Comforting soup for cold season

Screen Shot 2015-02-18 at 4.40.20 AM  It’s the middle of February and for our family, that often means it’s time for a sniffle or two. Like most people hit by the cold or flu bug, we enjoy serious comfort foods when we’re knocked down. You know what I’m talking about: a savory, steaming bowl of something tasty and made with care. And nothing says “feel better soon” like an inviting bowl of soup.

This Italian Sausage and Orzo soup is just what the doctor ordered to warm the soul and soothe a stuffed head. With Italian sausage, orzo, beans and veggies, it’s a twist on the more traditional chicken noodle soup. It’s also super adaptable. Leave out the sausage and use vegetable broth for a delicious vegetarian soup, or swap out the veggies to suit your tastes. Add spinach; throw in some zucchini or green beans; leave out the great northern beans and add more orzo instead. This is a fantastic “base” soup that can be altered to meet a variety of preferences, as well as to use up what’s already living in your pantry, freezer or fridge. It even comes together quickly and easily.

Serve this soup with Cheesy Italian Buttermilk Bread and your taste buds will be in heaven. This quick bread mixes up in minutes with no kneading necessary. Again, change up what you’d like; add different herbs or cheeses. Stir in some caramelized onions or throw some minced garlic in. Play and have fun with these recipes!

So the next time you need a comforting recipe to battle the cold and flu, look no further. Enjoy!

Italian Sausage and Orzo Soup
• 1 pound chicken Italian sausage
• 1 small sweet onion, diced
• 3-4 carrots, peeled and diced
• 3 stalks of celery, diced
• 4 cloves of garlic, minced
• 8 cups chicken or vegetable broth
• 1 can Italian diced tomatoes
• 1 can great northern beans, drained and rinsed
• 1 cup orzo pasta
• 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
• 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
• salt and pepper to taste

Combine sausage, onion, carrots, celery and garlic in a large soup pot over medium-high heat. (If not using sausage, add 2 Tablespoons olive oil to the veggies.) Cook, stirring frequently, over medium-high heat until sausage is cooked and vegetables are softened. Drain grease and return to pot. Add broth, tomatoes, beans, orzo, thyme and lemon juice.  Stir to combine and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally to prevent the orzo from sticking to the bottom. Reduce heat to a low simmer and cook about 10 more minutes to finish cooking orzo.

Cheesy Italian Buttermilk Bread
• 2 cups flour
• 1 Tablespoon sugar
• 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
• 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1 heaping cup sharp cheddar cheese
• 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
• 1 cup buttermilk
• 1 large egg
• 1/4 cup olive oil
• 1/4 cup sharp cheddar cheese for topping

Preheat oven to 350 and spray a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan with non-stick spray. Whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cheese and herbs in medium bowl. In small bowl, whisk together buttermilk, egg and olive oil. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and fold together with a spatula just until ingredients are combined. Be careful not to over-mix. Place batter in the prepared loaf pan, spreading to the edges and corners. Sprinkle with remaining quarter cup cheese. Bake at 350 for 45-50 minutes or until the top is domed, golden brown, and a cake tester placed in the middle of the loaf comes out clean.
Cool for 10 minutes and then serve.