IT'S NATIONAL HOMEMADE SOUP DAY!

With record cold and snowfall around the country, National Homemade Soup Day couldn't come at a better time. Here are my favorite homemade soup recipes... fast, easy, and homemade delicious!

ROASTED BUTTERNUT SQUASH SOUP RECIPE: My number one all-time most popular soup recipe is my Roasted Butternut Squash Soup. I've made it hundreds of times for thousands of people. Everyone loves it- you will too. Get the recipe...

 My all-time most popular recipe... Roasted Butternut Squash Soup. So much so, I now grow my own butternut squash from all the seeds!

My all-time most popular recipe... Roasted Butternut Squash Soup. So much so, I now grow my own butternut squash from all the seeds!

LOADED BAKED POTATO SOUP: The comfort of a fully loaded baked potato, spoon version. Your family and friends will love this soup! Perfect for family game night, a tailgate, or a quick weeknight dinner. Best of all, everyone can customize their bowl of soup their own way. Get the recipe...

 Loaded Baked Potato soup is even better than its namesake. Another fast, easy, and delicious recipe.

Loaded Baked Potato soup is even better than its namesake. Another fast, easy, and delicious recipe.

LOWER ALABAMA STYLE GUMBO: I don't think I like anything more than gumbo. You can put just about anything you want into it; this one happens to be shrimp and Alabama made Conecuh sausage but I also make it with chicken. Mardi Gras is in February so it is gumbo season! Get the recipe...

 Lower Alabama gumbo always is chock full of fresh Gulf shrimp!

Lower Alabama gumbo always is chock full of fresh Gulf shrimp!

SAUSAGE, WHITE BEAN & ESCAROLE SOUP: This has to be a one of the most flavorful and easiest recipes I've ever come up with. You might not know what escarole is; a leafy green vegetable used frequently in Italian cooking. You certainly can substitute kale in place of escarole if you cannot find it. Get the recipe...

 Easy and so much flavor... try my Sausage, White Bean, and Escarole Soup- I promise it will become a cold weather favorite!

Easy and so much flavor... try my Sausage, White Bean, and Escarole Soup- I promise it will become a cold weather favorite!

CHEF MICHELE RAGUSSIS' AWARD-WINNING NEW ENGLAND CLAM CHOWDER RECIPE! Michele recently shared her recipe with me and it is one you'll want to try. Most of us only order Clam Chowder in a restaurant; now you can make it at home! Get the recipe...

 Chef Michele Ragussis' award-winning restaurant style New England Clam Chowder.

Chef Michele Ragussis' award-winning restaurant style New England Clam Chowder.

MY AWARD-WINNING CHILI RECIPE: My chili is so fast and easy with smoky chipotle and roasted tomatoes creating warm and cozy flavor. You make it in a crockpot so it could not be easier... and our friend Melanie has won her local chili competition with it several years in a row! Get the recipe...

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NEW ENGLAND CLAM CHOWDER RECIPE FROM FOOD NETWORK STAR CHEF MICHELE RAGUSSIS

If you watched Season 8 of Food Network Star, you undoubtedly remember Chef Michele Ragussis. I could think of no better person to go to for a recipe on National New England Clam Chowder Day than Michele. She is an expert on New England cuisine. Her pilot for Food Network, My New England, highlights her love of the region and her passion for cooking the seafood found in its waters.

This is Michele's award-winning New England Clam Chowder recipe. It's like a trip to the New England coast in a bowl... comforting, rich, and rustic. Note that Michele indicates using frozen clams if you cannot find fresh. I know you'll enjoy this recipe- it is one of the best clam chowders I've ever eaten. Thank you, Michele, for allowing me to share it! Read more about Michele in my interview or on her blog: Chef on a Pier

MICHELE’S NEW ENGLAND CLAM CHOWDER

INGREDIENTS

1 pound (4 sticks) butter

1 1/2 white onions, diced

5 stalks celery, sliced thin

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons clam base* or clam juice

