Just before food columnist Judi Leaming left for her September travels, she discovered this recipe for Black Bean and Salsa Soup. How could anything this easy really taste good? Just try it and see.

Just before we left for our September travels I discovered this recipe for Black Bean and Salsa Soup on allrecipes.com. How could anything this easy really taste good? Just try it and see. Cool autumn weather followed us back from our travels and so it seemed to be the perfect time for soup. According to the printed recipe, this should serve four people but we enjoyed it so much that it wouldn't have stretched that far in our household. Add warm crusty rolls and a bowl of fruit and you'll have a hearty and healthy meal.

One day while we were traveling I enjoyed a bowl of Corn and Green Chili Bisque that was so good that I turned to the Internet to search for a recipe. This one that I found was posted on the website, www.sassydining.com. I've made some minor alterations to this recipe and I'd encourage you to do the same to suit your own taste buds. The original recipe called for using two cans of green chilies and I added the Velveeta cheese.

The third recipe is the one that we prepared during our class time at The Savory Spoon Cooking School in Wisconsin. I had never worked with fennel before and, quite frankly, I'd assumed that I wouldn't care for it because it is often described as having a "licorice-like" flavor. What a pleasant surprise to discover that I was wrong.

Black Bean and Salsa Soup

2 (15-ounce) cans black beans, drained and rinsed

1 1/2 cups low sodium vegetable broth

1 cup chunky salsa (tested using mild flavor)

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 (11-ounce) can white shoepeg corn, drained and rinsed

1 (4-ounce) can sliced black olives, drained and rinsed (optional)

In an electric food processor or blender, combine 2 cups of the drained black beans, broth, salsa and cumin; blend until fairly smooth. Pour into a medium large saucepan over medium heat until thoroughly heated. Whisk remaining black beans, drained corn and drained olives (if using) just long enough to heat the added vegetables. Serves 3 to 4.

Corn and Green Chili Bisque

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 medium onion, finely chopped

2 tablespoons flour

2 (11-ounce) cans white shoepeg corn, drained and rinsed

1 (4-ounce) can chopped green chilies, drained

1 (14-ounce) can finely diced tomatoes

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 tablespoon chili powder

2 cups milk

2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth

8-ounces Velveeta cheese, finely chopped

Heat olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté but do not brown. Add flour and stir flour into the onion to mix well. Remove from heat and set aside. Place corn, chilies and tomatoes in a bowl and mix. Spoon HALF of this vegetable mixture into the bowl of a food-blender and process until almost smooth. Place pureed mixture into a soup pot along with remaining whole vegetables, spices, milk and broth. Bring almost to a boil over medium heat, whisking often. Stir in the chopped cheese and continue whisking until cheese is melted. Serves 4 to 6.

Apple and Fennel Soup

3 apples (Granny Smith, Winesap or Cortland)

1 medium-size fennel bulb, core and stems removed and diced

1 shallot, sliced

2 small inner stems celery with leaves

4 cups chicken or vegetable stock

1/2 cup dry white wine

Salt and freshly ground white pepper

Juice of 1 lemon

1 2/3 cup heavy cream

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

Peel and core 2 1/2 apples and cut into quarters. Place in a three-quart saucepan along with fennel, shallot, celery, stock, wine, salt and pepper. Simmer for 20 minutes until all are tender. Core and finely dice the remaining half apple and toss this with half of the lemon juice. Cover tightly or seal in a bowl and set aside. Puree contents of saucepan in a blender container*, then return to saucepan. Whisk in remaining lemon juice, cream and mustard. Bring to a simmer, check seasonings and stir in remaining diced apples before serving. Serves 6.

*VERY IMPORTANT: When blending HOT liquids in a blender, fill the blender less than half full and remove the top to the blender. Cover the blender with a folded kitchen towel to allow steam to escape. You could also use an immersion blender stick.