With lives on fast-forward, it can be hard to find time to simmer homemade soup, one of winter's best comfort foods.
But there are options. Cissy Bennett, owner of Soup's On, said people stop by her Broad Street restaurant all the time to pick up her made-from-scratch soups to go. Chicken and Dumplings is the favorite.
"It's comfort food through and through," she said. "A lot of people say they haven't had dumplings like this since their grandmother passed away."
Another option is to get creative with the cans in your cupboard. Campbell's has more than 200 varieties of soup on the market, many of which are perfect for customizing, said company spokesman John Faulkner.
Tomato, the standby for the children in the family, is the variety used most often.
"Customizing soup is a great way to help kids become comfortable with experimenting with ingredient combinations, which allows them to discover how different flavors complement each other," Mr. Faulkner said.
In the following recipes, salsa and tortilla strips take tomato soup on a south-of-the-border ride, split pea gets a twist with a little curry and ham, and broccoli and cheese combine with condensed cream of mushroom for an easy take on an old favorite.
All are nice enough for company, and no one would ever guess you started with a humble can of soup.
Jazzed Up Tomato Soup
4 cups prepared tomato soup (from can or jar)
1/2 cup prepared salsa
12 cup tortilla strips or chips, divided
4 tablespoons sour cream
2 teaspoons sliced scallions
Cilantro (optional garnish)
In a small saucepan, combine soup and salsa. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Remove from heat and ladle soup into 4 bowls. Top with tortilla chips, sour cream and scallions just before serving. Garnish with cilantro, if desired.
Split Pea With a Twist
1 tablespoon butter
2 shallots minced
1 cup cubed cooked ham
1 teaspoon curry powder
14 1/2 ounces heat-and-serve split-pea soup (not concentrated)
4 slices baguette
1/4 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper or paprika
Heat oven to 400 F. Melt butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add shallots and cook 5 minutes. Add ham and curry powder; cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Stir in soup. Cook until hot and flavors blend, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile place bread slices on a baking sheet. Mound 1/4 of the cheese on each slice and sprinkle with red pepper. Bake in oven until cheese melts and bread is crisp, about 5 minutes. Pour soup into two bowls and top each with 2 of the cheese crisps.
Cream of Broccoli Soup
8 cups chicken broth
1 (10.75-ounce) can condensed cream of mushroom soup
3/4 cup chopped onion
3/4 cup chopped celery
1 tablespoon salt
1 pinch ground white pepper
2 cups milk
1/3 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup water
3 cups fresh broccoli florets, cooked
1 1/2 cups shredded American cheese
1 1/2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
In large saucepan, combine broth, cream of mushroom soup, onion, celery and salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Add milk and bring to a boil. In a small bowl, mix cornstarch and water until cornstarch is completely dissolved. Gradually add mixture to soup, stirring constantly. Simmer for 5 minutes and then add broccoli and cheeses, mixing until melted. Makes 8 servings.