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Cooler days and hot soups

I've already established that I love fall and one of the many reasons is because it provides the perfect weather conditions to provide an excuse to make delicious soups.

Creamy Potato Soup

1 head of garlic, roasted

1 large yellow onion, peeled and chopped

5 large russet potatoes; peeled, cubed and boiled

4 cups chicken broth or stock

¼ cup salted butter

1 cup milk

¼ cup cream

½ teaspoon thyme

Olive oil

Coarse Salt and ground pepper to taste

Begin by preparing the potatoes. While they boil on the stove preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. With a sharp knife slice off the top layer of the garlic head to expose most of the cloves and peel off a few of the outer layers of the garlic but be sure not to peel it all off. Drizzle the garlic head with olive oil and sprinkle it with salt and pepper. Wrap the garlic in aluminum foil and place it on a baking sheet.

Roast the garlic for 40 minutes or until the garlic is soft; it will also be very fragrant when it is ready to come out of the oven. From the bottom up squeeze out the garlic into a small bowl. Using a fork, mash the garlic into a paste and set it aside.

In a large pot melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onions and saute them until they become translucent. Sprinkle flour over the onions and mix it until it begins to thicken. Add the broth, milk, cream, thyme, salt and pepper; mix all of the ingredients together and allow the soup to come to a boil.

Next add the potatoes and garlic and allow the soup to simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, serve the soup while it is still hot.

Note: You can leave the soup as it is or you can use an immersion blender to make it creamier. For garnish you can add chives, bacon, seared mushrooms or any choice of cheese. It's delicious with a side of crusty bread.

Creamy Roasted Tomato Soup

2 pounds Roma tomatoes, halved

2 pounds cherry tomatoes, halved

8 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 red bell pepper, deseeded and diced

2 potatoes, peeled and diced

3 tablespoons tomato paste

4 cups vegetable stock or broth

2 cups basil leaves, fresh and torn

Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 430 degrees F. Place the tomatoes on a baking sheet with the garlic cloves, drizzle them with 2 tablespoons of oil, season with salt and pepper and roast for 25 minutes or until the tomatoes are soft.

While the tomatoes are roasting, heat the remaining oil in a pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion, peppers and potatoes. Cook them until the onion is translucent and the potatoes begin to crisp. Stir in the tomato paste and broth, add salt and bring the mixture to a boil.

Reduce the heat to a simmer when the potatoes become tender enough to pierce them with a fork add the tomatoes, garlic and basil and continue to simmer for 5 minutes.

Using an immersion blender, blend the soup until it is smooth.

Note: You can serve the soup with an open-faced grilled cheese using any kind of cheese melted over the top of a crusty bread in the oven.

Cheesy Cauliflower Soup

2 tablespoons butter

2 cups onion, chopped

1 ½ cups celery, chopped

½ cup carrot, chopped

1 ½ tablespoons minced garlic

2 yukon gold potatoes, peeled and thinly chopped

6 cups chicken stock or broth

6 cups of roughly chopped cauliflower florets

2 bay leaves

1 ½ teaspoons fresh thyme leaves

1 teaspoon kosher salt

⅛ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 ½ cups sharp cheddar cheese, grated

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

In a large pot sauté the onions, celery and carrots with the butter until the onions are softened. Add the minced garlic and cook a minute more.

Add the potatoes, stock, cauliflower, bay leaves, thyme, salt and black pepper. Heat on high and bring the stock to a simmer; lower the heat as needed to maintain a simmer. Cover and cook for 15 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender and remove the bay leaves.

At this point you can use an immersion blender to make the soup smooth and creamy if you'd like or you can move on to the next step.

Slowly add the grated cheddar cheese, if you left the soup chunky you continue to stir the cheese in as it melts if you puréed the soup use the blender to stir in the cheese. Constantly stir the soup until the cheese melts completely. Lastly, stir in the Worcestershire sauce.

Add more salt and pepper to taste if needed and serve the soup while it is hot.

Note: Remove the soup from any and all heat sources before dishing it up to prevent it from scorching. This soup is also delicious with crusty bread.

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