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Joni Woolf: Soup time coming soon

Though one cannot proclaim that autumn has arrived, there is definitely a change in the air — the morning temperatures have dropped below 70 degrees and the days are hovering below 90 —sometimes. Any change in the weather is a signal to change our eating habits, if only for a short time. Cooler weather awakens in me the craving for soups of all kinds. Soups are good for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is they can be stored in the freezer, in small and large units, and are just as good a month or two after cooking as on the day they were prepared. They also can be paired with bread and a salad for a complete and easy-to-prepare meal, one that does not require all afternoon in the kitchen.
Earlier this year, I was craving soup one day when the cupboard was mostly bare. Going through some of my older cookbooks, I came across a recipe for onion soup that I had never made before, but since then, have made repeatedly. It is easy, it is delicious, and it requires so few ingredients that you might have them on hand at this moment. The recipe is from a cookbook called “Putting on the Grits” and was published by the Junior League of Columbia, South Carolina. (It came to me by way of my second husband, and it came to him by way of his second wife. Now it is mine: how can I not be grateful?)
French Onion Soup
4 large onions, thinly sliced
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 heaping teaspoons flour
4 cups beef broth
2 cups dry white wine
Salt and pepper to taste
French bread, sliced
Grated Swiss cheese
Saute onion in butter until golden. Stir in flour. Add broth and wine. Simmer slowly 1 to 1 ½ hours, stirring often. Add salt and pepper if needed. To serve, fill individual bowls ¾ full with soup. Place a slice of bread in each bowl and cover with a general amount of cheese. Put bowls on baking sheet and place under broiler until cheese bubbles and browns slightly. Serves 4 to 6.
Note: When I made this, I skipped the addition of bread and cheese and ate plain soup, with saltine crackers on the side. Almost as good.
The following is a really good chili for cooler days, but there is no time like the present to prepare. So buy your ingredients, and when the temperature drops below 40 degrees, you will be ready for some serious cool-weather food. Add a pan of jalapeno cornbread and slaw or a green salad and you have a complete meal — along with iced tea or a good cold beer.

Chipotle Beef Chili
(Can also be made with chicken or turkey)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 red or green bell pepper cored, seeded, and diced
3 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, minced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound ground round or ground chuck, browned and drained
2 to 3 tablespoons chili powder
1 to 2 teaspoons sea salt
2 to 3 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
¼ teaspoon dried basil
1 12-ounce bottle dark beer (optional)
¼ cup Worcestershire sauce
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 14-ounce cans chicken or beef broth
1 bay leaf
1 15-ounce can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1 15-ounce can kidney beans, rinsed and drained. (May also use a white bean, such as cannellini)
Garnishes: grated Cheddar cheese, sour cream
Heat oil in large heavy saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat; add onion. Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, 10 minutes or until tender. Add bell pepper and cook 5 minutes. Add chipotle pepper and garlic; cook about 1 minute. Add beef and next 5 ingredients. Stir in beer, and simmer about 2 minutes. Stir in Worcestershire sauce and next 4 ingredients. Bring to a low boil; reduce heat to low. Simmer, uncovered 30 minutes. Add beans, stir, and continue to simmer 10 minutes or until liquid has reduced slightly. Remove bay leaf. Garnish if desired.
Many soups contain combinations of several foods that make up a healthy diet, so go to the web, or to your cookbooks, and find some that appeal to you. Soup is an easy way to get the vitamins you need to stay well — and keep cooking.

Joni Woolf, a writer and editor, now lives in Schley County, having moved from her home in Macon several years ago. Contact her at indigojoni@windstream.net