Watching Your Weight? Eat Soup! (Dirty Little Secret Soup Recipe)

by on January 27, 2008
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I love soup, especially during cold weather. In the winter, about every other meal I make centers around soup. I tend to favor thick, chunky, meal-in-a-bowl soups, primarily because I’m too lazy to make lots of different courses. But if I had all the time and energy in the world, I would like nothing better than to start every meal with a light, vegetable-based soup.

Rustic Red Kale and White Bean SoupAs it turns out, both hearty soups and brothy ones can be valuable tools to those of us who are trying to lose weight. Researchers have found that people who begin their meals with a simple vegetable soup eat about 20% fewer calories than those who don’t. It doesn’t matter if the soups are chunky or pureed, only that they’re low in fat and calories (no cream soups). The water content of the soup is the key–it adds volume to fill you up. If you think you can get the same effect by having a glass of water with your meal, think again; the phenomenon seems to work only when the extra water is part of the dish.

Ethiopian-Inspired Red Lentil SoupMain-dish soups are also great for dieters. Adding some beans or other high-protein ingredients increases the soup’s “staying power”–the length of time it satisfies your hunger–and turns it into a one-pot meal. Soups that are already protein-heavy, such as split-pea or lentil, can be lightened up with the addition of vegetables or can be served as the main dish along with salads or other vegetable sides.

Even if you’re not watching your weight, soups are one of the healthiest things you can eat. Cooking vegetables in a soup releases nutrients into the broth, making it rich with vitamins and other nutrients. And by pureeing a soup, you can increase the amount of vegetables you eat in a meal without having to eat until you’re stuffed.

North African Chickpea and Kale SoupSince I started writing this blog, I’ve made a lot of soups (70 as of January 2013!), and many of them have become staples in my family’s diet. Though it’s one of my newest creations, North African Chickpea and Kale Soup quickly became one of my family’s favorites; it packs an amazing amount of nutrition and flavor into a quick-cooking soup. Among my old favorites is Ethiopian-Inspired Red Lentil Soup, a hearty, filling soup that will leave no one hungry. What both these soups have in common is that they rely on blends of spices that some people might call exotic. I believe that creative seasoning is what makes soup worth eating; you could make a soup with the same basic ingredients over and over again but if you vary the spices, it’s a different soup every time.

Now, having said that, I have to admit that the soup that I make on a weekly basis–my go-to meal when I’m in a hurry or lacking inspiration–is neither “creatively seasoned” nor varied. It’s actually…embarrassing. At least one night a week I throw together this soup that doesn’t even need a recipe because it’s concocted entirely from packaged ingredients. Shocking! I keep all the ingredients on-hand so that I can make this whenever the need arises–once I actually served it to guests, when they arrived too late to take out to dinner. They liked it so much they even asked for the recipe. I wasn’t about to give it to them, but I’ll let you in on the secret.

Dirty Little Secret Soup

Find all of my soup recipes here!

There are so many delicious soup recipes on other blogs that no one should ever have to go without soup. Here are a few I’ve added to my “must-try” list (adapted as necessary to be fat-free and vegan):

Roasted Allium Soup at One Hot Stove (with links to lots of Nupur’s other great-sounding soups)
Lentil & Chestnut Soup at Albion Cooks
Charred Tomato Soup at Tinned Tomatoes
Hot and Sour Cabbage Soup at VeganYumYum
and Alanna’s amazing list of soups submitted to Soup’s On at A Veggie Venture

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{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

1 SusanV August 1, 2009 at 8:49 am

Here are the 34 comments that were posted before the blog was moved in 2010:

34 Comments

* steph said…

I love making and eating soups as well! The problem is my husband who doesn’t like thin soups, so usually I puree at least part of a soup even if it doesn’t call for it. Thanks for the great tips and links!

11:55 AM, January 27, 2008
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* Kalyn said…

I’m also completely nuts about soup! Your chickpea and kale soup is something I really want to try.

12:24 PM, January 27, 2008
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* Heather said…

I laughed when I read this entry. I do the exact same thing. I love the frozen vegetable blends and always keep different ones on hand for soup!

I found a really good mexican blend with black beans, corn, and peppers.

