Memory Soup

Welcome to today’s memory soup! Sunday’s Super Bowl made me think of Florida. This morning’s chill made me think of soup. It seems that red conch chowder marries the two. Apparently, this Caribbean dish is popular in Florida as well as the Bahamas. I’ve never eaten it, but I have eaten conch fresh out of the ocean.

Years ago, some friends and I took one of those overweight puddle jumper flights from Belize City to San Pedro on Ambergris Caye. We took off over the water and slowly climbed with the stall siren blaring for what seemed like a solid five minutes. At the time, I didn’t realize it was a stall horn. I just knew it was an annoying, loud noise that wouldn’t stop. A few years later, during pilot training, I was overcome with a delayed feeling of terror when I recognized the danger we had been in.

Once we settled into our accommodations on the island, we found a guide to take us bonefishing. Bonefish, like redfish, flip their tails into the air and feed off the bottom in the shallows.

They aren’t easy to catch. When you can see the tails, all movement must be slow and quiet until you’re close enough to cast. A single errant throw of the line will scatter them away quickly. But when you hook one, it’s a fun fight until you land it.

After a morning of fishing, our guide pulled the wooden boat up to a pier and we got out. Several hours in the sun had left me thirsty and hungry. About four steps down the pier, we encountered a man using cupped fingers to happily dip ceviche out of a red Solo® cup. “Want some?” he implored.

While the thought of eating uncooked seafood from a cup into which a man is dipping his fingers is something I can’t even stand to think about now, at the time I just wanted to share what was making him so happy! The ceviche was made with conch the man had harvested that day. Soaked in fresh lime juice and seasoned with cilantro, salt, and hot pepper then mixed with tomatoes and cucumber, it was full of flavor and as delicious as this suntanned stranger had described. I’ve loved ceviche ever since.

Living in a landlocked state means saltwater fish and seafood must be flown in for them to be moderately fresh. That means we don’t eat a lot of clam chowder or oyster stuffing. We have to make up the difference with crawfish, trout, bass, and crappe. But that doesn’t mean we don’t appreciate the occasional ocean catch. My neighbors have a big pot of fish stew on the stove right now. 

Now that you’ve sampled the memory portion, I guess it’s time for soup. What’s better than classic tomato soup? I like to use Pomi Italian Strained Tomatoes as a base, but there are other options. Dei Fratelli Condensed Tomato Soup is gluten-free comes in a restaurant or large family 50 oz size. Both of these can be used in lasagna, chili, pizza sauce, and marinara when you get tired of tomato soup.

There’s nothing better than homemade chicken stock, but it takes awhile so you have to plan ahead. Sometimes I decide I want chicken soup right now. For those occasions, I keep Imagine® Organic Free Range Chicken Broth in the pantry. I like drinking it from a mug as is, but it’s also a great base for chicken & rice or chicken noodle soup.

Potato soup is warm, filling, and doesn’t require any exotic ingredients. I can usually throw it together with what’s on hand: potatoes, garlic, onion, salt, pepper, butter, and milk or milk substitute…and water. It’s even better if I can scare up some bacon. Sometimes, I like to add cauliflower or corn.

With a pandemic stocked pantry, I have plenty of beans on hand. Black bean is a great option. I typically use dried beans, but you can use can beans as well. Carrot, celery, onion, bell pepper, garlic, broth, bay leaves, cumin, cilantro, salt, pepper, and lime juice are the other items needed.

And there’s always vegetable soup. I’m pretty sure the versions are unlimited. Sometimes I start with chicken stock and leftover veggies. Other times, I opt for fresh veggies in pot likker from greens. On a given day, my preferred version is any combination of vegetables that please me or empty the fridge.

Where are the actual recipes? That’s the great thing about soup. It’s a perfect culinary playground. You don’t need a recipe to make it delicious. You can use your memory and your senses.

