Tag Archive | soup

Soup-er Simple: My top 6 soup spices

I reached a point last year where my spice cabinet was overflowing with bottles and packets, and I knew I had to pare down. So I asked myself, what spices do I really use and love? When making soups (my specialty) I rely almost entirely on the following set of dried herbs and spices. I would recommend this set to any home cook who is building out – or paring down – their spice cabinet.


Five-spice powder – This is my mainstay for winter soups, especially anything based around sweet potatoes, squash, beef, or lamb. The blend of cinnamon, fennel seed, cloves, star anise, and white pepper imparts a rich, earthy sweetness to the soup. Be judicious with this powder – a little goes a long way.

Curry powder – A boring soup can be turned into a delightful curried concoction in a flash with the addition of a good curry powder. Different curry powders have different blends of ingredients and different spiciness levels, so you may need to try a few to find your favorite. Add a few tablespoons to the pot along with any vegetables you are simmering, a minute or two before adding in the soup liquid (stock, water, etc.) so the powder can “toast” and develop its flavor.

Cayenne pepper – A tiny shake of cayenne adds kick to all types of soups and enhances the natural flavor of the ingredients. Adding heat is also a great way to reduce sodium in your soups – believe me, you won’t miss the salt if your tongue is tantalized by capsaicin!

Thyme – Thyme lends brightness and grassiness to lighter summer soups. Add a few generous shakes of the dried spice, or throw in several whole sprigs of fresh thyme (and remove the stems later).

Bay Leaves – A single bay leaf lends aroma and depth to an entire pot of soup or stew. I throw one in to almost every soup I make! Toss it in at the beginning, once you add the liquid – it should simmer the whole time the pot is cooking. Pick it out before consuming.

Turmeric – It took me awhile to develop a taste for the flavor of turmeric on its own, but it’s really, really healthy, and easily disguised in hearty soups. Thus, turmeric is on the list mainly for health reasons! Add extra to curried soups, or toss some in with a beef stew, minestrone, or chili.

Honorable mentions: Salt & Pepper – Obviously salt is a requirement to bring out the flavor of the soup ingredients. But don’t overdo it, and remember that stocks, broths, and canned goods (tomatoes, beans, etc.) often already have a lot of sodium included. Black pepper, if used, should be freshly ground on top of the individual bowl, since it’s flavor gets lost when you stir it into the large cooking pot.

Do you agree with my list? What spices are your mainstays for soups and stews?

Soup-er Simple October delight: Puréed sweet potato, apple, and chickpea soup

It’s October, which means it’s time for pumpkin spice lattés, apple picking, and the re-emergence of comforting fall soups. I threw this simple soup together last night with a few basic ingredients, and my husband and I loved the result. So I thought I’d share!

This soup really couldn’t be much easier. It’s quick to prepare and doesn’t require a single perishable ingredient from the refrigerator. It’s a great way to use up mealy apples that have gone slightly past their prime. Serve it as an appetizer at a dinner party, or enjoy it for lunch in your house while wearing your favorite sweatshirt and slippers.

October sweet potato, apple, and chickpea soup

Vegan, dairy-free, and gluten-free. Recipe makes about 8 servings.

1  large onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 very large or 3 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 apples, cored and cubed (leave skin on)
1 15-oz can chickpeas (or white beans)
1 box of veggie broth/stock, or water
Five spice powder (add to taste, ~1.5 tbsp)
Cinnamon (add to taste, ~1 tsp)
safflower oil or another high-heat oil (~2 tbsp)
olive oil or coconut oil (2-3 tbsp) (I always add some healthy fat to my soups to make them more savory and satiating)
salt (add to taste)

Cook time: 20 minutes

Add some high-heat oil to a large stainless steel pot, and turn heat up to medium. Add the chopped onion and a sprinkle of salt; cook until soft. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute longer. Add the cubed sweet potato and apple, pour in some vegetable stock/broth or water to barely cover the ingredients, and bring to a boil. Lower heat, cover, and simmer for about 10 minutes, until the ingredients are soft and mushy. Rinse the chickpeas and add them to the pot. Add the olive oil or coconut oil, cinnamon, and five spice powder. Cover and cook for another five minutes to allow chickpeas to soften.


Purée the soup by using a hand blender directly in the pot (by far the easiest way!) or by transferring the soup to a blender or food processor. Add salt or additional spices to taste.


Soup-er Simple: Autumnal beef, turnip, and cabbage soup

I love creating soups from scratch without a recipe. Sometimes the results are just “meh,” but sometimes I hit upon a dish that I think it worth repeating. Last night, I assembled a concoction that I found particularly delicious (I had 4 helpings!) so I thought I’d share the recipe with you. This is a hearty-yet-light soup, packed with vegetables and perfect for early fall.

