Add water, bouillon cubes and Tabasco, if using. Add vegetables and cook until potatoes and carrots are done. Add cheese. Best served with cornbread.
Recipe from Cindy Womack
Kara Kimbrough is a food and travel writer from Mississippi. Email her at [email protected].