If you’re not currently comfortable cooking by feel but want to give it a try, pull out any chicken soup recipe. Fill a soup pot with the recommended amounts of stock and water. Then measure the amount of salt recommended. Sprinkle the salt across the top of the liquid. Get a visual feel for that particular measure. Do the same with the pepper, garlic, and cumin or curry in the recipe (these are only examples). Next time you make soup, you’ll have a visual reference for what you need. Just shake it right out of the container.

Use your sense of smell at the same time. Smell after each addition. As you get comfortable, you’ll recognize that you can smell a difference when you add a bit more salt or garlic. As long as there are no raw ingredients of concern, taste after each stage as well. The more senses you use, the more information you’ll have.

While you’re playing, keep in mind that an addition of cooked chicken that’s already seasoned means you don’t need to add additional salt and pepper to season the chicken. The same goes for left-over vegetables.

I’ve thrown out my share of cooking mistakes, but it’s hard to destroy soup. If you over spice, dilute with additional liquid. And if you have difficulty deciding what to include, memories of soups you’ve previously enjoyed can help guide you. No matter whether you choose flavors from the Caribbean, Asia, the Pacific Northeast or the American South, you’re sure to end up with comforting warmth.

After a year without travel, it would be great to swim in clear Caribbean water and eat fresh conch ceviche. That won’t happen for awhile, so I’ll just have to savor the memories along with a warm cup of soup.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Cough Drop Pep Talk for Thanksgiving?

Do I really need a cough drop pep talk for Thanksgiving? Why does my cough drop wrapper say, “A PEP TALK IN EVERY DROP” anyway? If I have fever high enough to think cough drops talk, I need something besides a pep talk. The pesky little ovals don’t stop there. They advise me to “Buckle down and push forth!”; “Power Through!”; and “Seize the day.” Whaaat?
coughdrop
Maybe I’m just in a bad mood because I can’t sleep, my throat hurts, and my ear is full of fluid. Eating green beans, cauliflower, sweet potatoes, and oranges may be culinary medicine, but they aren’t doing the trick to kick this virus. Now, I’m out of food and I don’t want to get out in the cold to go to the store.

Should I take the cough drop wrapper’s advice and power through? After all, I just have a cold, not the flu. OMG, I’m rhyming in a blog post – I must be sick. That aside, I don’t like clothes with affirmations on the tags or wrappers that tell me what to do. It’s not that I mind affirmations, I just don’t like them in my clothes. It makes me feel like a walking fortune cookie. And it’s not that I don’t sometimes need to be told to buck up, I just don’t want that advice from something I take when I’m sick. It seems inappropriate.

If the wrapper said, “A delicious complement to hot tea.” or “Stay home and sleep.” or “A warm snuggle for your throat!” or “Take time to heal.”, perhaps I could get behind wrapper advice. But telling me to be unstoppable is really bad advice when I’m ill.

The people following that advice are more likely to go to work, church, and the store, sick. They’re more likely to stay stick longer. They’re more likely to be too tired to do their best at work or be as safe a driver as usual on the road. And no doubt they will contaminate the air on my next flight. So stop encouraging them already!

Most of us have been programmed to keep going when we would get well faster if we went to bed and got some rest. We feel like we can’t miss work or class, a family birthday, or a soccer game. Many bosses are happy to reinforce this belief.

And then there’s all of that holiday cooking to be done! That’s certainly something we shouldn’t be doing when we’re sick. Seriously, preparing food for others when you’re sick can expose them. Most states have food prep guidelines for restaurant employees that include restrictions for those with cold, flu, and bronchitis as well as more serious illnesses.

I know it’s tempting to minimize the risks when we think of beloved holiday traditions, but if someone in your family has a compromised immune system, exposure to the flu could put them at serious risk even if they’ve had the vaccine. Having a medically fragile grandchild has increased my awareness of the need to be mindful about spreading germs. It also means I felt the frustration of missing out when the family welcomed her home from a recent hospitalization.

Perhaps those cough drop pep talks are meant to encourage malingering patients to get back to the business of every day, but they’re most likely to feed the determination of those who won’t stop in the first place. If we want to assist our immune systems, it is important to recognize the value of down time. Resting leaves our bodies with more energy available to fight off bugs and rebuild cells.

