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Lyn Nichols column: What's Cookin': Soup will bowl you over during cold weather

Cold weather can be synonymous with hot soup. During the coldest months of the year our dinners frequently consist of hot soup and grilled cheese sandwiches or a bowl of piping hot chili and crackers. It is difficult to think of a better way to d...

Cold weather can be synonymous with hot soup.

During the coldest months of the year our dinners frequently consist of hot soup and grilled cheese sandwiches or a bowl of piping hot chili and crackers.

It is difficult to think of a better way to describe comfort food. My grandmother always had a pot of soup simmering on the back burner of her kitchen stove.

"It warms the tummy as well as the soul," she would tell us. And if we had a cold, we ate soup. "Hot soup will cure your cold," my grandmother said. (And now it appears scientific research may support her declaration.)

I'm not sure if her soup cured colds, but it surely seemed to take away some of the aches and pains associated with a cold. Most of all, it was nice sitting at her kitchen table with a bowl of her chicken soup. Yes, soup does fit into that allusive "comfort food" category.

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Flexible and forgiving, soup can be simple or complex depending on the recipe you choose.

The following recipes are fairly simple and they offer a diversity of flavors.

Chicken Noodle Soup

16 cups canned chicken broth (99-percent fat free)

4 to 6 chicken breast halves, boneless and skinless

4 thighs, boneless and skinless

2 tablespoons butter

½ cup chopped onion

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2 thinly sliced or chopped carrots

4 thinly sliced or chopped celery ribs

1 to 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

8 ounces dried wide egg noodles

½ cup finely chopped fresh parsley

1. Combine chicken broth and chicken pieces in a heavy large pot. Bring to boil. Reduce heat. Cover partially and stirring occasionally, simmer until chicken is cooked through, 20 to 30 minutes. Cool chicken and broth slightly, cover and place in refrigerator for at least 2 hours and up to overnight.

2. With a slotted spoon, remove chicken meat from broth and shred, pull or cut into bite-size pieces and reserve. Place the pot containing broth on stove and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer broth.

3. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a skillet over medium high heat. Add onion, carrots and celery and sauté until vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in lemon juice. Add mixture to the simmering broth and cook for about 10 minutes.

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4. Add the noodles, parsley and reserved chicken. Simmer until noodles are tender. Season the soup to taste with salt and pepper.

5. Serve with crackers.

Broccoli Cheese Soup

(What's Cookin' Cookbook, Book I)

4 cups water

1 cup finely chopped onion

1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped broccoli, thawed and drained

1 teaspoon salt

1½ to 2 teaspoons ground white pepper

1 teaspoon garlic powder

2 cups shredded American cheese

2 cups half and half

2 to 4 tablespoons butter

¼ cup all purpose flour

½ cup cold water

1. Place water in a 3-quart saucepan and bring to a boil. Add onions and broccoli and boil for 10 minutes.

2. Add salt, pepper, garlic powder and cheese. Stirring, cook until cheese is melted. Add half and half and butter. Stir and heat to just to boiling. Combine flour and cold water and mix with a wire whisk until smooth. Slowly add the flour mixture to the soup, stirring rapidly. Stirring, cook until soup is the consistency of heavy cream.

3. To serve, ladle into rimmed cream soup bowls and garnish with 2 crossed chives or finely sliced green onions. Makes 8 to 10 servings.

Note: To serve this delicate cream soup as a first course, garnish with croutons or to turn it into a supper, serve with southern style biscuits and baked ham.

Onion Soup with Cheese Croutons

(Adapted from What's Cookin' Cookbook, Book II)

1 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons butter

6 or 7 thinly sliced white onions

1 teaspoon sugar, optional

2 quarts beef broth

1 cup water

1½ teaspoons salt

½ teaspoon garlic powder

½ teaspoon ground black pepper

French or Italian bread, cut into ½-inch slices

Slices of provolone, mozzarella or Swiss cheese

Shredded Parmesan cheese

1. Heat oil and butter to a large soup pot medium-high heat. Add sliced onions and sugar, if using, and sauté for 20 minutes until the onions begin to soften and start to become translucent. Do not brown.

2. Add the beef broth, water, salt, garlic powder and black pepper to the pan and bring mixture to a boil. When soup begins to boil, reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

3. To make the croutons, preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place the bread slices on a baking sheet or rack and bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until golden brown. Place slice of cheese on each crouton and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon Parmesan. Broil the croutons just until the cheese is melted and starting to brown

4. When the soup is done, ladle soup into oven-safe bowls. Place toasted croutons on top of each serving of soup and sprinkle with thinly sliced green onions. Place the bowls into oven for 3 to 5 minutes. Serve with extra shredded Parmesan if desired. Makes 10 to 12 servings.

Sweet Potato Soup

2 cups diced cooked sweet potatoes

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 finely chopped white onion

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon black pepper

¼ teaspoon ginger

1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1 tablespoon flour

2 cups chicken broth

1½ cups half and half or milk

Extra cream for garnish

1. Melt butter in large saucepan over medium heat and add onions. Stirring, sauté until onions are tender. Add the onions with salt, pepper, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and brown sugar and sauté for 1 minute. Sprinkle the flour into the pan and stir well. Stir in the potatoes and chicken broth, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes.

2. Using a hand blender, carefully puree the soup until contents are smooth. Add milk. Cook, stirring constantly, until soup comes to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer over low heat for about 5 minutes. Ladle into individual bowls. Using a teaspoon of cream, make an "S" in the center of the soup or form initials in the individual servings. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Lyn Nichols hosts "What's Cookin'?" weekdays on WDAY-TV. Her column appears Sundays in The Forum. She can be reached at PO Box 2466, Fargo, ND 58108, or e-mail, lyn@i29.net

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