Fall into satisfying soups

Published 5:56 pm Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Amber Franks’ Potato Bacon Soup

Autumn is the perfect time of year for a bowl of hot soup

By Janet Tharpe

There are so many reasons to love this time of year: cooler temperatures, chunky sweaters and trees ablaze in color. But perhaps most thrilling of all — at least to us comfort foodies — is the arrival of soup season.

And to kick off the season right, there’s no more decadent starter recipe than Amber Franks’ Potato Bacon Soup. A rich and silky combination of all things creamy, Amber achieves her pot of perfection by incorporating two different types of prepared soup bases and a full brick of cream cheese. The idea came to her during an attempt to recreate a potato soup from her favorite restaurant.

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“I was in search of a potato soup recipe similar to Rafferty’s to make for my husband’s b-day,” says Amber. “After reading endless soup recipes, I finally took all my favorite parts from each recipe and came up with this. It’s now requested at all family functions during the winter months. Hope you enjoy as much as we do!”

For the perfect tasty toppers, treat this soup like you would your favorite baked potato. Sprinkle on some cheddar, load on the bacon and dot with fresh scallions. The result is one sinfully delicious bowl of happiness.

Looking for all the creaminess but with a tad less sin? Take a whirl at whipping up a batch of Chiarra Ferrante’s Creamy Asparagus Soup, which happens to contain no dairy. This sneakily healthy recipe achieves its smooth texture by incorporating nutty almond milk and pureed cauliflower.

“This recipe is so good, it’s hard to believe that it’s completely vegan,” smiles Chiarra. “One thing that I recommend is to find as thick an almond milk as you can. Otherwise, a non-dairy heavy cream substitute will do (nut based is preferred, as it adds a great rich flavor).”

The Kitchen Crew and I love to surprise guests with this unexpected, fresh-tasting soup. Like Chiarra, we tend to go heavy on the garlic and cumin for an even bigger explosion of smoky flavor.

Now if speed is your current need, look no further than your trusty crock pot. Skip Davis has channeled his inner “ooh la la” and perfected a surefire shortcut for homemade French Onion Soup.

“Simple but delicious, just set it and forget it,” says Skip, who combines classic French onion flavor with down-home technique. The only pre-cooking this soul-warming recipe requires is a quick sauté of the onions. When they are nice and supple, add the onions to your crock pot, along with beef broth, Worcestershire sauce, dry sherry and a little bit of water. Three hours later you’ve got a bowl of beauty just begging for a slice of toasted bread and Gruyere! Oui, oui!

For a sip of something even heartier, grab your Kielbasa and a spoon! Jen Lobb is serving up a deliciously easy bean soup that’s a meal all on its own.

“My dad got this recipe from a friend YEARS ago, and it’s a staple in my home,” says Jan, who likes to use a combo of butterbeans, pintos and black-eyed peas in her best batches. “It’s so easy and can be made last minute on the stove or prepped early and cooked on low in a crock pot.”

The subtle tang of cider vinegar adds a special flavor note, and makes this soup an ideal accompaniment to a warm loaf of crusty bread and a glass of wine, if you’re so inclined.

Soups are wonderful not only for their ease, but also for their limitless versatility. Try these fantastic recipes just as each of our special home cooks shared them, or gather what you have on hand and do some improvising. Your next autumnal masterpiece may be just a ladle away.

Potato Bacon Soup


6-7 large potatoes, peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces

1 medium onion, chopped

2 cans chicken broth

1 can cream of chicken soup

1 can cream of celery soup

8 oz. cream cheese, softened and cubed

1 tsp. garlic powder

1/2 stick unsalted butter

Salt & pepper, to taste

1/2 cup milk (for thinning)

1 pkg. real bacon bits or cooked crumbled bacon

Cheddar cheese, shredded

Green onions


  • Cook potatoes and onions in chicken broth, along with just enough water to cover potatoes and onions. Cook until tender. (Once tender, use a potato masher to mash a few to make the soup thicker. Don’t mash all the potatoes, because you still want chunks of potato in the soup).
  • Add cubes of cream cheese. Remove from heat until cheese is melted.
  • Return to low/medium heat.
  • Add half the bacon, soups, butter and spices. Cook for another 10 minutes or so.
  • Garnish with shredded cheddar cheese and bacon pieces. You can also use a little green onion to garnish.
  • Serve HOT & Enjoy! 🙂


Creamy Vegan Asparagus Soup


Creamy Vegan Asparagus Soup

Vegetable cooking spray

3 Tbsp. olive oil, extra virgin

1 cup onion, chopped

3 cups cauliflower, chopped

3 cups vegetable broth

18 sticks asparagus

1 clove

Garlic, minced

1 pinch sea salt

1 1/2 cups almond milk

Black pepper

Basil, dried

Chives, dried



  • Spray a large pasta pot with the cooking spray and add 1 Tbsp. of the olive oil, and slightly brown the oil on medium (this may appear as “burning” the oil, but it is crucial to have this flavor).
  • When oil has reached a light golden brown color, add the onions and sauté until they are clear. Add a pinch of salt.
  • Add the cauliflower and sauté for about 5 min., or until slightly tender.
  • Add six spears of chopped asparagus and continue to sauté for another 3 minutes, or until the asparagus is slightly tender.
  • Add 1/2 cup of the vegetable broth and let simmer on med-low for another 10 minutes or so.
  • Add another cup of broth and return the heat to medium, allowing to simmer while continuously stirring.
  • Once it appears to have reduced slightly, remove the mixture from the heat and put into a heat-resistant bowl. Allow to cool.
  • Once the mixture has become room temperature, use a hand-blender or food processor to blend until smooth (little to no chunks).
  • Spray a clean pot with more spray and add 1 Tbsp. of olive oil.
  • Add the garlic and sauté until golden brown.
  • Add the asparagus and sauté for about 5 min. or until tender and add the remainder of the vegetable broth.
  • Add the blended mixture to the pot and allow to simmer on medium-low for about 10 minutes and add spices to taste.
  • Turn off the heat and stir in the almond milk. Allow to mix well and then serve.


Crock Pot French Onion Soup


Crock Pot French Onion Soup

6 med. sweet onions, thinly sliced

1 clove

Garlic, minced

2 Tbsp. butter, unsalted

2 cans beef broth, 14 ounce

2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

1/4 tsp. freshly cracked black pepper, or to taste

8 slices French bread, 1 inch thick

8 slices Swiss or Gruyere cheese

1/4 cup dry sherry, if desired


  • In a large skillet, cook onions and garlic on low heat in hot butter for about 20 minutes and stir several times.
  • Transfer onion mixture to a five-quart crock pot. Add beef broth, Worcestershire sauce and one cup water. Cover and cook on low for 6 hours or on high for 3 hours.
  • Before serving soup, toast bread slices with cheese slice on top. Broil for three minutes or until cheese is light brown and bubbly.
  • Ladle soup into bowls and top with toast.

Makes eight servings