Cool hot soups before putting into the fridge

The cold snap we recently experienced appears to have prompted people to cook. When I called my friend Roxann last Saturday, she was happily making two big pots of soup — one a rich corn chowder and the other a lighter lentil soup.

She described in detail the ingredients and procedures, and when I asked her what she was going to do with the soup, she didn't hesitate a minute — freeze part of it, of course. Now that's a smart idea.

She went on to tell me that she would pour the finished soups into smaller containers and set them in the garage or on the deck to cool since the temperature was in single digits. This is a great idea, but if you do that, you will want to be sure it is out of the reach of small, furry creatures!

Large pots of hot soup, chili or other foods must be cooled before going into the refrigerator. A large, hot mass of soup, or anything else for that matter, will raise the temperature inside the refrigerator and nothing will cool. Others were thinking about cooking, too, as this question suggested.

With the weather so chilly my family keeps asking for good ol' comfort food, the kind that sticks to your ribs. We all need the extra padding in this nippy weather! What do you recommend?

When the temperature drops, I tend to think of hearty soups, stews and chili to warm the body and the spirit. This recipe for chili is a good choice to have in the slow cooker for game day.

Bonnie's Quick and Easy Chili

2 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil, divided use

2 lbs. ground beef

1 onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 or 2 poblano chilies, chopped

1 or 2 jalapenos, seeded and chopped

1/4cup chili powder

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa (Hershey's), optional

2 teaspoons salt

1/2teaspoon black pepper

1 cup beer, optional

1 cup beef broth

1 can (15 oz.) crushed tomatoes (or tomato sauce or tomato puree)

2 cans (16 oz. each) chili beans with sauce

1 can (10 3/4 oz.) cream of tomato soup

1/4cup chopped cilantro

Garnish: sour cream, shredded cheddar cheese and tortilla chips or saltines

Place 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in 6-quart Dutch oven (pot) over medium heat. Add ground beef and cook, stirring and breaking up any clumps, for 6-7 minutes or until no longer pink.

Add onion, garlic and chili peppers to the pan and cook until vegetables are softened. Stir in the chili powder, cumin, cocoa, salt and pepper, mixing well into the meat mixture. Cook for a minute or two for the flavors to blend.

Add beer and beef broth and bring the chili mixture to a boil; lower the heat and simmer a couple of minutes. Add tomatoes, beans and tomato soup. Bring to a boil. Lower heat, cover and simmer for a minimum of 15 minutes to one hour, stirring often. Stir in cilantro before serving. Ladle into bowls and garnish as desired.

The Wichita Eagle—01/13/10