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A Taste of Comfort: 3 Slow-Cooker Soups

Cook up these three hearty soups and stews for winter warmth. Vegetarian and gluten-free, these flavorful soups suit nearly any diet.

| January/February 2013

  • "50 Simple Soups for the Slow Cooker" offers bold combinations for 50 new vegetarian and vegan soup dishes that are as hearty as they are flavorful.
    Cover Photo Courtesy Andrews McMeel Publishing
  • With a handheld immersion blender, puréeing a hearty soup or stew is the work of but a minute or two.
    Photo By StockFood
  • A great soup can be made from nothing more than scavenged odds and ends, a bag of beans and some good spices. Add an extra dimension of flavor to your slow cooker soups by browning the onion before putting it in the pot.
    Photo By StockFood

One of my favorite folktales is the beloved “Stone Soup” because it exemplifies just how easy it is to make a delicious soup out of almost nothing at all. A little rice, some dried beans, a winter squash, a few fresh herbs; anything and everything is fair game in a soup, whether it’s one simple ingredient or a mélange of scavenged odds and ends. From the proverbial pot-au-feu—bubbling away for days on the back of a French housewife’s stove as scraps from each day’s meals were tossed in, ensuring that nothing edible went to waste—to the creations we whip up in our kitchens today using a slow cooker and an immersion blender, soups are a surefire way to make comfort, economy and warmth pervade even the most humble of homes.

Slow Cooker Soups

New Potato and Parsley Soup recipe
Tuscan White Bean Soup recipe
Spiced Apple Pie Soup recipe

Good for the Planet, Palate and Pocketbook

I wrote the book 50 Simple Soups for the Slow Cooker partly because I love soup so much and partly because I feel that many consumers today are looking for meals that are easy to make, soul-satisfying, and easy on the planet, the palate and the pocketbook.

There is no question that soup can be inexpensive. A great soup can often be put together using nothing more than a bag of beans and some good spices, or a few leftovers with some bright vegetables. And I can usually get several meals out of a slow cooker full of soup, eating some now and freezing some for another day. A simple bowl of soup will fill a hungry belly for just a few pennies’ worth of ingredients.

A good vegetable-based soup is far easier on the planet than is a beef stew. It takes a heck of a lot more resources to put a pound of flesh on a steer than it does to grow an acre of lima beans or corn. The recipes here focus on fruits, grains and vegetables, all of which offer a greater array of colors, flavors and textures than would meat, and all with minimal impact on the environment. When I taught cooking to middle-school students many years ago, we talked about how meats basically have one color theme, and not a lot of variation in texture, whereas the plant kingdom offers reds, yellows, blues, purples, greens and oranges, and variations in texture that range from very soft like a banana to hard like an apple to the seeded insides of brightly colored pomegranates, all kinder to the environment.

I don’t mean to say that if you think you would enjoy one of these recipes more with some of last night’s roast chicken, a leftover ham bone, or a bit of fresh shrimp that you shouldn’t be encouraged to add it. My neighbor Kathy, who eats every soup I make, sometimes adds chicken (which she loves to grill) to the soup for extra protein. But I did want to demonstrate that a soup based on vegetables alone can be very rich in flavor and texture without relying on canned chicken stock and chunks of meat or bone. Some of the best compliments I’ve received have come from people who were just sure you couldn’t make a good soup without meat.

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