Especially at this time of year, homemade soup satisfies our winter appetites in so many ways — warming and comforting. But good homemade soup takes some effort to make.

Spoon Optional, the brainchild of Nancy Fink, a Minnetonka mom and soup aficionado, is a line of vegetable-based portable soups, made to sip on the go. Inspired by the fresh juice and smoothie products now on grocers’ shelves, these single-serve soups are delicious at room temperature, as well as when warmed up in the microwave or on the stove.

Several years ago, Fink brought her passion for healthy food and soup-making into her kitchen when she left her job at Target to stay home with her three young kids. She drew on her childhood memories of cooking in her grandmother’s kitchen, where they created delicious soups together.

Her first step was to earn a food handler’s license and then, because she’s not a trained chef, she reached out to her friend, Amanda Gold DeRose (who writes about food for the San Francisco Chronicle) to help formalize the recipes. Then she worked with John Locke, a culinary consultant, to scale up the recipes for quantity. Soon afterward she began production in the commercial kitchen of the Sabes Jewish Community Center in St. Louis Park.

“I wanted these soups to be as fresh and local as possible,” Fink said. “We work directly with farmers through the seasons as much as we can. We’ve created 13 different soups and rotate them, six at a time, through the year,” Fink said.

I can attest that the Super Greens Soup — a spicy blend of broccoli, chard, spinach, kale, garlic and seaweed — is refreshing served cold on a warm afternoon. Right now, in the heart of winter, the Gingered Yam and Butternut Squash, served hot in a big mug, hits the spot.

One constant — a lively Roasted Tomato Basil Blend — is offered throughout the year. It’s chock-full of chunks of organic Roma tomatoes, carrots, celery and lots of fresh basil. Though it has a creamy texture, it does not contain cream.

None of Fink’s soups contain any artificial ingredients, preservatives or stabilizers; they’re also vegan. The shelf life of the soups is relatively short, about a week in the refrigerator; they can be frozen for up to a year.

Available in 16-ounce plastic jars, Spoon Optional Soups retail for $10, and are available at area food co-ops, including Lakewinds and Linden Hills. Find them online at