Back when Martha Stewart was peaking and famous for her ability to do everything perfectly—from hosting dinner parties to plowing fields—I decided I’d try my hand at being Martha for an evening. My plan was to invite a couple to our home for a gourmet dinner party.

I did what Martha would do: I went overboard. I set the table with china dishes and crystal stemware—loads of flatware, candles, and cloth napkins. It took a while but finally, I came up with a menu. First course:  French Onion Soup. What a pain. It took all day to prepare.


The friends arrived late and brought a little surprise with them—their kids! That was not in the plan. I hadn’t prepared anything for children! And if that wasn’t bad enough, the quite pushy husband started poking around the kitchen, lifting lids and asking what was on the menu.

Starting with French Onion Soup, he made it abundantly clear that he doesn’t eat that. Then one by one as I went down the menu, he responded “Nope!” to everything we would be having for dinner.

As it turned out, three of us ate the planned meal while the husband and children dined on peanut butter and jelly.

All painful memories aside, there’s nothing like homemade soup to warm body and soul on a blustery, fall day. But what if you don’t have all day to make soup? Don’t sweat it. If all you have is about 20 minutes (give or take), you can make any of these mostly-from-scratch soups.

They’re so easy and so delicious (and cheap, but let that be our little secret), you’re going to want to make it “soup night” at least once a week until spring.


Semi-Homemade Chicken Soup

When you don’t have more than about 20 minutes, this is an amazing semi-homemade chicken soup. And so easy!

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 4 (14.5 ounce) cans chicken broth
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can vegetable broth
  • 1/2 pound chopped cooked chicken breast
  • 1 1/2 cups egg noodles
  • 1 cup sliced carrots
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. In a large pot over medium heat, melt butter.
  2. Cook onion and celery in butter until just tender, 5 minutes.
  3. Pour in chicken and vegetable broths and stir in chicken, noodles, carrots, basil, oregano, salt, and pepper.
  4. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes before serving.

Beer Cheese Soup

  • 1 cup minced celery
  • 1 cup minced carrots
  • 1 onion, minced
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 2 cups half and half
  • 10 oz. bottle beer (nonalcoholic works just fine)
  • 10 oz. can condensed chicken broth
  • 3 cups grated sharp Cheddar cheese
  • white Cheddar cheese popcorn, optional for garnish
  1. In a heavy stockpot over medium high heat, sauté celery, carrots, and onion in butter until tender, 4 or 5 minutes.
  2. Reduce heat to medium
  3. Add flour and with a whisk stir constantly, until mixture bubbles, 4-5 minutes.
  4. Add half and half, beer, and chicken broth and stir gently.
  5. Stir in the grated Cheddar cheese and continue stirring until cheese is melted and until thickened, about 10 minutes.

Note: Once you have added the cheese do not allow the soup to come to a boil. You want to keep it just below the boiling point. Pour into serving bowls. Garnish with popcorn, as desired. Servings: 6

Quick and Hearty Vegetable Beef Soup

  • 1/2 pound ground beef
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 5 cups water
  • 1 14.5-ounce can whole tomatoes with the juice, cut into pieces
  • 3/4 cup quick cooking barley
  • 1/2 cup sliced celery
  • 1/2 cup sliced carrots
  • 2 beef bouillon cubes
  • 1/2 teaspoon basil, crushed
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 9-ounce package frozen mixed vegetables
  • Black pepper to taste
  1. In large stockpot, brown meat. Add onion and garlic; cook until onion is tender. Drain.
  2. Stir in remaining ingredients except for frozen vegetables. Cover; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Add frozen vegetables; cook about 10 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Additional water may be added if soup becomes too thick. Servings: 8.

Creamy Carrot Soup

  • 1 tbsp olive oil or butter
  • 4 slices bacon
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 5 large carrots, cut into 3/4-inch chunks
  • 1 quart vegetable or chicken broth (4 cups)
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  1. Set a large pot over medium heat and heat the oil. Add the bacon and continue to cook until the bacon begins to turn golden. Remove bacon, allow to cool slightly and chop it up.
  2. Add chopped onion and minced garlic to the bacon drippings. Cook for 2 minutes until onion is just translucent.
  3. Add carrots and stir well to coat with the oil.
  4. Add broth, then stir. Cover with lid and cook for 20-25 minutes until carrot is very soft.
  5. Remove lid, turn heat off. Use an immersion blender to puree the carrots (or cool slightly and do in this in the blender).
  6. Add cream, milk, salt, and pepper to taste. Stir. Adjust thickness with milk (or water), if desired.
  7. Ladle soup into bowls. Garnish with a swirl of cream (or a dollop of sour cream), bacon, and chopped parsley.