If there is a soup season, this is it.

And not only because it's cold. For those looking to lighten up diet-wise, brothy soups are a great solution. Research shows that such soups offer a big satiation punch for the number of calories they provide. Bottom line: they make you less hungry.

Then there's the cold/flu remedy aspect. Nothing cures a case of the snotty pitifulness that is a messy winter cold than, say, an aromatic bowl of pho or a bowl of homey chicken noodle.

Lucky for us, local restaurants have our backs. At The Kitchen's various restaurants -- The Kitchen in both Boulder and Denver, The Kitchen Next Door and The Kitchen Upstairs -- every day will bring a different special soup in January.

The soups are the result of in-house competition to come up with the soups and to see which bowls sell the best.

What is the essence of a good soup?

"I think the best soups are the ones with the most integrity and simplicity," says Kyle Mendenhall, executive for all the Kitchen restaurants. "If you're going to do a squash soup, it should be 90 percent squash and good squash. If you do soups with 10 ingredients you lose that footing."

As an example, he lists one of his favorites, roasted red pepper soup with a little curry. The soup, he says, should be mostly peppers, a light vegetable stock and a touch of curry. No cream or similar ingredients that might muddy the pure flavor.

Mendenhall admits, however, that there are exceptions to the simplicity rule such as vegetable minestrone with its many and varied veggies or pho with its multi-ingredient broth and generosity of potential garnishes. He adds that many of the January soups can easily make a meal.

"Those oftentimes are very healthy, as well," he says, citing a bean and kale soup served at The Kitchen and a chicken and quinoa soup served at Next Door.

Cory Cleland, general manager of Spruce Confections, says the most popular soups in the coldest months are chili-based soups.

"People really crave heartier soups with braised meats," she says, citing a New Mexican style chili, as well as a lamb and lentil made with lamb shanks, braised and shredded, and lentils, cumin and coriander in a tomato-based broth.

Another big seller in a similar vein is the restaurant's Mekong duck soup, which contains a confit of duck legs, leeks, yellow onions, lacinato kale, rice, cilantro and green onions, with lots of tamari and sesame oil in broth.

"It's somewhat similar to a pho, clear, nice in winter. It's one of my favorites," she says.

The chefs make soup for the two Spruce Confections, as well as Two Spoons, which features five soups a day, including a vegetarian and a vegan soup.

When it comes to the latter, Cleland says one of the most popular soups is a Peruvian spiced pinto bean and potato, which includes onions, tomatoes, cilantro and lime juice. She says some meat eaters wrongly shy away from some very flavorful vegan soups.

"People forget what you can do with coconut milk and olive oil," she says. "The vegan soup is one of our best sellers every day."

She says it's also important to season the soups correctly.

"We are finding a balance of flavor, not spicing too much ... so it appeals to a wide range of people," she says.

Balance is what the slurping public feels when that hot bowl appears on the table. When the last drop is consumed, you're ready to meet the winter, even if you aren't a cold weather lover. After all, gazpacho season is just a few months away.

Chicken Quinoa Soup

1/2 pound carrots, peeled and sliced

1 red onion, julienned

1/2 pound celery, sliced thin on a half inch bias

4 cloves garlic, sliced thin

1/2 pound waxy yellow potatoes, washed and sliced

A few scant tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Chili flakes to taste

2 pounds chicken breast, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

2 sprigs rosemary, picked and finely chopped

Bay leaves and/or other herbs, if desired

Kosher and pepper salt to taste

1 cup quinoa

4 quarts water

Lemon juice, to taste, if desired

Directions: Place a large stock pot over a medium high burner and add the olive oil. Sweat the garlic until tender but with no color and add the chili flake for 15 seconds. Keep the oil temperature low; otherwise the chili will turn the soup acrid.

Toss in the chicken and season generously with salt and pepper. Sauté the chicken until it begins to brown and then add vegetables. Stir every few moments so as to prevent too much frond from building up on the bottom of the pan. Season generously again and add the rosemary, bay leaves and any other savory herbs you might wish to flavor your soup nicely, as well as the quinoa. Add the water. Allow the soup to simmer for 20 minutes or until the vegetables are tender and the quinoa is cooked. Check the soup for salt and add a splash of lemon juice, if necessary.

Source: Kyle Mendenhall, The Kitchen

Heirloom Squash Soup

Heirloom squash, roasted to make 3 quarts

1 yellow onion, medium dice

1/2 pound butter

1 quarts apple juice

3 quarts water

1 cup heavy cream

1 tablespoon sherry vinegar or to taste

Salt and pepper to taste

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg or to taste

1/2 teaspoon cayenne to taste

Directions: Begin by splitting the squash into quarters. Rub the squash with 1/4 cup olive oil, salt and pepper inside and out. Roast the squash in a 400-degree oven until the flesh is tender enough to remove from the skin with a spoon. Once the squash is cooled, remove the flesh with a spoon and set aside. In a medium pot, sweat onions in butter with a pinch of salt. Once the onions are tender, add the roasted squash. When the squash is heated through add the apple juice and water if the soup needs to be thinner. Bring the mixture to a boil. Add cream and puree the mixture in a blender until smooth. If needed, add more of any of the liquids to taste. Once the soup is pureed add the sherry vinegar, nutmeg and cayenne. Taste the soup for salt and pepper, and add as needed.

Garnish soup with maple candied pecans and sage.

Makes 1 gallon.

Source: Kyle Mendenhall, The Kitchen

Sunchoke Soup

3 pounds sunchokes

1 pound yellow onion

2 tablespoons butter

1 pound Yukon gold potatoes

1/2 cup sherry

4 quarts mushroom stock

1 cup heavy cream

1 tablespoon sherry vinegar

Salt and pepper to taste

Nutmeg to taste

Directions: Begin by soaking the sunchokes in cold water to clean them and remove any dirt. This recipe does not call for peeling them, so it is important they are cleaned very well. Once clean, cut the sunchokes into a medium dice. Cut the yellow onion and Yukon potato (peeled) into a medium dice and combine the two with the sunchokes in a large pot over medium high heat.

Add the butter and a pinch of salt to sweat the vegetables. Cook the vegetables for 10

minutes and add the sherry wine, continue cooking for another 10 minutes. Add the mushroom stock and cream, and continue cooking for another 10 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and allow the soup to simmer for 10 more minutes. Puree the soup in a blender. You may serve the soup hot or refrigerate it. Source: Kyle Mendenhall, The Kitchen