Loyal readers of this column know by now that I love to cook. And I prefer to make things from scratch. But given my crazy work-travel-speak-write schedule, I don’t always have a lot of time to get a meal on the table. That’s the reason I am always on the lookout for quick and easy meals that are also delicious. Because if something tastes good, it’s so much better than going out.

Recently, a friend turned me on to a recipe for “homemade” soup that truly is one of the best soups I have ever tasted. Ever. And yes, I’m going to share it with you now, plus a couple more.

Butternut Squash Soup

You’ll need one container of butternut squash soup from the store (it comes in a quart-size “box” container at my store; also available at Trader Joe’s and others), a bag of frozen butternut squash cubes and pure maple syrup.

Pour the soup into a medium saucepan or soup pot, and add the bag of frozen squash. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down to low. Allow to cook very gently, uncovered, until the squash is tender (15 minutes or so should do it, but check from time to time as you don’t want this to turn to mush). Stir in 2 tablespoons of maple syrup.

You’re done, Einstein. I call you that because this soup, served with a dollop of sour cream and croutons, will make your friends and family think you’re a genius. Serves: 6

Potato Ham Soup

This next offering is without a doubt the best potato soup recipe I have ever discovered. It is quick to make, but more than that, it tastes awesome. Everyone will think you’ve been slaving over a hot stove all day, but the truth is you can have this on the table in less than 45 minutes, start to finish, and all for less than $5 if you are a smart (sale) shopper!

  • 3 1/2 cups peeled and diced potatoes
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1/3 cup diced celery
  • 3/4 cup diced cooked ham
  • 3 1/4 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons chicken bouillon granules
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon ground white or black pepper, or to taste
  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • 5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups milk

Place the potatoes, onion, celery, ham and water in a big pot over high heat. Once it comes to a boil, cover the pot and reduce the heat to medium. Cook until potatoes are fork tender, about 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in the bouillon granules, salt and pepper.

In a separate small saucepan, melt butter over medium-low heat. Whisk in flour with a fork, and cook, stirring constantly until thick, about 1 minute. Slowly add milk, stirring constantly so that lumps don’t form. Continue stirring until all of the milk has been added and until the mixture is nice and thick, 4 to 5 minutes.

Stir the milk mixture into the stockpot, and allow to cook for a few more minutes until heated through. Serve immediately. Serves: 6 to 8.

Quick and Easy Chicken Noodle Soup

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 4 (14.5 ounce) cans (or equivalent) chicken broth
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can vegetable broth
  • 2 cups chopped cooked chicken breast
  • 1 1/2 cups dry egg noodles
  • 1 cup sliced carrots
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • salt and pepper to taste

Melt butter in a large pot. Add onion and celery and saute until just tender, about 5 minutes. Pour in the rest of the ingredients. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes before serving. Serves: 6