So, if you’re sick this holiday season, forget the cough drop pep talk! Eat some soup. Order food. Go to bed. Take time to heal. Not only will you get well faster in the long run, you’ll help contain the spread of viruses and/or bacteria.

Now it’s time for me to follow my own advice and take a healing nap!!!

http://www.moodmaybe.com/2016/05/flax-affirmations.html

https://www.gethalls.com/

https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2016/p0215-enough-sleep.html

http://www.health.state.mn.us/foodsafety/dwi/eicondguide.pdf

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/easy-gluten-free-thanksgiving-menu/

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/small-crowd-small-bird-cornish-game-hen-thanksgiving/

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/hosting-thanksgiving-easy/

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Soup’s On!

Cooler weather is finally here, so soup’s on – literally! When that first blast of cold air hits each fall, everyone I know starts to clamor for soup. From chili to chowder, hot thick soup fills and warms your tummy and is the perfect antidote for a chill.
tomato soup
Soup preference is often determined by the base of the soup. Some prefer broth or stock, some tomato, and some cream. This is reflected in the top five soups sold in America – chicken noodle, tomato, clam chowder, potato, and minestrone.

Of course the choices don’t stop there. There’s tortilla soup, French onion soup, chicken and rice, chicken chili, split pea, lentil, butternut squash, corn chowder, beef stew, ham and bean, lobster bisque, gumbo, vegetable, Thai chicken coconut soup, and phở. The possible combinations are seemingly endless.

My grandmother made her own chicken stock and canned her own tomato juice. These became the base for soup at her house. Most of us don’t feel like we can spend 2-3 hours in the kitchen prepping the base for a soup. That doesn’t mean the only way to have a delicious soup for dinner is to pop open a can or have some delivered.

A great soup can begin with ingredients you usually discard. Vegetable broth from fresh green beans, black beans, butternut squash, cabbage, greens, and even sour kraut can serve as a flavorful base.

You can also boil potato skins, and asparagus, mushroom, broccoli, and cauliflower stems that would normally go in the trash or composter in a separate pot at the same time you prepare those vegetables. You’re using veggie pieces that result from prep you’re already doing and you’re cooking during a time you’ll already be around the kitchen. That makes for a time friendly, budget friendly practice.

Put the resulting broth in a large glass jar in the refrigerator and save it for soup. You can add broth from multiple vegetables over several days to deepen the flavor and nutritional value.

Your broth can also include chicken skin, hearts, livers, and gizzards, or fat trimmed from beef, pork, or chicken. If you prefer, you can place these in a slow cooker with some water, onion, seasonings and vegetables to create broth while you’re at work. You’re going to discard everything but the liquid so don’t worry that the ingredients are ugly things you wouldn’t eat on their own.

When I am too taxed to have the capacity for planning soup in advance, I use prepared items from the grocery to get me started. My favorites are Pomi Tomatoes, Imagine Free Range Organic Chicken Broth, and milk. I always have these items around.

pomiPomi Strained Tomatoes are just that. Tomatoes. There’s nothing added – no water, no salt, no preservatives. For a healthy soup base with a long shelf life and no prep time, it doesn’t get much better than that.

Imagine Free Range Organic Chicken Broth is available from any store at which I shop. It comes in a low sodium version. The ingredients are: organic chicken broth (filtered water, organic chicken), organic onions, organic celery, organic carrots, natural chicken flavor, organic spices, sea salt. The only thing suspect here is “natural chicken flavor”, but there’s no MSG, no sugar, no yeast extract and the natural chicken flavor isn’t at the top of the list of ingredients. Truthfully, I don’t always buy the low sodium version.

I don’t always have cream on hand, but with a 2-year-old around I consistently have whole milk. It may not be quite as rich as cream, but it gets the job done in potato soup or corn chowder.

