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Top Pick Of The Week

October 2, 2007

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Corn Chowder

The Red Pepper Corn Chowder is nicely spicy, and made us wonder why we don’t have corn chowder more often. Read more about it in the full review below.

WHAT IT IS: Gourmet dry soup mixes.
WHY IT’S DIFFERENT: High-quality mixes produce soup as good as what you’d want your own homemade soup to taste like.
WHY WE LOVE IT: Each packet gets you to make a lot of delicious soup. If you have a small family, there’s enough for another day. And you get to do enough “cooking”—adding broth and other ingredients—so that you really can say, “I made it myself.”
WHERE TO BUY IT: FrontierSoups.com.
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Frontier Soups:
Homemade In Minutes

CAPSULE REPORT: Want to serve your family “homemade soup in minutes?” You can, with a line of packaged dry soup mixes by the same name, from Frontier Soups. Nicely packaged for gift-giving but perfect for everyday use, the soup mixes make cooking easy and fun because the more arduous part of the recipes—measuring out all of the dry ingredients—is done for you. You add chicken broth (we used Swanson’s) and other ingredients (cream or milk, fresh vegetables) and in 40 minutes or less, you have almost three quarts of delicious soup.

There are quite a few gourmet dry soup mixes on the market, but many of the varieties we tried from Frontier Soups’ Homemade In Minutes stood out. They were so good, we would have passed them off as our own homemade soups (and we’re not saying that we didn’t do exactly that). Another bonus is that several of the flavors are equally delicious hot or chilled. We started tasting the soups in August and got hooked on the Potato Leek, a chunky vichyssoise when chilled, a warm comfort food when heated. Almost all of the varieties have serving suggestions that enable you to turn them into main meals with the addition of meat or seafood. If this is the frontier of soup, we’re ready to board the wagon train. Read the full review below.

  • Read reviews of more of our favorite soups in THE NIBBLE online magazine.
  • See the Table of Contents of the October issue of THE NIBBLE, plus the prior issues archive and our most popular articles.
  • All of the Top Pick Of The Week newsletters are permanently archived on TheNibble.com, in chronological order and by product category.
THE NIBBLE does not sell the foods we review
or receive fees from manufacturers for recommending them.

Our recommendations are based purely on our opinion, after tasting thousands of products each year, that they represent the best in their respective categories.

 

Want To Make Soup From Scratch?

New England Soup Factory Cookbook Book Of Soups - Culinary Institute Of America The Big Book Of Soups And Stews
New England Soup Factory Cookbook: More Than 100 Recipes from the Nation's Best Purveyor of Fine Soup, by Marjorie Druker and Clara Silverstein. Hot off the presses, from the restaurant that has won the Best of Boston award four times. Click here for more information. Book of Soups: More than 100 Recipes for Perfect Soup, by The Culinary Institute of America. Many of America’s top chefs train at the CIA. Here are the soups they learn to make. Click here for more information or to purchase. The Big Book of Soups and Stews: 262 Recipes for Serious Comfort Food, by Maryana Vollstedt. Not quick like Frontier Soup mixes, but a wide range of delicious dishes from elegant to stick-to-your-ribs. Click here for more information.

Frontier Soups: Homemade In Minutes

INDEX OF REVIEW

MORE TO DISCOVER

Frontier Soups “Homemade in Minutes Soups” are packaged gourmet soup mixes that make light, all natural soups that actually taste homemade. They’re easy to make: People just learning to cook (or who don’t enjoy it) can realize an enormous amount of satisfaction by making something this good and this foolproof.

The concept is “soup from scratch” without starting entirely from scratch. Seasonings, rice and other starters are pre-measured, but you supply the lion’s share of the ingredients—chicken broth or vegetable broth and the key flavor ingredient such as crushed tomatoes or frozen spinach, plus cream or half-and-half if you’d like a cream soup. The dried mix portion certainly saves in time in preparation and in clean-up, and the soups are a one-pot undertaking. They soups taste fresh and homemade, and most can be enjoyed hot or cold.

Each small package of dry mix makes a lot of soup—the wet ingredients generally include six cups of broth. Unless you have a large family or are serving the soup as the main course to four or five people, you’ll have leftovers. But since each flavor comes with several variations, you can add to the recipe the next time you serve it, presenting a relatively different soup the next time around.

In addition to tasting light, the cooked soups range from 134 calories to 163 calories a cup (without added cream). Tasty, healthy, and light—we’ll be making “Homemade Soup In Minutes” more often.

Eleven Bean Soup
Eleven Bean Soup.

“Homemade In Minutes” Varieties

While the recipes are sophisticated and can be served at dinner parties, these soups are also “comfort food,” whether served hot or cold. Most are cream-based, and can be made with half and half or heavy cream (or milk, if you prefer). We used half and half, which produced a nice, light, elegant soup. Some tasters thought the body was too light and preferred heavy cream. It’s up to you and what you’re used to. The flavors are so good that, we feel, the lighter cream shows them off better—and saves calories, too. In alphabetical order, we tasted:

