lola rugula hot pepper jelly photo

ten easy homemade soup recipes

Soup is a wonderful, versatile thing. It’s warm and steamy when we’re cold, it’s comforting and nourishing when we don’t feel well, and it can be cool and crisp on a hot summer afternoon. It can be chunky and rustic or it can be smooth and rich. Soup is also often a great way to use leftovers and that’s one of the reasons I’m a huge fan. If you’ve been a follower of mine for a while, you know how much I love soup, so I decided to put together a collection of some of my favorite soup recipes to date. Here’s a list of my most popular soup recipes, links to each included. Enjoy!

Ten Easy Homemade Soup Recipes

  1. Easy Lamb Stew Recipe (okay, while technically a stew, this is so simple, easy and popular on my site that I had to include it.)
  2. Roasted Garlic and Leek Soup with Potatoes (my most recently-posted soup recipe and a staple in my house for a long, long time)
  3. Rattlesnake Bean and Vegetable Soup (great with any dried bean, so feel free to use your favorite)
  4. Navy Bean and Ham Soup Recipe (a great way to use that leftover ham and ham bone after your holiday get-together)
  5. Roasted Tomato and Garlic Soup (so versatile and delicious as a hot soup or a chilled soup)
  6. Miso Soup with Shitake Mushrooms and Tofu (if you’re looking for a restorative soup recipe, this is the one)
  7. Tuscan Soup (another classic that is easy to make and packed full of flavor)
  8. Lobster Bisque (creamy, decadent and oh, so worth a little extra effort)
  9. Cream of Mushroom Soup (pictured below – made with a variety of mushrooms, you will never go back to canned soup)
  10. Classic Summer Garden Gazpacho (lets the flavors of your beautiful homegrown tomatoes shine through!)

wild mushroom soup recipe

There you go! A compilation of some of my best soup recipes. And most of my soup recipes are easily-customizable to fit your taste and use what you have on-hand.

Never, ever be afraid to play with your soup….or food. ­čÖé

Enjoy!

lola rugula hot pepper jelly photo

i don’t think you’re ready for this hot pepper jelly recipe

Break out the cream cheese and crackers because I’ve got on an old-school┬áclassic for you that I just can’t resist sharing. This is an easy┬áholiday appetizer recipe and guess what – it also makes a great gift! If you want to fancy it up a bit, you can swap out the cream cheese for goat or feta cheese but, no matter how you serve this, I promise that almost everyone will love it. Hot pepper jelly or jalapeno jelly is a silly-simple thing to make but it’s something I love and this is a perfect time of year for it.

This is an unprocessed hot pepper jelly recipe, as most of them you’ll find involve water-bathing or steam canning and honestly, as much as I enjoy canning, this stays just long enough to enjoy a batch without the extra work. I hot pack my jelly, so the jars seal and that, along with the vinegar in this, will be enough for a lot of people to tell you that you can put it up and preserve it without any refrigeration. Though I clean and dry my canning jars for this, I don’t sterilize them, so I refrigerate mine after processing. I have no problem keeping this batch for a month or more in the fridge and again, that’s thanks to the vinegar and hot packing process.

lola rugula canned hot pepper jelly

hot pepper jelly (aka jalapeno jelly) recipe

  • 2 large bell peppers – I typically use red, yellow or orange for the color. Remove stems and seeds and discard.
  • 4-8 jalapeno peppers or other hot peppers. Remove stems and discard. Remove the seeds if you want to tone down the heat.
  • 2 cups cider vinegar
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1 1.75 oz. package less or no-sugar needed Sure Jell

For me, this makes 5  of the 1/2 pint canning jars. Wash and dry your jars and lids and set aside.

Cut the bell peppers into quarters and the jalapenos in half and place in food processor. Pulse a couple of times and then scrape the sides of the bowl. Pulse again a couple of times until all of the peppers are minced. Be careful not to liquify the peppers – you just want to chop them until they’re minced. There may be a tiny bit of liquid in the bottom of the bowl, but that should be all.

Here’s what they should look like:

lola rugula peppers for jelly

  1. Scrape the minced peppers out into a large saucepan.
  2. Add vinegar and sugar to the pan and stir well.
  3. Bring mixture to a boil, reduce heat and simmer about 7 minutes.
  4. Add package of pectin, stir well with a fork or whisk and bring back to a boil.
  5. Make sure all of the pectin is fully incorporated and there aren’t any lumps.
  6. Boil 1 more minute.
  7. Be careful here to not let the mixture boil up and over the pan.
  8. You should actually start to see or feel with a spoon the mixture start to thicken and gel a bit.
  9. Quickly and carefully pack the hot mixture into clean canning jars, leaving about 1/4 inch of headspace, wipe the rims of the jars clean, and seal with lids and bands.
  10. Let cool at room temperature. Typically, my lids will seal in about 35-45 minutes.
  11. When completely cool, refrigerate.

