For some reason, I associate the word “dreary” with the month of November.  This year, the trees had finally changed their everyday green dresses into the bright ballgowns of autumn.  However, we were not able to enjoy them very long, as the wind and rain of the past few days have altered those multi-hued garments into scraggly, threadbare clothing that will soon find itself in the ragbag (better known as the ground below the trees).

This past Sunday began with a glorious sunrise, and I praised the Lord for his marvelous work.  After church, I planned to go to the store to pick up a few items I needed for a couple of the recipes in this column.  I drove out of the parking lot headed in that direction.  Still recovering from last week’s sinus procedure, I decided I didn’t feel like shopping, so I made a sudden decision to forego the trip.  I turned right so I could go the back way home from church.  When I came to the next intersection, I realized that one of the things on my agenda was to get gas for my car.  That one was more necessary, so I reluctantly headed north again, intending to fill up my tank and then take myself home.

My plans were changed again as I drove through the bright late morning.  God’s world beckoned me to enjoy the remaining sunshine beaming down on autumn’s glory before predicted clouds rolled in that afternoon.  I was filled with a deep sense of my Lord’s presence, and I thanked Him as I traveled the road toward my destination.

By the time I completed my shopping and my vehicle was replete with fuel, the sky was looking much more like what had been the predicted weather for the day.  I took the Interstate home instead of finishing my drive through the country.  Besides, I was getting hungry and wanted to prepare the Italian-Style Beef-and-Pepperoni Soup recipe that caused me to shop for ingredients.  It turned out to be as tasty as I had anticipated!

When November weather is dark and dreary, there is nothing like a good bowl of soup to brighten things up.  Along with the preparation mentioned above, I also tried out two other soup recipes this weekend.  Skillet Chili with Cornbread was delicious, even if the seasoned tomatoes I used ended up being “Medium” instead of “Mild.”  It was a bit more spicy than I would have made it intentionally, yet I still had a second helping.

The third recipe required more effort than the first two.  Sweet Potato Soup sounded intriguing when I first saw the recipe, and I have had it on my “to try” list for a while.  Even though it sounds sweet, it is savory instead.  Making it involves putting it through a blender; I am always thankful that I have an immersion blender, which makes the process much easier.

Have a “soup-er” November!


Italian-Style Beef-and-Pepperoni Soup

1 pound extra-lean ground beef

1 cup sliced turkey pepperoni (3 ounces)

Cooking spray

1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped

1 bunch green onions, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon olive oil

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes

4 cups chicken broth or stock

1 teaspoon dried basil

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Garnishes: sliced fresh basil, shredded Parmesan cheese

Parmesan Toast Points (optional), recipe follows

Cook ground beef and pepperoni in a Dutch oven coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat 8 minutes or until beef crumbles and is no longer pink. Rinse and drain beef mixture.

Sauté green pepper, onions, and garlic in hot oil in Dutch oven 5 minutes. Stir in beef mixture, tomato paste, and next 5 ingredients. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer 30 minutes. If desired, garnish and serve with Parmesan Toast Points.  Yield: 10 cups


Parmesan Toast Points

6 slices bread (I used whole wheat)


Parmesan Cheese

Butter each slice of bread; cut into 4 triangles.  Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.  Bake at 400 degrees for 5 minutes, or until lightly browned.


Skillet Chili with Cornbread Topping

1 pound lean ground beef (may use turkey)

1/3 cup chopped onion

1 (14.5-ounce) can Mexican or chili season diced tomatoes, undrained

1 (10-ounce) can diced tomatoes with green chiles

1 (15-ounce) can pinto beans, drained

1 large egg

1 cup self-rising white cornmeal mix

3/4 cup milk

1/2 cup shredded Monterrey Jack cheese (or Cheddar)

1/4 cup canola oil

Heat oven to 425 degrees.  Brown ground beef and onion in 10-inch oven-proof skillet; drain.  Add tomatoes and beans.  Simmer 10 minutes.

Beat egg in medium mixing bowl.  Stir in cornmeal mix, milk, cheese, and oil until smooth.  Pour over meat mixture in skillet.

Bake 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Yield: 4-6 servings.


Sweet Potato Soup Recipe

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large yellow onion, chopped

1 cup baby carrots (heaping)

2 teaspoons chopped garlic

3 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes

2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

6 cups chicken stock

2 tablespoons salted butter

1 cup finely chopped pecans

1/2 cup plain yogurt

1/4 cup torn fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves

Heat oil in large Dutch oven over medium-high. Add onion and carrots; cook, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic; cook, stirring, until fragrant, 1 minute. Add all potatoes and spices; cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add stock; bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer until potatoes are very tender, about 20-30 minutes.

Melt butter in skillet over medium-high heat. Add pecans; cook, stirring often, until toasted, about 8 minutes. Transfer to bowl.

Transfer potato mixture, in batches, to a blender. Remove center piece of blender lid (to allow steam to escape); secure lid on blender, and place clean towel over opening in lid. Process until smooth. (Or process soup in Dutch oven using an immersion blender.)

Top servings with 2 tablespoons pecans, 1 tablespoon yogurt, and 1/2 tablespoon parsley.