Tossed and Found: Hearty soups fill the bill on cold winter days

Tossed and Found: Hearty soups fill the bill on cold winter days

January 8th, 2014 by Clint Cooper in Life Entertainment

Warm up with a bowl of Chicken Fiesta Soup, Spicy Black Bean Soup, Brendan's Onion Soup or Cheeseburger Soup with Rice, clockwise from top left.

Photo by Maura Friedman /Times Free Press.


Staff writer Clint Cooper has a drawer full of unused recipes in his kitchen. Once a month in Tossed & Found, he's pulling some out and giving them a try.

One of my favorite things to do for dinner during winter is to open a can of soup, zap it in the microwave and let the heat continue to warm me after a treadmill session starts the job when I get home from work.

My favorite is Campbell's Healthy Request Grilled Chicken and Sausage Gumbo, but several other Campbell's or Progresso chunky soups are just as effective.

I've made my own soup before, but wind up eating all of it myself over a number of days or throwing out part of it because I eventually grow tired of soup meal after meal. My wife is usually good for a bowl or two, but my son has no interest.

Still, though, I continue to add soups to my recipe drawer because I like them, especially in the winter. My drawer does have several summer ones I've never tried, like a cool cucumber soup and one with peaches, but those will have to wait a few months.

For this month's Tossed and Found, I made four soups, two full-flavor and two, unintentionally, with lighter ingredients.

Cheeseburger Soup with Rice intrigued me because I tried to imagine a good cheeseburger in a soup. The idea of the smell of onions and celery sort of sautéeing in the broth during the preparation was enough to make my mouth water, too.

When the ingredients in Spicy Black Bean Soup started with red onion, red pepper and jalapeno pepper and later added diced tomatoes with green chilies and then more green chilies, that sounded like a combination I could wrap my taste buds around.

Brendan's Onion Soup, a recipe I tore out of the monthly Relish magazine in the Times Free Press, turned out to be a lighter form (7 grams of fat per serving) of the traditional French onion soup, but I didn't realize that at the time.

Chicken Fiesta Soup is one I tore out of my colleague Anne Braly's column several years ago. I believe she reprinted it from Weight Watchers, but I'm not positive. Nevertheless, it does mention that one cup of the soup is worth two Weight Watcher points.

Once they were prepared, all the soups were good and all held up to my standard of having ingredients that make an impact.

Broth alone does nothing for me. Give me a soup with chunks, some heat or some meat that will stick to my already ample frame.

Although they're a day too late for the once-in-a-decade cold snap of this week, they'll surely warm you up one of these winter nights.

Cheeseburger Soup with Rice

1 cup shredded carrot

1 cup chopped onion

1/2 cup chopped celery

2 (14 1/2 ounce) cans chicken broth

1 pound ground beef, cooked, crumbled and drained

2 cups cooked long grain rice

3 cups milk

1 pound processed cheese (like Velveeta), cubed

1 cup (8 ounces) sour cream

In a large saucepan, combine the carrot, onion, celery and broth. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Stir in the beef, rice, milk and cheese; simmer, uncovered, until cheese is melted, stirring occasionally (do not boil). Just before serving, whisk in the sour cream; heat through.

• Cook's changes: None, although I did take the recipe's hint to prepare the beef and rice ahead of the soup assembly.

• Result: I don't believe I would mistake this soup for a cheeseburger, but the vegetables, ground beef and rice make it a hearty meal. And the Velveeta and sour cream give it a tasty creaminess.

- Taste of Home

Chicken Fiesta Soup

1 (16 ounce) can fat-free refried beans

1 (14 ounce) can fat-free chicken broth

1 (11 ounce) can whole kernel corn with liquid

1 (15 1/2 ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained

1 (5 ounce) can 94 percent, fat-free chicken breast with liquid (or 1 cup cooked, chopped chicken breast)

1 onion, chopped (optional)

1 cup chunky salsa (mild, medium or hot)

1 small can mild or spicy green chilies

Combine all ingredients and bring to a boil. Simmer for about half an hour, stirring occasionally. You may top this with fat-free or low-fat sour cream.

• Cook's changes: I used regular chicken broth instead of fat-free broth, shoepeg corn instead of whole kernel and a 10-ounce can instead of 5-ounce can of chicken.

• Result: Although the ingredients make it a hearty soup and the onion, salsa and chilies give it some heat, it still tastes like a low-fat soup, which it is supposed to be. A half teaspoon or teaspoon of salt might remedy that slight lack.

- Anne Braly (via Weight Watchers)

Brendan's Onion Soup

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

3 cups thinly sliced Vidalia (or other sweet) onions (about 2 large onions)

2 garlic gloves, minced

2 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

6 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth

1 cup white wine

1/4 teaspoon fresh thyme

1/2 teaspoon salt

Coarsely ground black pepper (to taste)

6 baguette slices

1/2 cup shredded Swiss or Gruyere cheese

Melt butter in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onions and garlic; cook until very soft and golden, about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Sprinkle flour over onions, stirring to coat thoroughly. Add broth, wine and thyme; cover and simmer about 30 minutes. Add salt and pepper. Top baguette slices with cheese and broil until melted. Ladle soup into bowls and top with baguette slices.

• Cook's changes: I forgot to add the garlic cloves, and I used regular instead of reduced-sodium chicken broth and dried instead of fresh thyme.

• Results: With chicken broth instead of beef broth and without gobs of gooey cheese topping the soup, it definitely tastes lighter than traditional French onion soup, as it is intended, but it's still quite good.

- Relish

Spicy Black Bean Soup

1 large red onion, chopped

1 medium sweet red pepper, chopped

1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 garlic gloves, minced

3 (15 ounce) cans black beans, rinsed and drained

3 1/2 cups vegetable broth

1 (14 1/2 ounce) can diced tomatoes with mild green chilies, undrained

1 (4 ounce) can chopped green chilies

1/3 cup sherry (or additional vegetable broth)

2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro

1/2 cup fat-free sour cream

1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese

In a Dutch oven, sauté onion and pepper in oil until tender. Add garlic; cook 1 minute longer. Stir in the beans, broth, tomatoes and chopped green chilies. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 25 minutes. Add sherry and cilantro; cook 5 minutes longer. Remove from the heat; cool slightly. Place half of soup in a blender; cover and process until puréed. Return to the pan and heat through. Top each serving with 2 tablespoons of sour cream and 1 teaspoon of cheese.

• Cook's changes: I used chicken broth instead of vegetable broth, and I used the additional broth instead of the sherry I didn't have.

• Results: Without puréeing half the soup, this would be a spicy bean chili. Instead, it's a spicy, tasty soup. The sour cream and cheese serve, I suppose, to cut the heat for those who don't like their soups to have much flavor.

Contact staff writer Clint Cooper at