Tada! You’ve achieved simple no-canning-required hot pepper jelly. Easy, right?

The heat of this totally depends on you and the peppers you want to use. Want to make ghost chili or Carolina Reaper hot pepper jelly? You can, but you probably should only use one of them and not six, as my recipe calls for. You’ll need to taste your peppers first, to gauge the heat, although peppers often get hotter when cooked so only let this be your guide.

Serve with softened cream cheese (or goat or feta) and some crackers. People are going to love you for this, I promise. ­čÖé

lola rugula hot pepper jelly and cream cheese

As I mentioned earlier, this can also make a really nice little gift by simply putting a jar of it into a gift basket or bag, along with a brick of cream cheese or tub of feta, and some nice crackers.

I’ve read where people add food coloring to their hot pepper jelly and I just don’t think it’s necessary. I mean, look at the beautiful colors in this:

lola rugula hot pepper jelly preserves recipe

I also consider this a low-sugar hot pepper jelly recipe, as a lot of recipes call for twice the amount of sugar that I do. I think the sugar in this is more than sufficient and provides just enough sweet foil to the heat of the hot peppers.

The real beauty of this is that if you make some now and have some cream cheese and crackers on hand, you can whip up an easy appetizer in no time at all. I can’t tell you how nice this is when you’ve got people dropping by unexpectedly, not only at the holidays but all year round.

lola rugula hot pepper jelly photo

This is so much fun to serve to guests – most just aren’t’ expecting the heat but enjoy it, once they’ve tasted it. And you know if there’s anyone who loves an easy holiday appetizer recipe, it’s this girl. I’ve got enough things to do this time of year, so this just makes life a little bit easier.

I hope you try this and love it. Enjoy!

lola rugula hot pepper jelly photo

roasted garlic and leek soup with potatoes

I’ve been trying to photograph and post some of my super easy soup recipes lately, such as my Roasted Garlic and Veggie Soup and my Summer Garden Gazpacho. We love soup in my house and I love them because they can be easy to throw together while still being incredibly nutritious.

If you scan through my soup recipes, you might notice the word “roasted” used quite often. That’s because roasting your soup ingredients adds a nice boost of flavor and depth, and this recipe is another perfect example of this. This is a soup I’ve made for many moons and beyond, mostly because I’m seriously obsessed with garlic. Roasting garlic, as many of you know, smooths out its harsh edges and brings out a sweeter, smokier flavor. This is the case with roasting most things as long as you bring it to the “roasted” point and not the “burnt” point. When roasting, you just want to get everything to golden, with a hint of browning. Burning garlic, or any other ingredient, is only going to get you sharp, harsh, bitterness and that’s not what you’re looking for.

Okay, enough of my rant. Let’s make some soup. And stay tuned, because I’m going to give you a number of variations on how to make this creamier, smokier and more.

lola rugula roasted garlic and leek soup with new potatoes

roasted garlic and leek soup with potatoes recipe

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 10 medium to large cloves of garlic, peeled and gently smashed, but left mostly whole
  • 2 medium leeks, white and tender greens only, cut into 1-inch pieces and rinsed well
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup dry white wine (optional – if you don’t want to use wine, use vegetable stock instead)
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (again, optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 medium potatoes – preferably red or gold – peeled and diced into 1 inch pieces
  • turmeric and freshly-chopped parsley for serving (optional)

In a large stockpot, add olive oil and heat over medium heat for about a minute.

Add garlic and leeks and toss well with olive oil.

Cover, turn burner to lowest setting and let roast on the stovetop for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, being careful to not let anything burn.

You’re looking to have the garlic and leeks soften completely and turn golden, with a few pieces start to gently brown. You’ll also start to notice some browning on the bottom of the pan.

lola rugula how to make roasted garlic and leek soup with potatoes

When you’ve reached this point, add the wine and, using a large spoon, scrape up all the brown bits from the bottom of the pan and stir well.

Add stock, black pepper, pepper flakes and thyme. Stir well.

Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer about 15 minutes, or until the garlic and leeks are all fully soft and cooked through.

Using an immersion blender, blend the mixture until smooth and then return to pan.

Add diced potatoes and simmer about 17-20 minutes, until potatoes are tender.

Remove from heat, spoon into bowls, sprinkle with a pinch of turmeric and parsley and serve.

lola rugula garlic leek and potato soup

This soup is a huge antioxidant boost to help protect you from all the nasty winter bugs that circulate this time of year. Adding a bit of turmeric just ups the antioxidant factor, but it’s totally optional.

Garlic is good for your heart, your blood and your gut, so it’s good to add it to your diet whenever you can. Roasting it removes the sharpness while still keeping its health benefits.

