Land of Leftovers

January brings with it the settling in of winter and all the chilly days that come with it. One of the best defenses against winter chills is a good coat and warm hat. But, coming in a close second are tasty, soothing soups. And, soups lend themselves to being a meal where leftovers can really shine. This month, tasty side dish salads are reincarnated as satisfying soups.

One of the great things about making soup is that so many food items can find their way into it without sacrificing flavor and texture. In fact, soup is one of those dishes that really allows you to play around with recipes. One can get away with adding and subtracting ingredients in a soup in a way that would likely cause chaos in your average cake or cookie recipe. For the experienced cook, they offer the opportunity to never offer the same bowl of soup twice (unless you find a really good combination). For the amateur, they offer the chance to build the confidence to experiment in the kitchen. Either way, they're great fun and simple to make.

This month's series of recipes combine favorite side dish salads and soups that transform the leftovers into new culinary wonders. A spicy vegetable salad becomes the base of a creamy chowder with a southwestern kick. A classic dinner salad becomes a simple Italian soup that becomes a complete meal when paired with crusty bread and a glass of red wine. A hearty potato salad that's perfect with burgers or sloppy joes comes back later as a rich soup that's pure bliss when served with BLTs. It's as simple as thinking ahead.

You can always take advantage of leftovers when it comes to making soups. That roasted chicken would be great in a chicken and dumpling soup. Leftover ratatouille can be heaven in a hearty vegetable and pasta soup. Imagine pulled roast beef making it into an onion soup or diced ham added to split pea soup. And then, there are those times that I actually go into my refrigerator and gather all of the leftovers and come up with something that never would have occurred to me without them. It just takes a little courage and imagination. You have my permission to try!

To start you out, here are a few of my favorite salad-to-soup combination recipes. Enjoy!

Remember, you the only thing you have to fear is the cold winter wind whistling outside your door. Do yourself a favor and arm yourself with some great soup!

Black Bean and Corn Salad

This spicy salad is a favorite with tacos or quesadillas in my house. Try adding more red pepper or hot sauce if your tastes run a little more on the hot side.
  • 1 - 15 oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 c. frozen sweet corn, thawed and drained
  • 1/2 c. sliced green onion
  • 1/2 c. diced red pepper
  • 1/2 c. salsa -- choose the intensity based on your preferences
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 1-2 tsp. lime juice
  • crushed red pepper or hot sauce to taste

Combine black beans, sweet corn, onion and pepper in a medium-sized bowl. Set aside.

Mix remaining ingredients in a screw-top jar. Position the lid on the jar and shake vigorously to mix. Pour the dressing onto the prepared vegetables and toss to coat. Refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving to allow the flavors to blend.

  • Yields: 4-6 servings
  • Preparation Time: 15 minutes plus chilling time

Southwestern Chowder

This snappy soup takes advantage of leftover Black Bean and Corn Salad and adds a rich tomato base and some cream to swirl in.
  • 2 c. Black Bean and Corn Salad
  • 4 c. V8 or tomato juice
  • 1 c. light cream
  • 1 c. cooked, diced chicken

Combine the first three ingredients in a stockpot. Place over medium heat and stir frequently until boiling. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes. Add chicken and simmer an additional 10 minutes. Serve with tortilla strips if desired.

  • Yields: 4-6 servings
  • Preparation Time: 30 minutes

Spinach and Tomato Salad

This refreshing salad is perfect for serving with bistro-style chicken or steak sandwiches. It's also a welcome guest at any backyard barbeque.
  • 1-2 large tomatoes, depending on your tastes
  • 3 c. torn spinach leaves
  • 3 T. olive oil
  • 3 T. balsamic vinegar
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 T. minced basil
  • 1 T. minced oregano
  • 1 T. minced parsley
  • 3 T. grated parmesan cheese

Cut tomatoes into bite-sized chunks. Combine with the spinach leaves in a large serving bowl. Set aside.

For the dressing, combine the oil, vinegar, garlic and herbs in a screw-top jar. Position the lid on the jar and shake vigorously to mix. Pour the dressing onto the prepared vegetables and toss to coat. Sprinkle with grated cheese and serve immediately.

  • Yields: 4-6 servings
  • Preparation Time: 15 minutes

Italian Garden Soup

Adding the remains of a Spinach and Tomato Salad -- dressing and all -- to this soup gives it a slight tang and a colorful appearance.
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 c. sliced zucchini
  • 1/2 c. coarsely chopped onion
  • 1/2 c. coarsely chopped red pepper
  • 5 c. chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 c. white kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 c. Spinach and Tomato Salad

Heat the cooking spray in a stockpot. Add the zucchini, onion and pepper and sauté over medium heat until softened, but not browned. Add the broth and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes. Add the kidney beans and Spinach and Tomato Salad and continue cooking for an additional 10 minutes. Serve hot with a bit of crusty bread.

  • Yields: 4-6 servings
  • Preparation Time: 30 minutes

Roasted Potato Salad

This creamy salad takes full advantage of hearty roasted potatoes. It seems time-consuming, but if you prepare your other vegetables while the potatoes roast, you'll be serving it before you realize it!
  • 8-10 medium-sized potatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • Cooking spray
  • 1/2 c. white onion, diced
  • 2/3 c. sweet red pepper, diced
  • 1/2 c. celery, diced
  • 2/3 c. baby carrots, sliced into coins
  • 1/2 c. mayonnaise -- you can use a light version
  • 1/2 c. Thousand Island salad dressing -- you can use a light version
  • freshly ground pepper to taste

Place the potatoes in a saucepan filled with water. Bring the water to a boil and simmer the potatoes for about a minute. Drain and place into a roasting pan coated in cooking spray. Bake in a 425F oven -- mixing every 15 minutes -- for 45 minutes or until tender and crisp.

Meanwhile, prepare the vegetables and mix the mayonnaise and salad dressing in a large bowl. Add the vegetables and potatoes to the dressing and toss to coat. Chill for at least 2 hours to allow the flavors to blend. Add desired pepper to the salad before serving.

  • Yields: 4-6 servings
  • Preparation Time: 1 hour plus chilling time

Chilly Day Soup

Enjoy this soup on a cold day with crusty bread and hot apple cider.
  • 4 c. chicken broth
  • 1 c. light cream
  • 2 c. Roasted Potato Salad
  • 1/2 c. snipped fresh chives
  • 1/2 c. cooked, crumbled bacon

Combine the first three ingredients in a stockpot. Place over medium heat and stir frequently until boiling. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes. Add remaining ingredients and simmer an additional 10 minutes.

  • Yields: 4-6 servings
  • Preparation Time: 30 minutes

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