Souped up: Easy one-pot soups made for autumn

By Beth Bower
The perfect dinner for a cool autumn night just might be a warm bowl of soup. Especially one you didn’t slave over a stove all day making. Even though things are running at a slower pace these days, it’s still nice to be able to fix a meal—in one pot with little prep—that is nutritious, inexpensive and tastes great.
Broth, vegetables, starch and protein are your building blocks. Herbs and spices, garlic, onion and other seasonings take it to the next level.
I always keep quarts of chicken and beef broth on hand. I freeze leftovers from steak night, fried chicken breasts and stir-fried shrimp for protein. Even meals like leftover pork fried rice can be added to a couple of cans of chicken broth; throw in thin-sliced celery and carrots and add a dash of soy sauce for an excellent soup.
Basic plan
For a fast main course soup, you need, depending on the amount of people you are feeding:
One quart of broth or water with bouillon
A protein such as cooked rotisserie chicken, roast beef or canned beans. If using raw protein such as chicken or fish, cut into bite-size pieces
Diced fresh or frozen vegetables such as carrots, bell pepper and corn. Canned tomatoes, seasoned or plain, are always an option.
Seasoning, such Morton’s Season-all, garlic, onion and ground pepper
Starch, such as potatoes, pasta, rice or grains. In the accompanying recipe for Rotisserie Chicken Tortilla Soup, tortilla strips provide the starch.
In a large pot, bring liquid, veggies and raw starch, if using, to a boil. Add spices, herbs and other seasonings with raw protein, if using. Simmer for 10-15 minutes.
If using cooked starch and protein, start with liquid and veggies. When veggies are tender but not mushy, add cooked starch and protein. Simmer 5-10 minutes until warmed through.
Serve with salad, cornbread, muffins, crackers or grilled cheese sandwiches. You are the creator of your favorite soup. A word of caution, though: I’ve found the more creative I am, the less chance I will make it the same way next time. When inventing, write it down!

Rotisserie Chicken Tortilla Soup

1 qt. chicken stock
1 10-oz. can Original Rotel (Mexican-style tomatoes and chilies) with juices
1 10-oz. can water
½ cup diced green or red bell peppers
½ cup diced yellow squash or zucchini
Fresh corn cut from one cob (or ½ cup frozen)
1 cup cooked black beans, drained
1 tablespoon dried onions
1 bay leaf
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes or to taste (optional)
1½ tablespoons tomato paste
White and dark meat from one Rotisserie chicken shredded, about 2 breasts and 1 thigh
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro

Toppings:
Salt and pepper to taste
Fresh lime juice to taste
Thin tortilla strips or chips crumbled
Grated cheese
Sliced fresh jalapenos (optional)

Directions:
In a large stock pot, combine chicken stock, Rotel, water, bell peppers, squash, corn, black beans, dried onions, bay leaf, garlic powder, cumin and crushed red pepper. Bring to boil; reduce heat and stir in tomato paste. Simmer uncovered for 15-20 minutes or until veggies are tender but not mushy. Add chicken and cilantro. Simmer for 5 minutes more. Spoon into bowls, top with a squeeze of lime, salt, tortilla strips, cheese and jalapenos if using.

Makes 4 servings.

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