I can make a lot of soup and it’s quick, inexpensive, and taste so much fresher than a can. No one ever guesses I didn’t spend all day slaving over a pot.

12:34 PM, January 27, 2008
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* Lydia said…

I’m completely addicted to using frozen pearl onions, and frozen corn (because the season for fresh corn is so short here in New England). I find that good homemade stock combined with almost anything from the pantry makes a wonderful soup.

1:05 PM, January 27, 2008
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* Jana said…

After years of not eating soups – God knows why! – I have finally re-discovered and learned to love them again. The varieties are endless, and when you stick to veggies, you can eat until you’re bursting full and not feel bad. In fact, you’re doing yourself a lot of good. Also, Susan, your soup recipes are absolutely delicious! Even my former soup-hating boyfriend now gleams with joy when I serve soup.. sometimes twice a day :-)

1:10 PM, January 27, 2008
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* Jenny said…

haha, Susan, I make that soup too, almost exactly! It’s my go-to recipe when i don’t have any time or creativity in me for getting dinner on the table. great minds… :) Although I usually use 2 cans of cannelini beans and a bag of frozen spinach in addition to the italian or california blend.

1:39 PM, January 27, 2008
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* kickpleat said…

i try to eat soup as much as possible and your soups look pretty wonderful. i think i’ll try the kale and chickpea soup next!

1:40 PM, January 27, 2008
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* Addiopolis said…

Soup is wonderful! I remembered that last week when I made a recipe from the Veganomicon. It was a broccoli and potato and herb soup. Potatoes, broccoli, mint and dill. And I learned the trick about pureeing part of the soup and adding it back in. I’ll be trying the chickpea and kale soup. Chickpeas are so great.

3:41 PM, January 27, 2008
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* Holler said…

Thank you for adding my soup, it is one of my favourites. Your soup looks pretty tasty too, a real hearty meal in itself! Just think of all the easy goodness in soup, no wonder we all love them so much!

5:36 PM, January 27, 2008
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* Debbie said…

I make this type of soup all the time, too. Sometimes, if I have it, I’ll use some low-sodium multi-vegetable juice (like V8) as part of the broth. And you can throw in some barley or other grain, and/or some TVP, too.

5:56 PM, January 27, 2008
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* Gnewvegan said…

Your comments on the nutritious value of the nutrients in the water/broth is well said. I steam my vegetables often trying to retain the nutrients. And had in the back of my mind to save broth when you can because of the nutrients. But it did not fully hit me until you said it in your blog, how nutritious soup is.. I also love soups in the winter. I have listed one of my soups on my blog. Experimenting with spices makes it interesting, but I also love frozen vegetables. I use them often. They are just as good as you said and are quick to use.. I say frozen vegetables are a handy “tool” in the kitchen.

Gnewvegan
http://invitationfrom-gnewvegan.blogspot.com/

8:05 PM, January 27, 2008
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* Sonaranda said…

I really enjoyed this entry. My dad has lost 75 pounds in the past year, basically by eating soup for at least one meal a day. He generally ate canned soup, but steamed broccoli or other veggies to stir in. Now I’m teaching him to make veggie soups, and tonight we made your soup together. It’s still cooking, but it smells really good.

8:51 PM, January 27, 2008
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Anonymous said…

You forgot to mention your ‘yellow split-pea soup with sweet potato and kale.’ I make it ATLEAST every two weeks,and I have given out the recipie to atleast 10 people. Everyone lovessss it! A little change that I make: I use about 1 and a half tablespoons of coconut oil instead of canola oil. This gives a slight sweet taste to the soup.. and when you consider it makes atleast 6 full servings.. you are only ingesting like 2grams of fat or less. I then like to sprinkle each bowl of soup with shredded coconut for decoration. MMmmm so good. Make more soups! :)

9:59 PM, January 27, 2008
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* Cindy. Lo. said…

I just got back from the grocery store, bought a whole bunch of veggies for soup.
Soup is truly the best healthy and yet delicious dish while trying to lose weights!

10:54 PM, January 27, 2008
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* Dominique said…

Hey Susan!

