Comfort Cooking for a Pandemic Winter: Part 2 — Soups/Salads

This one’s a short installment, even though I love to make (and eat!) soup in the winter.

To make up for the brief post, I’ll share what I believe is the secret to great cream of mushroom soup.

Ready? It’s paprika (which I think has its basis in Hungarian cooking). I have several recipes for cream of mushroom soup that I sort of combine when I make it, but if you need one, here’s a nice basic one. It doesn’t mention paprika, but trust me. It makes all the difference.

Baked Potato Soup 
Click through for a recipe from the Carnation Evaporated Milk folks — probably the easiest and one of the most delicious potato soups I’ve ever made. 

Bush’s Easy White Chicken Chile
Another link, another easy recipe from Bush’s Beans. Obviously you can sub leftover chicken of any kind for the rotisserie-style suggested in the recipe. 

Chili Con Carne (#3)
Servings: 500 (4 oz.)
7-1/2 lbs chopped onions
75 lbs ground beef
10 (No. 10) cans tomatoes
10 lbs spaghetti
4 cups chili powder
5 gal stock or broth
15 (No. 10) cans kidney beans 
Sauté onions and beef to make brown sauce. Add tomatoes and simmer. Boil spaghetti in salted water until tender. Add chili powder and stock and beans. Cook together slowly one hour.  
Added note at the bottom of this recipe card: “‘Good Luck’ — Uncle Bob Elsen, Louisiana Dietetic Association”
I’ve never actually cooked this recipe from my bridal shower mainly because I don’t think I know five hundred people! The directions are courtesy of my Uncle Bob — the other half of Elsen’s Restaurant. As you can tell, he had a great sense of humor. 

Chipotle Hummus Dressing
Click through for a super easy delicious salad dressing — low in sugar, high in vitamin C, it’s even got a little Vitamin A, protein and fiber. 

Cream of Pumpkin Soup (Spicy)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, chopped fine
2 minced garlic cloves
1 tbsp curry powder
1 tsp cumin
3 cups fat-free, low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
1 – 15 oz can of pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
1 – 12 oz can evaporated milk (can use fat-free)
Freshly ground black pepper to taste. 
Heat oil over medium heat, add onion and garlic and cook until soft. Add spices and cook 1 min. Add broth and pumpkin. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 min. Add milk and cook two more minutes. Blend with immersion blender or transfer to blender and blend until smooth. You could even add pepitas so it looks like the picture below!
The Engineer and I were fortunate enough to take a long trip to Australia for our honeymoon, and it was there I first had pumpkin soup. As an American, I surprised to have pumpkin in anything but pie, but that soup was amazing, and so is this one.
However, if you’re not fond of cumin and curry, this recipe is probably not for you. If you like those flavors, you’re in for a treat! Delicious with crusty bread such as “Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day” (Bread recipes will be in an upcoming installment).

Photo by Valeria Boltneva on

Pennsylvania Eight Bean Soup
1 cup each: pinto, navy, kidney, large lima, small lima, black-eye peas, split peas, lentils, barley
2 tbsp salt
Ham bone or ham hock or pork loin
1 large onion, chopped
1 large can tomatoes
1/2-1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp each salt and pepper
Wash beans and barley. Place in large kettle and cover with water to 2” above beans. Add 2 tbsp salt. Soak overnight and drain in morning. Add 2 qts water and ham bone or hock. Bring to boil and simmer slowly 2 hours, stirring occasionally. Remove ham bone or hock. Cut off meat, chop and return to soup. Add onion, tomatoes, chili powder, lemon juice, sugar, salt and pepper. Simmer slowly 1 or more hours. Serve with tossed salad and corn bread or crusty French Bread. ENJOY!
This recipe came from my mom who got it from a friend or relative. I’ve never made it because I don’t like bean soup. From what I can recall, Mom liked it so much, she asked the recipe, so I’m sure if you do like bean soup, you’ll find it delicious. 

Potato Leek Soup
Click through for detailed instructions (with pictures!) and recipe for one of my favorite soup recipes. Easy, delicious, and perfect for freezing. Double the recipe, freeze half, and have a great meal now and one for another cold winter night!
A kind of funny story about this soup: When I met The Engineer, he owned a timeshare in Portugal, where we visited several times. The little restaurant just up the hill from where we stayed offered a Prix Fixe meal including soup, crusty bread, fresh fish or Peri Peri Chicken with vegetables/potatoes and a half-bottle of wine for some ridiculous price (I seem to remember it being the equivalent of $5 American). The chicken and fish were good, but what we really loved was the soup and bread. (Later we visited with Darling Daughter as a toddler, and her favorite was the kittens that would race around, slipping and sliding on the dining area’s stone tiles.)
Anyway, I tried for years to replicate that soup. It was potato based and had a green vegetable in it, so I tried potatoes and green beans, potatoes and peas … you name it. I never figured it out. Fast forward about ten years, when I received leeks in our CSA share and discovered this recipe as a way to use them. EUREKA! It was the Portuguese soup! When served with the basic bread from “Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day,” it’s almost as good as going back to Portugal.
I lie. It’s not really as good as going back to Portugal. But it is a very good soup, especially for winter!

Beth’s Mom’s Spinach Salad
3/4 cup oil
1/4 cup vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup ketchup
Whisk above items for dressing.
1-1/2 lb spinach
4 hard-boiled eggs
8 strips bacon, fried crisp and crumbled (can leave out for a vegetarian version)
Small onion, grated. 
Optional: water chestnuts, mushrooms, canned orange segments
If I’m being honest, I have to admit I like this salad (from my college roommate’s mom) mainly for the dressing. Sweet and tangy! 

Beth’s Mom’s Warehouse Salad Dressing
1 med onion
1 tsp mustard
1 tsp salt
1 tsp celery seed (not ground)
1 cup salad oil
1/3 cup white vinegar
2/3 cup sugar
Mix all in blender. Store in sealed jar in refrigerator. Shake well before serving. Yields one pint. 
Beth’s mom was a great cook, and so was Beth (and still is, I’m sure, though I’ve not seen her in many years). 

Feel free to comment with your own favorites.

Next up will be main dishes!

3 thoughts on “Comfort Cooking for a Pandemic Winter: Part 2 — Soups/Salads

  1. I make pumpkin soup regularly for the Husband to take to work for lunch. I don’t make mine with canned pumpkin but with fresh, cut into big chunks and roasted in the oven first to intensify the flavour and remove some of the excess water. I don’t always use curry in my version – I’m fond of it with sage, a bit of roasted apple and plenty of garlic – but he likes it best with curry. I also don’t use curry powder but panch phoran, a mixture of 5 whole spices which I toast in a dry frying pan and then grind. The spices are all seeds: fenugreek, nigella, cumin, black mustard and fennel. It’s one of my favourite non-spicy Indian flavour profiles. The soup is *really* good with fresh hot cheesy garlic bread!

    Liked by 3 people

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