I promised you some variations on this and believe me, there are many.  Here are some of them:

  • If you want a creamier soup, add 1/2 cup of half and half or heavy cream
  • If you want a creamier soup without adding dairy, when the potatoes are done cooking , scoop out a cup or so and puree it and then add it back to the pan. Viola! Creamy soup without the dairy.
  • Want a smokier flavor? Crisp up some diced bacon when you’re browning the garlic and leeks and cook it with the soup.
  • If you prefer to keep the bacon crispy, cook it separately and sprinkle on top of soup before serving.

Never, ever be afraid to play with your food.

Enjoy!

lola rugula hot pepper jelly photo

spicy honey sesame wings

If you’re looking for a great chicken wing recipe with just a hint of heat but a ton of flavor, these are your wings. And, if you don’t subscribe to the┬á“wings have to be nuclear” line of thought, you might also love my spicy apricot wings, because they’re pretty delicious without being crazy hot, also. And don’t be tied down to doing this recipe with wings, because it’s a great sauce for legs, thighs, and even chicken breast, you’ll just have to adjust your cooking time accordingly.

I happened to have hung with a crowd from the Buffalo, NY area during the original Buffalo-style chicken wings heyday back in my New Haven days, and I can tell you they didn’t actually involve much more than deep frying the wings and then tossing them in Frank’s Red Hot, butter and (shhhhh) a shot of Amaretto while they were still hot. True story.┬á Not very exciting but that’s my story. I still swear by Frank’s Red Hot if you want hot wings because it’s a great, flavorful base to making a tasty hot chicken wing.

I’ll state here that I’m not in the camp of breading chicken wings or deep frying them; I like roasting mine in a hot oven and, if needed, crisping them up for a┬ácouple of minutes under the broiler. Less grease, less mess and a wee bit healthier. I also can’t stand a soggy-skin chicken wing. Char it a little and crisp up the skin or don’t bother giving it to me.

Chicken sauces┬áare fun to play around with, as you can do so much in the way of flavors, so I try and mix things up once in a while. The sliced scallions and sesame seeds are key toppings with these wings because they add a huge burst of flavor and crunch to the overall dish. Mostly though, these are just chicken wings…have fun with them for Pete’s sake.

lola rugula sesame chicken wings

spicy honey sesame chicken wings recipe

  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 2-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon Thai hot chili garlic paste
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 3.5 lbs chicken wings, cut at the joints, wing tips reserved for making stock at a later time. (about 3 lbs wing and drumettes)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds

In a large bowl, combine the first 7 ingredients (garlic through rice vinegar) and whisk together well.  Add chicken wings, toss well and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.

Preheat oven to 425┬║

  1. Brush a large baking sheet with olive oil.(for easy clean-up, line with aluminum foil first)
  2. Place wings on baking sheet, skin side up. Reserve any extra marinade.
  3. Roast wings for 10 minutes. Turn wings over and brush with some of the reserved marinade.
  4. Roast 15 minutes, turn wings over and brush with remaining marinade.
  5. Roast for about 10 more minutes, until wings start to char a bit on the edges.
  6. Remove from oven and transfer to a serving bowl or platter. Sprinkle with sliced scallions and sesame seeds and serve.

lola rugula spicy honey sesame chicken wings

These are just about the perfect chicken wing recipe. Spicy, crunchy and full of sweet, hot flavor. If you want more heat, just add some more Thai garlic chili paste. If you don’t have the chili paste, feel free to add some minced jalapeno, habanero or other hot pepper.

lola rugula sesame honey chicken wings

Of course, if you want to lessen the heat, don’t add any chili paste or hot peppers at all..it’s just that simple.

lola rugula sesame honey chicken wings recipe

These babies are sticky, so be sure and serve them with plenty of napkins. ­čÖé┬á And if you have to have a dipping sauce with your wings, these will still do just fine alongside your cup of ranch or blue cheese dressing.

Another variation on these is to do them with chicken tenderloin pieces on skewers. They still make a great meal or appetizer this way, but without the mess of bones.

Never, ever be afraid to play with your food.

Enjoy!

lola rugula hot pepper jelly photo

roasted garlic and vegetable soup

This is one of my clean-out-the-fridge soups. I hate to see veggies go to waste and honestly, sometimes I just buy too many and end up with more than I know I’m going to use before they reach their death-by-lack-of-use phase.

This is super simple and can be used with a myriad of veggies, so use what you have and love. Roasting the vegetables first just gives this a nice, deep flavor…much more so than just tossing veggies in a pot and simmering them. (Not that I’m opposed to that, because it’s also a delicious way to make soup). And yes, this is loaded with roasted garlic so feel free to take it down a notch if you want.

roasted garlic and veggie soup recipe

  • 6 large cloves garlic, unpeeled
  • 2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced (Yukon Gold’s are great in this)
  • 1 medium leek, white and tender green, cleaned well and sliced
  • 2 cups small cauliflower florets
  • 2 cups small broccoli florets
  • 1 cup sliced carrots
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 cups vegetable stock (preferably homemade)
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme

Preheat oven to 400┬║

Place garlic and veggies on a large baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and toss everything around to coat well.

