There are still plenty of cool nights when coming home to a pot of hot homemade soup would sure be good! Just throw some ingredients into the cooker before you leave for work, and dinner is waiting when you get home. Call it the crock pot, slow cooker, or crockery cooker -- nothing can be simpler for an easy, tasty hot meal.

Crock Pot Vegetable Barley Soup

3 cups water
1 14-1/2 ounce can diced tomatoes
1 10-ounce package frozen mixed vegetables
1 medium zucchini, quartered lengthwise and sliced
2 stalks celery, chopped (1 cup)
2 medium carrots, chopped (1 cup)
1 medium onion, chopped (1/2 cup)
1 8 ounce can tomato sauce
1/3 cup regular barley
2 vegetable bouillon cubes or 4 teaspoons instant chicken bouillon granules
1/2 teaspoon dried basil, crushed
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
Dash ground red pepper

Vegetable Barley Soup

In a 3-1/2 or 4-quart slow cooker, combine all ingredients. Cover and cook on Low heat setting for 9 to 11 hours, or cook on High heat setting for 4 to 5 hours. Serve hot with crackers, or delicious served with a grilled cheese sandwich. Makes 5 side dish size servings.

Crock Pot Sausage Tortellini Soup

2 14-1/2 ounce cans Italian-style stewed tomatoes
3 cups water
2 cups loose pack frozen cut green beans or Italian-style green beans
1 10-1/2 ounce can condensed French onion soup
8 ounces fully cooked smoked turkey sausage, halved lengthwise and cut into 1/2-inch slices
2 cups shredded cabbage with carrot (or packaged coleslaw mix)
1 9-ounce package refrigerated cheese-filled tortellini
Shaved or shredded Parmesan cheese

Sausage Tortellini Soup

In a 4 or 5 quart slow cooker, combine undrained tomatoes, water, frozen green beans, onion soup, and turkey sausage. Cover; cook on Low heat setting for 8 to 10 hours or on High heat setting for 4 to 5 hours.

If using Low heat setting, turn slow cooker to High heat setting. Stir cabbage and tortellini into soup. Cover; cook for 15 minutes more. Garnish soup with shavings of Parmesan cheese or shredded Parmesan cheese. Makes 10 to 12 servings.

Crock Pot Chicken and Vegetable Bean Soup

1 cup dry great northern beans
6 cups water
1 cup chopped onion
1 medium fennel bulb, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 medium carrots, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons snipped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed
1/4 teaspoon pepper
4-1/2 cups chicken broth
2-1/2 cups shredded or chopped cooked chicken
1 14-1/2 ounce can diced tomatoes, undrained

Chicken Vegetable Bean Soup

Rinse beans and drain. In a large saucepan, combine beans and the 6 cups water. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer uncovered for 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Cover and let stand for 1 hour. Drain and rinse beans. Meanwhile, in a 3-1/2 to 5-quart slow cooker, combine onion, fennel, carrots, garlic, parsley, rosemary, and pepper. Place beans on top of vegetables. Pour chicken broth over all. Cover; cook on Low heat setting for 8 to 10 hours or on High heat setting for 4 to 5 hours.

If using Low heat setting, turn to High heat setting. Stir in chicken and tomatoes. Cover and cook for 30 minutes longer or until heated through on High heat setting. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Crock Pot Posole

2 14-1/2 ounce cans golden hominy, drained
1 4 ounce can chopped green chili peppers, undrained
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 14-1/2 ounce can cut tomatoes, undrained
2 14-1/2 ounce cans chicken broth
1 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons snipped fresh cilantro
Sour cream (optional)

Crock Pot Posole

Place hominy, chili peppers, onion, garlic, chicken, tomatoes, chicken broth, oregano, and cumin in a 3-1/2 to 5-quart slow cooker. Cover and cook on Low setting for 5 to 6 hours, or on High setting for 2-1/2 to 3 hours. Stir in cilantro just before serving. Garnish each serving with sour cream, if desired. Makes 8 servings.

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