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There was nothing gradual about the change of temperature this fall. There was a real frost and there was ice on water in the birdbaths and livestock water containers. It was cold this week. I know it is late October and fall is here, but we went from extra warm weather to freezing! So for me, the cold temperature means time for soups and chili.

If you are looking for some great ways to stretch your food dollars and get back to cooking, plan to use your crock-pot and make soup. Fall and winter, regardless of the temperature outside, are the perfect times to make real soup. When I write real soup let me share that for me, real soup is not opening a can or package of already made soup.

Although I must admit that one of my favorite meals is canned cream of tomato soup made with milk, not water, accompanied by a grilled cheese sandwich. There is just nothing like dunking the sandwich in the soup!

I know more and more of you need to reduce the salt/sodium in your healthy eating, and one of the biggest problems with commercial soups is the high amount of sodium.

The food industry knows that many of you are soup eaters, as they have created many new ones, and they are in many forms such as canned, dried, frozen, and in the refrigerator section of grocery and restaurant supply stores. Many of these are quite tasty, but read the label and see what is in the soup.

What I want to encourage you to do is to plan a little kitchen time and make some real soup. You can be like a real cook and start with making stock. Stocks are the foundation of all cuisine. These rich brews develop from slowly cooking meats, bones, and vegetables in liquid in order to extract their nutrients and flavor and to draw out other natural materials that add desirable body and texture. The crock-pot is a great small appliance to use for this.

Stock provides a base of flavor on which your soup recipes can be built. In real soup making, stock is the starting point, or critical ingredient, of a multitude of dishes, particularly soups and sauces. Beef stock has the deepest flavor and color, and is followed by chicken stock, with fish stock being the lightest.

So let’s think about it, you might have poultry meat and bones of some kind, a beef roast, or a ham bone from cooking. Any and all of these can be heated in a large pot on the stove, or placed in the crock-pot. You can take what you have, add water, bring it to a boil and then turn the heat down and simmer for several hours. Another way you can do this is to place the meat or bones in a crock-pot with cold water and heat the mixture first for an hour or more on high and then turn it down to low and cook for several hours.

The reason for using the cold water is it will pull more of the flavor out of the bones.
Keep in mind that you want to cook the bones until the meat falls off the bones, then you can strain the broth and removed the meat from the gristle, and now you have the makings for flavorful vegetable soup. Another way is to cut up and brown meat or poultry pieces and then simmer for a couple of hours.

Soup is a liquid that has been cooked with additions intended to impart enough flavor and nutrients so that the final product becomes an appealing food. In the cooking world, soups are categorized as clear (broth, consommés) or thickened (cream soups, vegetables purée’s), light (broths, consommé’s, bouillon, and light cream soups) or hearty (dense vegetable soups and thick cream soups). I personal don’t care about the name, I just want hearty soups with many vegetables and much flavor.

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