Soup’s On

These recipes and insights from cookbook author Gina Ferwerda are sure to warm you up // Photography by Slow Juke Photography
Ferwerda, a Silver Lake resident, samples wine in a vineyard for pairing ideas.

Brrrrrrrrr, it’s cold outside! That fire roaring in the fireplace may be warming you up, but it’s not enough.

What you need is a bowl of delicious hot soup, like that made by food guru, cookbook author, and one of Michigan’s top cooks, Gina Ferwerda.

Ferwerda, who lives in Silver Lake, creates recipes, appears on national and local TV programs, writes her Nom News blog, and is a Michigan resort owner — she’s the proprietor of an RV resort, boat rental, beach shop.

She’s graciously shared her recipes for two great soups: Jalapeño Irish Beer Cheese Soup and Tomato Basil Soup with Cheddar Cheese Crisps.

“My Grandma Betty was Irish, so I learned to cook a lot of Irish food,” Ferwerda says. “I love to add corned beef to just about anything. This Irish Beer Cheese Soup is so good, and when you add the jalapeños it really makes it over-the-top delicious.

Gina Ferwerda’s cookbook is chock-full of comfort food recipes.

“Lots of good jalapeño cheeses are available,” she continues, “so if you don’t want it too spicy, omit the fresh jalapeños and substitute jalapeño cheese.” Since Michigan is known for its beer, you can add your favorite to the recipe. Darker beer makes for a more intense and robust favor.

Ferwerda’s advice for the tomato soup is to make extra, and use the leftovers as a starter for a delicious pasta sauce. Add some vodka, cream, and Parmesan to the soup and then serve it over penne pasta for penne alla vodka.

“Since a grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup should never be apart, I decided to combine them in the same bowl,” she says of adding the cheddar cheese crisps.

“The cheddar cheese crisps are super easy to make and don’t harden like a Parmesan crisp. Combined with my homemade croutons, they act like the grilled cheese in this soup. If I’m feeling a little more indulgent, I’ll add a little heavy cream, a Parmesan rind, or some vodka, cream, and penne pasta. This soup is very versatile.”

Ferwerda’s “Meals from the Mitten: Celebrating the Seasons in Michigan” is sure to entice you with comfort foods like her Reuben sandwich bowl, chicken pot pie in spaghetti squash, and one-pot beef stroganoff. Ferwerda has also debuted a new line of spices called Silver Spices. The line features 10 spices, with more creations on the way.

MORE INFORMATION (Cookbook retail locations listed on the site.)

Jalapeño Irish Beer Cheese Soup hits the spot. Photo by Gina Ferwerda


Serves 4-6


1½ cups chicken broth
1½ cups heavy cream
½ tablespoon House Seasoning (pinches of salt, pepper, granulated garlic, onion, and smoked paprika, to taste)
½ cup chopped onion
½ cup diced carrots
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons flour
12 ounces craft beer
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
8 ounces shredded sharp white cheddar cheese
8 ounces shredded Gouda cheese
2 tablespoons diced jalapeños
1 cup cooked and chopped corned beef or pastrami


4 slices cooked bacon, chopped
House-seasoned croutons


In saucepan over medium-high heat, whisk together chicken broth, heavy cream, and House Seasoning. Bring to a simmer, then reduce heat to low and keep warm.

Add onions and carrots to saucepan and cook over medium heat until translucent, 4 to 5 minutes. Add butter and melt, then add flour and cook for 1 to 2 more minutes. Whisk in beer and cook for 2 to 3 more minutes. Slowly whisk in the warm broth-and-cream mixture. Continue to cook and whisk until soup is thickened. Reduce heat to low, then add cheeses and stir to thoroughly combine. Fold in jalapeños and chopped meat, and keep warm until ready to serve.

Author Gina Ferwerda suggests making extra Tomato Basil soup and using the leftovers as a delicious pasta sauce starter.


Serves 4-6


3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped sweet onions
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup chicken stock
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1½ tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons fresh basil, plus extra for garnish
½ teaspoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons House Seasoning (salt, pepper, granulated garlic, onion, and smoked paprika)
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)


Add the oil and onions to a large saucepan or Dutch oven and cook over medium heat for 4-5 minutes, or until translucent. Add garlic and cook for 30 more seconds, continually stirring. Add chicken stock, crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, sugar, basil, oregano, House Seasoning, and red pepper flakes. Stir together and cook for 18 to 20 minutes.

Using an immersion blender, blend soup together to desired consistency. Simmer on low until ready to serve. (Note: If using a blender, add soup in small batches and blend together. Don’t overfill or soup will spill over the sides.)



8 ounces freshly shredded cheddar cheese


Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper.

Place 2 tablespoons of shredded cheese on a baking sheet, form into a round, and gently pat down. Repeat this process for the remaining cheese, keeping space between each round. Bake for 2-3 minutes, then cool for at least 5 minutes before removing. Lift each round with a spatula and roll it up. Place each rolled-up round, seam-side down, back on the baking sheet until ready to assemble.



½ cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic, grated
1 tablespoon House Seasoning (see soup recipe)
1 pound French baguette or country bread, cubed


Preheat oven to 400. Combine olive oil, garlic, and House Seasoning. Add the cubed bread to a bowl, then toss in the oil mixture to thoroughly coat the bread. Place bread cubes on two large baking sheets. Bake for 12-15 minutes. Set aside until ready to assemble.

This will make about 8-10 cups of croutons. Store leftovers in an airtight container. To assemble, add soup to bowls and garnish with croutons, cheese rounds, and fresh basil.

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