Keep Warm this Winter with Savory Vegetarian Soups

Amy Ridgell’s original plan was to be a teacher, hence the degree in urban/multicultural education from the University of Tennessee. But after several years of teaching and working for a nonprofit, Amy felt the nudge to return to a first love: cooking. 

“I was always in the kitchen cooking with grandmothers, aunts and parents. We’re a cooking family,” she says. “I had friends with their own businesses, so I talked to women entrepreneurs for advice. Teaching is a big component.” 

Amy established The Savory Whisk in 2014 and currently teaches private cooking lessons in clients’ homes and public cooking classes at Glass Bazaar; Erin’s Meadow Herb Far; and Cup Runneth Over, a coffeehouse in Sweetwater. She emphasizes the importance of knife skills, using fresh, local ingredients to layer flavors, and adding flair and gourmet touches to every dish. 

Additionally, as a pescatarian, she loves teaching others how to incorporate vegetarian and vegan dishes into their culinary repertoire. 

“I gave up meat quickly after visiting The Gentle Barn,” she says. “I cook everything, but I offer certified humane meat to those who want it.” 

Southwestern Corn Chowder

Yield: 4-6 servings

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons vegan buttery spread (I like Earth Balance Soy Free)
1 small carrot, diced small
1/2 medium sweet onion, finely diced
1 stalk celery, diced small
1/4 orange, red or yellow bell pepper, diced small
1/2  large jalapeno pepper, minced
1/2 poblano pepper, diced small
1 clove garlic, minced or grated
1/4 cup dry white wine
3 tablespoons flour
1 cup vegetable broth, possibly more if needed
1 13.5-ounce unsweetened coconut milk
1 cup chopped Yukon Gold potatoes, skin on, diced small
2 cups corn kernels, fresh or frozen
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
2 tablespoons fresh chives, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley, chopped


Heat the buttery spread and 1 tablespoon olive oil in a Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Add the carrot, onion, celery and three peppers and cook until softened, 5-8 minutes. Next, add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Add the wine and let reduce for 2 minutes. Dust the vegetables with the flour, stir to coat everything well and cook for 1 minute, stirring frequently. Pour in the vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Add the coconut milk and the potatoes and bring to a hard boil. Add more vegetable broth if needed to make sure the vegetables are covered. Reduce heat and simmer until the vegetables are soft, about 15 minutes.

Cut the corn kernels off the cob, then scrape the cobs with the back of your knife to release the “milk” from the cob. Add corn and “milk” to the soup. Season with salt, white pepper and smoked paprika. Simmer until the corn is soft, about 7 minutes. Taste for seasoning, and add more salt or pepper if needed. Stir in fresh herbs and serve hot with garnishes of choice and hot crusty bread.

Mushroom Pot Pie

Yield: 4 servings

7 tablespoons vegan buttery spread (I like Earth Balance Soy Free)
12 ounces baby bella mushrooms, approximately 4 cups, quartered
2 cups sweet onion, finely chopped
3/4 cup celery, finely chopped
1 cup carrots, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced or grated
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sherry
2 1/2 cups mushroom broth  
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/3 cup plant-based half and half 
1 cup green peas, fresh or frozen
Optional: 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon white truffles and porcini paste 
3 sprigs thyme, leaves removed
1/4 cup packed Italian parsley, finely chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
1 large egg, lightly beaten


Heat a large Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat, and add 1 tablespoon of butter. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring periodically, until they begin to brown. Allow 10 minutes or so for them to get a nice caramelization. Remove the mushrooms from the pan, set aside and turn the heat down to medium-low.

Melt the remaining butter over medium-low heat, and add the onions, celery and carrots. Cook for 5-7 minutes until soft, then add the garlic and cook for an additional minute, stirring periodically. Add the flour and cook for 2 minutes, stirring every 15 seconds. Add the sherry, broth, paprika, cooked mushrooms and peas.

Bring to a simmer and allow the sauce to thicken, stirring periodically, for 3-5 minutes. Stir in the half and half, and remove from the heat. Add the white truffle and porcini paste (if using), thyme and parsley. Stir in the salt and pepper. Taste; add more if desired.

Preheat the oven to 425 F. Divide the filling into four greased 8- to 10-ounce ramekins (approximately 4 by 2 inches), and place on a baking sheet.

On a lightly floured surface, roll the puff pastry thin, and cut 4 rounds approximately 1/2 to 1 inch larger than the width of the ramekins. Brush egg wash on the rim of each ramekin and 1/2 inch down the sides. Top with the puff pastry, folding the excess over and gently pressing it against the ramekins (a fork can also be lightly pressed against the puff to help seal it to the dish). Brush the top of the dough with egg wash, and use a small knife to make 3 small slits in the top of each pot pie to allow steam to escape.

Bake for 18-22 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown. Allow to cool briefly before serving.

Note: This recipe is mostly vegan, except for the egg wash and the white truffle and porcini paste.

Tomato and Roasted Red Pepper Bisque

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/3 cup dry white wine
1/3 cup water
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes in juices
3 roasted red peppers in olive oil, drained well and chopped
3 tablespoons minced fresh dill or 1 teaspoon dried dill weed
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1⁄4 teaspoon white pepper
1⁄4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 13.5-ounce can unsweetened coconut milk


In a large Dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and saute for 3-4 minutes until softened. Next, add garlic and tomato paste and saute for another minute. Pour in the wine and water, and let reduce for 3 minutes. Stir in the rest of
the ingredients except for the coconut milk. Cook at a gentle boil for 12-15 minutes. Remove from heat, and let cool for 10 minutes.

Blend soup in batches using a blender or food processor until smooth. Make sure to hold a towel over the top of blender or food processor to prevent hot liquid from escaping and burning you.

Add pureed soup back to Dutch oven, and stir in coconut milk. Simmer the soup for 10 more minutes. Check for seasonings, ladle into warm bowls and serve garnished with fresh torn basil, chopped dill, coconut cream drizzle, croutons or hot crusty
garlic bread on the side. 

Learn more about Amy Ridgell at