Post #556 Winter Food

January 7, 2018 at 3:33 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Post #556 Winter Food

So we made it through the first snow storm of the year and the subsequent wind chill factors in the sub-zero range.  It’s still cold, but the snow is gradually going away.  The dogs hate it, but that’s the normal state of affairs.  They both tend to get snow crystals in between their toes and start limping.  We don’t stay outside too long.

Work schedules have normalized for the moment, but in another week, I should be getting my final schedule, and we start the next phase of the work process, assessments.  We’re supposed to receive assessments on our work quality at 30-, 60-, and 90- day periods with guidance and success plans.  So far, it’s been a little challenging, but fun.  And we’ve been dealing with the subject of dinner with creativity and patience.

Since the bitter cold has set in, we’ve been eating soup fairly often.  Decades ago, when I was young, my family lived in upper state New York.  One of the major soup companies ran an advertising campaign where kids would be outside playing in the snow and yelling back at the house “Is it soup yet?”  Mom would shake her head as she stirred a pot on the stove, then finally shout out, “It’s soup!”  The kids would run inside and enjoy a bowl of hot soup and a sandwich for lunch to brace themselves for an afternoon of playing hard in the cold outside.

It was a brilliant campaign.  It made kids all over New England ask for soup for lunch and I’m sure they sold a ton of dried instant soup.  My mom even got into the swing of things and served us reconstituted chicken noodle soup a few times a week with our PBJs.  More importantly, it started a life long love affair with soup for me.   And we’ve been enjoying several pans full of hot bracing soup during this bitter cold.

Partner/Spouse used the crockpot to make a form of Tortilla soup that was to die for.  He started with a blade steak, added Mexican seasonings and dried peppers, some tomatoes, and let it all cook overnight.  The next night, while it reheated, he fried up some corn tortilla strips as a garnish.  Hot soup, a sprinkle of cheddar cheese, and tortilla strips, what a great meal!  It was so good.  The meat was shredded perfectly, the flavors were spectacular.  It was like eating a taco in a bowl.  Just the right amount of spiciness.

Another soup is one a ripped off my mother in law years ago.  It’s mostly a cabbage stew, but it’s so much more than that.  She developed it to stretch her food budget.  It’s made up of leftover meat, a head of cabbage cut very fine, and a can of diced tomatoes.  The only herbs and spices per her recipe was a tablespoon each of vinegar and sugar.  You put it all in a large pot over medium-low heat and cover it.  Let it steam and stew until the cabbage is soft.  Stir it occasionally to keep it from scorching and to blend the flavors.  Over time, I played with the make up.  I added some salt, some pepper, some basil or thyme.  I played with the meats, added cooked rice, sometimes cooked pasta.  What I ended up with was a soup-stew that warms the body any time of the year.  Chop the cabbage fine.  Slice two cleaned leeks across the grain into thin disks.  Cut whatever cooked meat you like into bite-sized pieces.  I use roast beef most of the time, but ham is good, as chicken, but add that towards the end or it will fall apart.  I typically use cider vinegar, but sometimes use a fruit infused vinegar.  Just before serving, I toss in half a cup of cooked rice or pasta.  If you use pasta, try to use one that is small and bite-sized.  Ditalini is good, and there are many small versions of the regular pastas you’re used to.  Get everything heated through, and serve with bread of some kind.  Good stuff.

One of my favorites is one that I learned from a mix.  Wild Rice soup is so good.  It’s a creamy soup, but since Partner/Spouse and I don’t like cream based anything, or milk for that matter, I use a roux.  So, cook no more than a 1/3 cup of wild rice in a separate pan per package instruction and set aside.  Dice one small onion very fine.  Slice one medium stalk of celery very thin.  Chop one small to medium carrot very fine.  In a large dutch oven, heat one tablespoon high quality olive oil to shimmering and add the vegetables.  Cook until softened about five minutes  stirring often.  Add 3 tablespoons of butter and melt, then stir in a third cup of flour.  Stir until a roux forms.  Cook for a minute or so to eliminate the raw flour flavor, but try not to let the roux turn brown.  Add simmering chicken stock a half cup at a time, stirring to remove lumps.  Be careful when adding the first couple of additions of stock as the pan will cause the stock to sizzle and steam.  Keep adding when lumps are smoothed out until you’ve added about six cups.  This will produce a medium thick, creamy broth with the vegetables floating in it.  Add the rice directly from the pan including any remaining cooking liquid from the rice.  Add a pinch of rosemary and stir to combine.  Simmer for about ten minutes to heat everything through.  Serve with croutons on top.  I’ve also added small pieces of chicken breast either cooked or not.  If not cooked, I add it when I’m cooking the veggies.  If it’s already cooked, I add it when I’m adding the rice.  A thought just occurred to me that I could add the chicken to the rice cooking process and add some extra flavor that way, too.  You could also switch up the veggie combo to include garlic, leeks, shallots, whatever you think would taste good.


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