If you're looking to save some money and eat well in 2017, Julie Van Rosendaal has a suggestion — more homemade soup!

It's a great cold-weather meal for the new year, and all it takes is a little bit of creativity with ingredients you may already have in your kitchen. This is a very flexible recipe; use whatever veggies you have in the fridge and freezer, and any type of beans or lentils you have in the pantry. 

For the cheese toast on top, use day-old bread and any cheese ends you may have in the fridge.

Cheese toast

Sausage & Bean Soup with Cheese Toast

  • canola or olive oil, for cooking
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1-2 celery stalks, chopped (with leaves, if there are any)
  • 1-2 carrots, chopped
  • 1 Italian or chorizo sausage
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • a big pinch of dried or chopped fresh thyme and/or rosemary
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 L chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 14 oz (398 mL) can diced or whole tomatoes, with juice (or even a 19 oz can)
  • 1-2 cups canned or cooked navy or white kidney (cannellini) beans (one 19 oz/540 mL can)
  • 1 small thin-skinned potato, diced (optional)
  • a big handful of torn or chopped spinach, chard or kale (discard the stems)
  • thick, crusty day-old bread
  • grated Parmesan, extra-aged Gouda or cheddar, for the toast (and serving)

Set a medium pot over medium-high heat, add oil and sauté the onion, celery and carrots for 5 minutes until soft. Squeeze the sausage out of its casing into the pot, add the garlic, thyme and/or rosemary and some salt and pepper and cook. Break up the sausage with a spoon until it's no longer pink.

Add the stock, tomatoes, beans, potato, rosemary and/or thyme and bring to a simmer; cook for about 10 minutes until the vegetables are tender. Tear in some greens (or shake them in straight from the freezer) and stir until they wilt — this will only take a minute or two for spinach and chard, a little longer for kale.

There are a few ways to do the toast. You can cut thick slices, toast them, then set a piece in the bottom of each bowl — then drizzle the piece with good olive oil, ladle the soup on top and grate Parmesan over the whole thing. You can also run the bread (with cheese) under the broiler and place on top of the soup once it's ready. Finally, if you have ovenproof dishes, you can prepare the soup like French onion soup and place the toast and cheese on top of the soup before putting the whole thing in the oven. Serves six.

With files from Julie Van Rosendaal and the Calgary Eyeopener