One of my soup rules is that it’s fine to add or swap out ingredients freely based on what you have in your kitchen. Don’t have beef broth handy? Use veggie stock instead. Have some carrots that are about to go bad? Toss ’em in! Soup can be a receptacle for pretty much any vegetable that you need to use up.

Autumnal beef, turnip, & cabbage soup

Dairy-free, gluten-free. Recipe makes about 6 large servings.

1 package beef cubes (~1 pound)
1  large onion, chopped
3-4 large garlic cloves, minced
4 celery stalks, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1-2 large turnips, diced (or sub in potatoes or rutabaga)
1 small purple cabbage or 1/2 large cabbage, chopped
1 box lamb broth (or beef or vegetable broth)
1 cup red wine
Five spice powder (~1 tbsp)
Italian or poultry seasoning (w/ thyme, sage, etc) (~1 tsp)
2 bay leaves
10 whole cloves
safflower oil or another high-heat oil (~2 tbsp)
olive oil (~2 tbsp)
salt, black pepper, & cayenne pepper (add to taste)

Cook time: 1.5 hours or more (the longer you simmer it, the better it tastes!)

Add some high-heat oil (I used safflower oil) to a large stainless steel pot or an iron/ceramic dutch oven, and turn heat up to medium-high. Once pot is warm, add in beef cubes. Brown the beef on all sides. Once beef is browned and sticking to the bottom of the pot a bit, pour in red wine. Allow wine to cook for a minute, then pour in box of broth. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer. While this is simmering, you can chop up all the veggies. Beef should simmer for about 30 minutes before other ingredients are added in, to help it soften. Depending on the size of your beef cubes, you can remove the cubes to a cutting board, chop them into smaller pieces, and return to the pot.

Autumnal beef soup 1

In another large pot, drizzle ~2 tbsp olive oil. Add onion and a pinch of salt, and cook over medium heat until slightly soft, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, celery, and bell pepper with another pinch of salt, and stir over medium-low heat for awhile. Once veggies are softened, add these cooked veggies to the first pot with beef and broth. Add turnips, cabbage, bay leaves, five spice powder, cloves, and Italian/poultry seasoning to the main pot. Add water as needed to make sure veggies are just covered. Let simmer for ~1 hour, until everything is tender to your liking. Add cayenne pepper for a kick.

Autumnal beef soup 2

Enjoy with a glass of red wine or your favorite fall beverage!

Autumnal beef soup 3

Soup-er Simple: Smooth curried broccoli-cauliflower soup

My very favorite thing to whip up in the kitchen is a soothing pot of soup.  Soup is a great culinary canvas for people with any level of skill in the kitchen, from teens just learning to cook from scratch to professional chefs that want to impress their customers. Best of all, soups and stews provide a large amount of satisfying food without crazy amounts of effort or money. Once you master the basic rules of soup, it’s easy to create your own concoctions from whatever ingredients in your fridge are calling out to be used.

I value simplicity, and am guessing that my readers do, too. Hence, I am starting up a series of posts on my blog titled “Soup-er Simple” (pun-tacular!). I’ll post some basic tips for readers who are interested in becoming soup aficionados, and easy recipes for those who just want a quick meal idea. My goal is to create and post recipes that are very much no-fuss – not too many ingredients, no precise measurements, minimal clean-up, etc.

First up – a recipe that I came up with last weekend when I was in need of a quick, filling, and healthy lunch. I had a bag of cut broccoli and cauliflower florets that I did not feel like steaming. So I made them into an incredibly simple soup! An immersion blender makes this one extra easy.

Smooth curried broccoli-cauliflower soup

Vegetarian, vegan, dairy-free, gluten-free. Recipe makes about 4 servings; just double it for more!

1 small or medium onion, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
1 bag of pre-washed broccoli and cauliflower
1 small potato, chopped/diced
handful of cashews (raw or roasted)
curry powder
olive oil (~2 tbsp)

Cook time: 20 minutes

In a large stainless steel soup pot, sautee the onion and carrot with some olive oil and a solid pinch of salt until tender. Add about 1 tablespoon of curry powder and stir for about 30 seconds until it’s “toasted.” Next, toss in the chopped potato, broccoli/cauliflower florets, and cashews. Add water until the ingredients are just covered. Bring the pot to a boil, then cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes, until all ingredients are tender. Use an immersion blender or regular blender to blend the soup to a moderately smooth consistency. Add salt, pepper, and additional curry powder to taste.

This makes a great lunch or appetizer for a dinner party!

BroccoliSoup1   BroccoliSoup2