Cure for the Chills

'Tis the season for a good bowl of soup. January tends to have me curling up with blankets, finding my thickest pairs of socks, and making pot after pot of delicious soups, stews, and chowders. After all, it's hard to stay cold when this is what's for dinner:

I was raised on this chili soup. Over the years, the ingredients have been tweaked a bit. I think we mostly used red kidney beans in it and I lean toward black beans. I am not sure we had corn it often, but my daughter loves it that way, so I put it in. You may have guessed that it's a bit on the flexible side when it comes to recipes. For me, the basics are wonderful chunky tomato juice, spicy seasoned ground beef, elbow macaroni, and lots of veggies. The veggies can and do get mixed up now and then to reflect what's on hand — I think the most recent rendition included pureed squash — but having a bunch of them in there is important. Onions and peppers (sweet and/or hot work) are a must. I imagine you could even use something other than ground beef, but that's what my family tends to use.

Along side a bowl of this soup, you could opt for crackers, breadsticks, or even cornbread muffins. You could top it like you would a bowl of regular chili — a dollop of sour cream, some sliced green onions, and a handful of grated cheese. Mmmm! I'm already feeling warmer. To the chili purists out there who might be hemming and hawing about beans and corn in this dish, let me just grin and remind you that it's soup … we've already jumped the fence on this one! But it's oh-so-delicious and just what I need on these cold January nights!

Chili Soup

  • 1 lb. lean ground beef
  • 1 T. chili powder — choose the spice level you prefer
  • 1/2 c. chopped onion
  • 1/2 c. chopped pepper (choose sweet, hot, or a combination of peppers to suit your tastes)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 quart beef stock
  • 2 quarts tomato juice — ideally a thick variety with additional chunks of vegetables in it
  • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 c. frozen corn kernels
  • 8 oz. elbow macaroni, cooked and drained
  • Salt & pepper to taste

In a large stockpot, brown the beef. When the beef has been browned, add the chili powder and stir well to combine; cook an additional minute. Add the onion, pepper, and garlic and cook over medium-high heat until the vegetables are softened and fragrant — about 6 minutes.

Add the beef stock, tomato juice, black beans, and corn; cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer 10-15 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the elbow macaroni according to the package instructions.

Add the cooked pasta to the soup and adjust the seasonings according to your tastes. Serve hot.

  • Yields: 6-8 servings
  • Preparation Time: 30 minutes

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