Great recipes and pictures! Those soups look delicious. You said: “if I had all the time and energy in the world, I would like nothing better than to start every meal with a light, vegetable-based soup”.
Here’s what I do: I roughly chop up some veggies (carrots, sweet peppers, leek, sometimes broccoli and/or cauliflower, celery…) which only takes me about five minutes, then I chuck them into a pot with just enough water for all the veggies to be in it and some vegetable broth, I boil it for half an hour or so, then purée it! It takes a while but it’s all cooking time in which you can make the rest of your meal. That way you can have soup every day without it being much of an effort.

Dominique

9:01 AM, January 28, 2008
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* the pleasantly plump vegan said…

great idea

9:30 AM, January 28, 2008
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* Veg-a-Nut said…

Thank you for sharing your “secret” with us! I love it. This is my kind of soup! :o)

9:40 AM, January 28, 2008
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* Middle Kid said…

Susan, I’ve been following your blog for about a year and your Italian Lentil and Vegetable soup is my very favorite. I always have some in my freezer for a quick meal. I also use your “Dirty Little Secret” soup often for a nutritious meal. I’m a terrible cook, except for when I use any of your recipes. You make me look good!

9:59 AM, January 28, 2008
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* kayness said…

fantastic, Susan! I love soup too, now it just gives me one more reason to eat soup more often! I’m so going to try your dirty little secret soup: sounds cheap, delicious, nutritious and filling – perfect for a student like me. By the way, do beans count as ‘vegetables’? For example if I make my soup with a mix of pulses/beans and veg would that count as ‘vegetables-only’? I absolutely love lentils in soup, you see.

10:33 AM, January 28, 2008
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* julie hasson said…

Thanks for sharing your recipes Susan. I too, live on soup, and keep a supply of frozen organic veggies in the freezer for quick meals.

I can’t wait to try your dirty little secret soup!

Julie

12:47 PM, January 28, 2008
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* Melisser; the Urban Housewife said…

I wish I would have had this pot last week when I was headed for a vegan soup competition! I love soup! I only wish my husband liked it as much as I do.

4:09 PM, January 28, 2008
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* Johanna said…

thanks for a great post on soups – I love soups too – they are a great way of feeling virtuous about food and also they are such an easy way of using up anything in the fridge or pantry (I even started putting pickled onions in soup last week because I am so sick of that jar hanging around the fridge). Will be returning to your great list of soups – thanks

4:28 PM, January 28, 2008
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* bazu said…

I have to admit, I’m not a very big soup person, but your creations always look so lovely and appetizing, that happily, they make me eat more soup than I otherwise would! Thanks for all the colorful and warming recipes!

7:13 PM, January 28, 2008
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* The Veganette said…

Yummm I love soup; I actually get a little sad in the summer when it’s too warm to eat them every day. I can’t wait to try some of your recipes!

7:22 PM, January 28, 2008
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* Tracy said…

I’m a big soup lover meself, epecially when the weather turns cold. All you soups above look awesome. There’s only one soup I ever made that totally sucked, and that was some recipe I tried once with pumpkin in it. It tasted like body lotion or something. It ended up straight in the composter!

4:15 AM, January 29, 2008
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* sarahsouth said…

what a great resource! soup rocks. thanks

6:40 AM, January 29, 2008
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Anonymous said…

No matter what veggie you add, starchy or not, and/or brown rice, whole wheat pasta, potatoes (only one of those), it is still Core. Add any of the free grains and it is still Core.

It is also still Core if you add the meat substitutes like Morningstar sprinkles or other TVP.

The recipe builder on WW site doesn’t show with a “check” that recipes are Core (a crazy flaw if there ever was one) …but if the ingredients are, it is.

Sounds great!

6:58 AM, January 29, 2008
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Anonymous said…

Susan,
I’m in love with your blog. I’ve only made two of your recipes, but my eyes have been feasting on all your beautiful photos!

I made your “secret” soup last night, and it’s great — favorful, easy, fast, nutritious. I used the California Blend and quinoa option and I squeezed some fresh lemon over it right before eating. Delicious!

9:10 AM, January 29, 2008
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* Suzanne said…

Susan,
First let me say that I love your blog! I was so surprised to find a Vegan from Mississippi. I grew up in Mississippi and felt like the only vegan in Hattiesburg-most folks thought I was a freak and that I’d grow out of it — at 32.