Roast for 30 minutes, tossing everything around about halfway through the cooking time.

Remove from oven and transfer veggies to a stockpot.

Squeeze roasted garlic from their skins and add to pot.

Add stock and thyme and bring to boil. Reduce to simmer and cook, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool about 10 minutes.

Using an immersion blender, blend about 5 minutes until soup is smooth. Seriously, I do this for about 5 minutes, tilting the pan and really blending it. I like this smooth and creamy.

lola rugula roasted veggie soup

Easy, right?

This is so good with all kinds of veggies. Think squash, asparagus, zucchini, onions, cabbage, Brussels sprouts…don’t be afraid to just use what you have and love here. Make this soup yours and don’t be afraid to add different herbs. Rosemary, chives, tarragon…go with what you like.

Soups on…who’s ready?

lola rugula hot pepper jelly photo

shredded beef and pork ragu

I’ve had a craving for a meaty ragu ever since the weather started to turn cold and, as is typical with me, I was inspired to go with what looked beautiful at the meat counter as opposed to what I traditionally do with my meat sauces. My local grocery had some lovely beef bones with lots of meat on them and hefty country-style pork ribs on sale, so I grabbed a couple of the soup bones and a 3 pack of ribs and carted them home.

I also picked up a 4 pack of Italian sausages because, honestly, that’s just the mood I was in. Apparently, my body already thinks it needs to bulk up for the winter ahead.┬á ­čÖé

This makes a humongous family or dinner size batch so if you want to reserve some of the ragu for freezing, only cook one pound of pasta and then freeze the rest of the sauce.

lola rugula pasta and ragu

shredded beef and pork ragu recipe

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 beef soup bones with meat – about 3/4 lb. each
  • 3 pork loin country-style ribs, bone-in, about 1 lb. total
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 5 large garlic cloves
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 2 medium carrots
  • 1 stalk celery
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 1 1/2 cups beef broth, preferably homemade
  • 6 cups whole, peeled cooked Roma┬átomatoes with their juice
  • 18 oz. tomato paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 4 Salsiccia sausages (optional)
  • 1 1/2 cups warm half and half
  • 2 lbs. bucatini or other thick pasta
  • Freshly grated Parmesan for serving
  • Fresh parsley, minced, for serving

Season beef and pork all over with salt and pepper.

In a large stockpot, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium heat. Add beef bones and brown on both sides, about 10 minutes per side, until well browned. Remove to a plate.

Add pork ribs and brown well on all sides, about 15 minutes total. Remove to plate.

If excessive grease, drain off leaving 1 teaspoon in pan. Be sure and try to leave all the crispy bits, because that’s where the flavor is. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil and heat.

Add garlic, onion, carrots, and celery. Saute over medium heat for about 7-8 minutes.

Add red wine, stirring and scraping the crispy meat bits from the bottom of the pan. Reduce until wine has almost evaporated.

Add beef stock and bring to simmer for about 10 minutes.

Add back beef bones and pork ribs.

Add tomatoes and tomato paste, hand-smashing the tomatoes as you add them.

Add grated nutmeg and stir everything together well, until tomato paste is well-incorporated.

Bring the sauce to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 3 hours.

Using tongs, carefully remove beef and ribs to a plate.

If using, add sausages to the sauce.

Using 2 forks, shred the beef and pork from the bones. If desired, also scoop out any remaining marrow from the beef bones. Discard bones and any excess fat, and add beef, marrow, and pork back into the sauce.

Simmer for 1 more hour or until almost all of the liquid has evaporated and the sauce is nice and thick.

While the ragu is nearing its finished time, pour half and half into a small pan and heat until warmed through.

Cook pasta and drain.

Add hot half and half to sauce and stir well.

Toss hot pasta with sauce. Transfer everything to large bowl or platter, sprinkle with freshly grated Parmesan and minced parsley and serve.

lola rugula ragu with shredded beef and pork

Like most homemade meat and tomato sauces, there’s some prep and long simmer time involved but it’s totally worth it. This is a rich and hearty sauce, full of flavor.

The sausages may take it into overdrive but again, so worth it. My husband made a fantastic sandwich with one of the sausages, some sauce, and French bread. What could possibly be bad about that, right?

As I always say, don’t be afraid to play with your food. If you’d rather lighten this up a bit, why not try using chicken and pork, or even some ground or shredded turkey.┬á Or try replacing the sausages with chicken or turkey sausage. Don’t be a slave to specific recipes – mix them up to fit your tastes and lifestyle.

Winter is coming, so make it a warm, delicious one.

Enjoy!