What is it about fall weather and soup? It seems every year at this time, I pull out my stock pot and start making soup. My hearty vegetable soup is one that is filling enough for a meal, but also perfect for a side or light lunch. Because I use both starchy and leafy green vegetables, this soup holds its own as a main dish with so many healthy but hearty ingredients. Want more protein? Add cooked chicken, beef or even kidney or garbanzo beans. There are so many combinations you can try. As the cooler temperatures settle in, this soup will not only warm your belly, but your spirits, too. This soup can also be made in an instant pot.

Belle’s Hearty Vegetable Soup

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 onion, diced

2 teaspoons minced garlic

3 stalks Swiss chard or Kale, stems and leave separated and chopped

3 cups cubed carrots, butternut squash, or sweet potatoes of a combination

1 cup cubed potatoes

1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes

2 teaspoons oregano

¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes, more to taste

4 cups beef, chicken, or vegetable broth (I use beef)

1 teaspoon salt

2 bay leaves

2 cups broccoli florets, green beans, or sliced zucchini

1 (14.25 ounce) can creamed corn

Salt and Pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat (or in your instant pot on the sauté mode). Add the onion, garlic and chopped stems from the chard or kale, and cook, stirring occasionally, for several minutes. Add the carrots (and/or butternut squash and sweet potato) and potato, stir and cook 2 more minutes. Add the canned tomatoes, oregano, and red pepper flakes. Stir in the broth, salt and bay leaves. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook, covered, for 20 minutes (or use the soup mode on your instant pot for 5 minutes). When finished, add the broccoli and cook another few minutes until tender. Remove the bay leaves and add the creamed corn and chopped leaves from the chard or kale. (You can also add cooked meat or beans at this point). Heat through. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Brenda Stanley is the mother of five children, including two sets of twins and a grandmother of eight. She is a cookbook author and novelist. For more recipes and information, visit her website www.talesofthedinnerbelle.com.