I also keep rice in the pantry, curry in the spice rack, onions and garlic on the counter, and herbs growing in pots on the back porch or in the house. All of these can be used to flavor or enhance soup.

The temperature in my house has dropped 10 degrees in the last hour, but I’m in luck. I have chicken breasts in the refrigerator, chicken broth and rice in the pantry, an onion and fresh garlic, some English peas and some rosemary. With those and some salt and pepper, I can make soup for dinner.

It won’t be long before soup’s on!

https://solesoups.com/2017/02/17/top-five-bestselling-soups-america/

https://www.pomi.us.com/en-us/products/#strained-tomatoes

https://www.fooducate.com/app#!page=product&id=9EBAF56C-E113-11DF-A102-FEFD45A4D471

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/why-did-your-grandma-make-chicken-soup/

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/dump-soup-perfect-for-a-lazy-day/

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/travel-tip-12-cold-soups-vary-different-countries/

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Dump Soup – Perfect for a Lazy Day

This morning, I’m making dump soup. I’d like to say it’s because I’m having a relaxing day with nothing else to do. The truth is, I’m sick. I don’t feel like standing in the kitchen, but I want some soup to sip on.
veggies
The good news is, I have remnants of broccoli, potatoes, corn, tomatoes, carrots, celery, fresh rosemary, and ham in my refrigerator — all left over from last weekend’s family meal prep. I also have a bag of small red onions I picked up on sale. The other good news is that the broccoli has already been cleaned, the potatoes were peeled & sliced for scalloped potatoes (but wouldn’t fit in my dish), and the tomatoes were chopped for a salad. I can just dump everything in a pan, no prep required!!!!

Dump soup, unlike a carefully prepared stew, doesn’t require chopping. It doesn’t require potatoes that haven’t turned dark. You don’t need to cut the leaves off of the celery or pull the rosemary off its stem. You can just dump cleaned veggies in a large pot, season with salt, pepper, garlic (dump some fresh in if you have it), and any other herbs or spices that compliment your flavor profile, then add meat & water.
ham
Any leftover or uncooked meat will work — ham, chicken, and bacon are my favorites. Dump soup is a great place to use chicken or turkey necks, hearts, livers, and gizzards. It’s the perfect excuse to skip closely trimming a ham bone. Leaving some meat on the bone will add even more flavor to the soup. If you don’t have meat handy, mixing some chicken stock in your water will deepen the flavor of the vegetable broth.

If you’ve ever made chicken stock, you know that once the broth is flavored, you remove all of the chicken and vegetables because they’re overcooked and have given most of their flavor over to the broth. Dump soup is the same. What you’re going for initially is a flavorful broth. Slowly simmering your mixture for 3-4 hours will result in a rich broth. The lengthy cooking time is another reason it’s perfect for a lazy morning or a day you’re stuck at home doing chores.

After 3-4 hours, dump in whatever you’d like to chew on in your soup. First, remove all the meat, vegetables, and herbs. I don’t worry about straining out little remnants, but you can if you want a clear broth. Today, I’ll probably dump in some brown rice, but pasta, quinoa, or lentils are good options as well. If I felt like spending more time in the kitchen, I might add chopped vegetables and/or meat.
biscuits
I’ll serve today’s dump soup with some ratty looking gluten-free biscuits I threw together this morning. I keep the dry ingredients mixed up so that on days like today, I all I have to do is cut in some shortening and add the milk and buttermilk. That means it takes about 5 minutes to mix the biscuits and get them in the oven. Obviously, I didn’t take much time rolling or cutting these! A piece of fresh fruit will round out the meal.

And I’ll have plenty of everything left for tomorrow. Of course, I hope I’m feeling better by then but you never know. Having something warm and comforting already prepared makes me feel less anxious and able to rest more easily while I try to get ahead of this virus. There’s also something comforting about the delicious aroma filling the house.

In a matter of minutes, I cleaned out 80% of the contents of my refrigerator, made the house feel comforting, and created several meals — all by making dump soup. Not bad for a morning when I’m mostly lying around watching TV!