It seems there will be a few more weeks of winter, so what could be better than a pot of soup or chili?

One of my favorites is Fiesta Ranch Soup. This soup is easy to make and tastes great, with just a slight kick of spicy heat.

If you don’t eat red meat, you always can substitute chicken for the ground chuck in this recipe. However, I prefer the beef. My assistant and friend, Mauna, would have wanted the chicken. If making the chicken version, I would use chopped cooked chicken and add it with the other ingredients after the onions are sautéed.

Those who like pizza will probably want to try my Pizza Soup with Orzo, which is a very small pasta. No need to tell your guests the name of this one because after one taste, they will know it’s “pizza.”

If you are eating more vegetables, but would enjoy a hot bowl of chili, Vegetable Chili should become a favorite. Baby bella mushrooms replace the beef that usually is in chili.


Fiesta Ranch Soup

Ingredients:
1 lb. ground chuck
2/3 cup chopped onions
1 (1.1 oz.) package Hidden Valley Fiesta Ranch dip mix
1 (10 oz.) can Rotel tomatoes and chilies with lime and cilantro
1 (16 oz.) can refried beans
1 (15 oz.) can chili beans
1 (11 oz.) can whole kernel corn
3 cups water

Combine ground chuck and onions in soup pot. Cook until beef is no longer pink and onions are tender. Add remaining ingredients and simmer about 15 minutes. Serve with tortilla chips.

Pizza Soup with Orzo

Ingredients:
1/2 lb. pork sausage
2/3 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped pepperoni
1/2 cup chopped bell pepper
1/3 cup sliced or chopped black olives
1 cup cooked orzo
1 (14 oz.) jar pizza sauce with mushrooms
1 (14 1/2 oz.) can diced Italian-style tomatoes (with basil, oregano and garlic)
3 to 4 cups water
1/4 cup freshly shredded Parmesan cheese
Shredded mozzarella cheese for sprinkling on top
Combine sausage and onion in soup pot. Cook until sausage is no longer pink and onion is tender. Add pepperoni, bell peppers, olives, orzo, pizza sauce, tomatoes and water. Cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes. Stir in Parmesan and keep hot until time to serve. Top each serving with a sprinkling of Mozzarella.

Vegetable Chili

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon oil
1/2 cup chopped bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 cup diced baby bella mushrooms
1 can Rotel with lime and cilantro
1 (14 1/2 oz.) can diced tomatoes
1 zucchini, diced (do not peel)
1 yellow squash, diced
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon sugar
Salt to taste
1 (14 oz.) can vegetable broth
1 (16 oz.) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 (11 oz.) can whole kernel corn
1 (16 oz.) can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
Tabasco, to taste
Additional butter, if needed
Shredded cheese for sprinkling over top

Heat butter and oil in large soup pot. Add bell pepper, onion and mushrooms. Cook until tender but not browned. Add Rotel and tomatoes. Cook for about 2 to 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add zucchini, yellow squash, chili powder, sugar and salt. Cook for about 1 minute. Add broth, black beans, corn, pintos and Tabasco. Taste and add more butter, if needed. Simmer uncovered for about 15 minutes. If chili is too thick, add water or more broth. Sprinkle cheese over each serving.

Prudence Hilburn of Piedmont, Ala., has won more than 30 national cooking awards and written several cookbooks, including “Kitchen Keepers.” Write her at prudencehilburn@aol.com or visit prudencehilburn.com.