4 potatoes (Idaho or Russet), peeled and cut into 1/4-inch cubes

2 pounds fresh chopped clams **

4 cups heavy cream

2 to 3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

A few dashes of your favorite hot sauce

1 loaf crusty bread, for serving

* Find clam base at the seafood market or substitute clam juice, found at most grocery stores

**Look for fresh clams at your local seafood market, or use high-quality frozen clams

DIRECTIONS:

In a deep stockpot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onions and celery and saute until translucent, about 4 minutes. Sprinkle in the flour and stir. Let the flour cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Whisk in 8 cups water and the clam base and whisk vigorously, making sure there are no lumps from the flour. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce to a simmer. Stir in the potatoes and chopped clams. Simmer for 20 minutes. Add the cream, dill, and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Bring back to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook until thickened, another 20 minutes. Check for seasoning, add a few dashes hot sauce, and serve with your favorite crusty bread.

Recipe copyright Michelle Ragussis, 2011

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MY EASY SUPER BOWL PARTY PLAN: HOST A SOUPER BOWL SOUP SHOWDOWN

The Super Bowl happens this weekend but you still have time to plan something to get the gang together to watch the game. Why not throw a Super Bowl Soup Showdown and recipe exchange? It's one of my easiest and fastest parties to pull together--- you can actually watch the game and have fun at your own party. A soup buffet is really the perfect foundation for a party. Warm, comforting, affordable, easy to serve, easy to prepare in advance, and everyone loves soup!

ADVANCE PLANNING:

Invite your friends over to watch the big game and issue the SOUP SHOWDOWN CHALLENGE. Ask everyone to make a big pot of their favorite soup for the competition and bring printed copies of the recipe to share.

Also ask them to bring their soup in a Crock-Pot or slow cooker to keep it warm for serving. It is always a good idea to have guests tell you what they plan to bring so you don’t end up with six different versions of chicken noodle. One of our favorites was Jean's Reuben Chowder. Get the recipe... 

One of my favorite soup recipes is this Sausage, White Bean, and Escarole Soup. Get the recipe...

You supply the beverages. Also supply loaves of crusty bread, crackers, and a condiment bar of mix-ins and toppings for the soup like: croutons, bacon, different cheeses, sour cream, green onions, chives, Tabasco or your favorite hot sauces.

Offer a few snacks, too. Wings, like my Spicy Diablo Baked Chicken Wings, are a Super Bowl standard but your menu doesn’t have to be heavy on the calories. Set out bowls of grapes, those small sugar pears, cherries, or toasted nuts. Make a cheese board and cut fruit or veggies with a healthy yogurt dip.

You’ll want to have dessert or something sweet. I’d keep it very simple with a one-pan recipe like brownies, bread pudding, or a pound cake. For something portable and extremely easy, my Indoor S’mores are perfect for a party. They take about 10 minutes to make and everyone loves them. Get the recipe...

It is okay to use disposable plates, spoons, and napkins for this kind of party. If you want to use disposable for the soup, I’d suggest the insulated paper coffee cups since guests will be tasting all of the different soups to vote on a favorite. You can find these at almost any store these days. (Tip: Chinet makes cute square disposable white plates that are made in the USA of recycled materials)

Make up a card for each soup with a number and the name of the soup. I have little chalkboards I use for this kind of thing. You can buy or make your own with some wood and chalkboard paint.

Make ballots so guests can vote for their favorite soup and award prizes for the winners. Kitchen gadgets are always a fun prize. Or a huge ladle "trophy" that changes hands each year.

ON GAME DAY:

Clear off all of your kitchen counters or the kitchen island. Or you can set up stations around the room to serve the different soups with a central condiment station. Be sure to have plenty of spoon rests, ladles, and bowls placed at each station.

Ice down your drinks and make sure to have plenty of clean ice available for serving.

Number all of the entries as they arrive.

At half-time, award the prizes.

Re-stock the bar and replenish condiments, utensils, and ice as necessary.

GET MORE SOUP RECIPES INCLUDING MY MOST POPULAR SOUP RECIPE EVER, MY ROASTED BUTTERNUT SQUASH SOUP!

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