My husband and I rescue dogs and our house is ALWAYS full of needy pups, so after working all day I get home for play and dinner, for the dogs and us. Needless to say, I don’t have much time or energy to cook on weekdays,so we live on SOUP! Yay! I’m cooking the Chickpea and Kale soup tonite. It sounds wonderful.
Thanks again for a Great blog and for such easy yummy recipes.

1:15 PM, January 31, 2008
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* Lane said…

Wow, your soups look FANTASTIC! We will definitely be trying some of these!

My wife has been making a lot of soup lately. I think my recent favorite is The Turkish Lentil Stew from Ann Gentry’s book “The Real Food Daily Cookbook.”

Lane of VeganBits.com

11:37 PM, January 31, 2008
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* Sam said…

I am on Weightwatchers and I just had a delicious vegan soup for lunch. It was a tomato soup with a few wholewheat bread croutons from the freezer to help thicken it. Just Home-canned local tomatoes, tarragon, onion, garlic and although obviously not fat-free – some olive oil. I love the combination of tarragon and tomato – just a little more interesting than basil in a tomato soup. Good job I like it because it’s set to be my lunch for the next few days!

3:45 PM, February 11, 2008
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* lovely posters said…

I love soup and use it to help maintain my lifestyle. It’s hard to find the right kinds of already prepared foods. Soup (with ingredients listed) proves to be the answer for me.

9:29 AM, March 11, 2008
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Anonymous said…

Susan, I have to write to add that your Yellow Split Pea with Sweet Potatoes and Kale is the best soup I have ever eaten. My family is not vegan (not even vegetarian) but we try to eat meat free at least 3-4 nights a week. This soup is our favourite soup period.

2:04 PM, January 13, 2009
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* Ashley K said…

i made this with just one bag of italian vegetables(i bought some mexican blend as well but it had corn in it and i HATE corn).. so i added some frozen spinach and chopped up some celery. oh, i added potatoes as well (i should have diced them smaller!)

but overall, this soup was really good! i blended some of the vegetables to make the broth thicker and mmm it was delicious. i can’t wait to eat leftovers later!

4:05 PM, January 21, 2009

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2 Paramjit July 24, 2010 at 9:54 am

You are absolutely right about the beneficial effect of eating soup before meals. Research has shown that having soup before meals reduces the amount of calories eaten in the main meal. It is a fantastic way for people to have a great meal and reduce calories.

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3 Megan October 11, 2010 at 10:48 am

I made a big pot of veggie soup using this recipe as a framework. I used cooked a handful of lentils in the broth first, then added the other ingredients (tomatoes, 1 lb of “organic threesome” from Trader Joes, a cup of lima beans, a can of butter beans, garlic and seasonings.) At the very end I added a few cups of coursely chopped arugula. Delish! Thanks, Susan.

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4 Kathy October 17, 2010 at 12:30 pm

I decided to make a potful of this lastnight because I’m coming down with an awful cold during midterms… feeling crappy while having to study is very unpleasant!
I was actually thoroughly surprised when it turned out so flavourful, with such basic ingredients. It was so good that my other four carnivorous roommates demolished the rest of the soup. So much for having leftovers!
This is an awesome idea if you are short on time! As a full time university student, I will definitely be adding this to my repertoire of go-to foods.

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5 Amber October 31, 2010 at 2:42 pm

Another university student here! I will certainly be making this one. I am lucky enough to have a cafeteria with vegetarian/vegan options and TONS of fresh/cooked veggies, but there are also things like french fries and desserts… with dishes like this to eat at home sometimes, it’s much easier to avoid packing on the proverbial secondary-ed. pounds. Thanks for posting this recipe! Oh, for the time and money to cook everything featured on this site… ;D

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6 Fiona December 1, 2010 at 6:55 pm

I thought this was pretty good, but not amazing. Considering how easy and healthy it is though, it will probably also become a wintertime staple for my fiance and I. I might tweak it a little as time goes by and post my changes if any of them turn out well.