  • Asparagus Almond Soup. This light spring soup was very popular. There is dried asparagus in the soup mix, but the requested addition of a box of frozen spinach (as well as six cups of chicken broth) had the effect of turning it into spinach soup. It’s a very tasty soup, but we’d more fairly call it spinach soup. The almonds are a garnish on the top.
    Variations: Serve hot or cold; add light cream or half-and-half; garnish with chopped scallions in addition to almonds. Our own favorite garnishes included sliced boiled egg, a poached or fried egg, and a grind of fresh nutmeg.
  • Garden Gazpacho. It’s so easy to make gazpacho (and find simple recipes for blender gazpacho), that we’re not sure that this variety makes sense. We had to buy so many ingredients—six ripe tomatoes, four cups of tomato juice, a cucumber, a lime, an avocado, plus oil and balsamic vinegar—that the soup took a lot of prep time, and dried seasonings in the Frontier Soups package didn’t merit the expense. This soup also takes 45 minutes, not 30, and produces only half the soup of the other varieties. The outcome was a perfectly acceptable, though not overwhelming, gazpacho. The quarter-cup of balsamic recommended added a caramelized sweetness that seemed out of place in a soup that should taste fresh.
  • Potato Leek SoupPotato Leek Soup. This recipe truly is comforting—potatoes and cream—and perhaps our favorite (if the fact that we were happy eating it five days in a row is any indication). Cold, it is like a chunky vichyssoise. Use heavy cream for a thicker soup; we used half-and-half and it was pleasantly light (and less caloric). While the recipe asks you to use baby red or white potatoes, the red jackets add color and interest to what is essentially a beige recipe.
    Variations: While the soup is perfectly seasoned as is, we highly recommend the addition of snipped fresh dill for a “fresh from the garden” touch. For a more substantive dish, diced ham or crumbled bacon can be added. For a chilled soup, garnish with sour cream or yogurt, as shown in the photo at the right.
  • Red Pepper Corn Chowder. This tasty chowder has two kinds of red pepper: Red pepper, in bright red dice dotting the beige chowder along with yellow kernels of corn, and cayenne pepper, which spices things up quite nicely. Rice and a small potato dice give this soup nice body. We don’t think it works well as a cold soup, but as a hearty cold weather fare or a course in Southwestern or Mexican cuisine, it hits the mark.
    Variations: Top with fresh scallions; add chopped fresh broccoli and/or cauliflower and serve with grated cheese for a creamier chowder; add ham or sausage.
  • Tomato Rice Soup. With good herb flavor, you add chicken broth and a large can of crushed tomatoes in purée; fresh basil makes it even tastier. The soup is much more elegant in style than the thick supermarket tomato soup concentrates many of us grew up with.
    Variations: Serve hot or cold; with boiled shrimp; crumbled feta, blue or Parmesan cheese; cream, buttermilk or half-and-half for a cream of tomato soup; cayenne pepper for a spicy soup.
  • Tortilla Soup. A light soup with black beans, corn and other vegetables, herbs and spices, this soup requires the addition of shredded boneless chicken breasts and eight ounces of salsa, and is topped with crumbled tortilla chips before serving. The type of salsa and chips you use will impact the flavors significantly. While this recipe was nowhere as sophisticated as the others—we wouldn’t serve it to company—it was popular with the family. Retailers also liked it: The soup was named a finalist in the Outstanding Soup, Stew, Bean or Chili category in this year’s Sofi Awards at the Fancy Food Show.

There were some misses.

  • Broccoli Cheddar made a very light soup—not the thick, cheddary soup that we were anticipating. There was nothing wrong with it except that it didn’t meet our expectations for a cheesy Cheddar soup. It delivered a light broccoli-accented soup in a chicken broth base, with some Cheddar accent. Not that there’s anything wrong with that—it just wasn’t “broccoli cheddar soup” in the eyes of our tasters.
  • On the other hand, Golden Peanut Soup was as dense as the most cornstarch-thickened sauce. Instead of a soup, it needed to be spooned over rice. Even so, the flavors were too bland and it tasted monotonously of the cup of peanut butter in the recipe, which overwhelmed the shredded chicken. Rather than try to thin the mass into a soup, we tried to enliven it as a sauce for rice in two different ways—with hot chile flakes and Chinese-style, with water chestnuts and bamboo shoots. Neither was particularly successful. Perhaps it was our brand of organic peanut butter which does not contain either sugar or the chemicals that make a smoother, lighter spread. Supermarket brands, which most people are likely to use with this recipe, are loaded with both.

WANT TO MAKE YOUR OWN DELICIOUS SOUPS
See The Recipes In Our Soup Section.

The one thing we might like to see pared back on this line is the layering of marketing concepts. Almost everyone commented on the names of the products, which seem to be a new development (we compared the new packages to some older packaging we had). Thus, Homemade In Minutes’ Asparagus Almond Soup became Carolina Springtime Asparagus Almond Soup. A Mexican chili recipe, accented with chocolate and cinnamon, is Midwest Weekend Cincinnati Chili. Perhaps this is a bow to making the product—essentially a bag of dried ingredients—sound more important in a gift basket or other gifting situation. But who, seriously, would ever ask for Chicago Bistro French Onion Soup? That’s exhausting: People want French Onion Soup, period. Don’t let the overblown names stand in the way of enjoying this good soup. There are quite a few varieties in addition to the ones we tasted, so soup lovers will be able to keep their spoons busy for a while.

—Karen Hochman

FORWARD THIS NIBBLE to anyone who likes good soups and easy ways to make them.

FRONTIER SOUPS

Homemade In Minutes Soups and Hearty Meal Soups

  • Homemade In Minutes Soups
    $6.00
  • Tortilla Soup Variety
    $3.95

Purchase online at FrontierSoups.com

Or telephone 1.800.300.SOUP (7687)

Prices and product availability are verified at publication but are subject to change. Shipping is additional.

 

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Frontier Soup - Homemade In Minutes


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