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7 Jenna Taylor, M.D. January 27, 2011 at 12:25 pm

Susan,

Another great post! Thanks so much for sharing! I have a Vegan Potluck dinner coming up for the participants in our study. I think one of these will be perfect! Thanks! Jenna

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8 Gayle Wohlken January 28, 2011 at 1:18 pm

I made the Ethiopian Inspired Red Lentil Soup last night. A winner!!!! My spice-loving son added another drop of hot sauce, but for me it was perfect. We had it with 100 percent whole wheat pita bread and salad. It made a lot of soup, so we have enough for another night. This is a very hearty soup — and it seems more like a stew than a soup, it’s that thick! I had to add more water than the recipe called for and it still was thick. Your recipes have made winter eating more interesting for us, though I get a lot of my recipes also from both Rip Esselstyn’s and his father, Caldwell Esselstyn’s books.

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9 shirley gordon February 15, 2012 at 10:28 am

i would like to make your low fat tahini chickpea dressing how long does it last?thanx

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10 Susan Voisin February 15, 2012 at 10:31 am

It will last at least a week, maybe two, but I wouldn’t trust it to taste as good if kept longer than 10 days.

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11 Emma May 16, 2012 at 5:18 am

Hi Susan,

This soup is delicious! Unfortunately, it’s definitely not “low calorie”; every nutritional estimate I’ve done has pegged it at about 400-600 calories per serving (if the soup makes 8-10 servings). Maybe a revision is in order? It’s still very good, though!

Emma

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12 Susan Voisin May 16, 2012 at 9:07 am

Emma, I’m not sure how you were calculating, but I just ran it through my nutrition software and double-checked each ingredient, and I came up with at most 190 calories. That’s with using the optional 2 cups of diced potatoes (40 calories), canned beans (92 calories), California and Italian Blend vegetables (35 calories), Muir Glen Fire-Roasted Tomatoes (13 calories), and Imagine No-Chicken Broth (7.5 calories). The exact broth and vegetables you use make a big difference, but usually a discrepancy that size is because your calculation is using dried beans rather than cooked ones.

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13 Cheerfully Vegan January 2, 2013 at 12:20 pm

I just love soup! And this one is going to be printed off right now. I just began a new job and will need quick food more than ever. The only tweak that I would have to include would be some diced onion, even if I had to saute it separately first. I adore onion in most things.

Thanks for such a timely fast recipe!

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14 janapalooza January 11, 2013 at 10:15 pm

I’ve just started Eat to Live 6-week program and can’t wait to make the Dirty Secret Soup! :)

I need a buy a food processor for my new plant food journey. I’m single and live alone but want to be able to make batches of food to save time. Can you recommend a food processor for a medium sized kitchen? I also don’t have a dishwasher so it would need to be easy to clean.

I love beans and veggies so I think I can succeed on Dr. Fuhrman’s plan.

I think I also need some larger Tupperware for the soup. :)

janapalooza

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15 Susan Voisin January 11, 2013 at 10:42 pm

I have always used Cuisinart food processors and have been very happy with them. You should be able to find one that fits your kitchen.

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16 Karen February 6, 2013 at 6:43 pm

When you list herb amounts in your recipes, should we assume that those are amounts for “fresh” herbs or “dried?”
Thanks for all your wonderful recipes!!
Karen

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17 Susan Voisin February 6, 2013 at 7:05 pm

If it doesn’t say, assume dried. I always say “fresh _____” when I mean fresh oregano, basil, thyme, etc.

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18 Laura T. March 17, 2013 at 9:43 am

Made this today for lunch as I have decided to do KISSS for my lunches :) tasty!

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19 Am June 18, 2013 at 7:05 pm

This is my go to soup! I love how simple it is to put together! I’ve made it at least a dozen times!

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20 Robin January 14, 2014 at 8:48 am

I made this on Saturday and have been enjoying it ever since. It was so easy and delicious. I was a little heavy handed with the hot sauce, but that works for me. My veggies were awfully big so I used my immersion blender for a few seconds to kind of puree some it a bit. So it is a mixture of creamy puree and whole veggies. Delicious!!!! Easy and so filling. Thank you!

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21 crabbylove January 31, 2014 at 10:13 am

Wow, I just made this and it’s wonderful, especially on a cold, rainy day. I used 4 cups of veg broth and 2 cups of low sodium V8. Also, I only had 1 can of beans so that’s all I used, but even with these changes it is great.

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