Good soup warms a long month
January is here. On the surface, there’s not much to recommend the first month of the year, except Heather’s and Rodney’s birthdays. No glitzy holidays. It’s cold and windy. Daylight’s still at a premium. Everyone’s still pudgy from Christmas and New Year’s.
I can’t think of anything much worse — unless it’s February. No, I take that back — February’s only 28 days long and has Valentine’s Day right in the middle.
Let’s face it — the first months of the year aren’t going to hand us much diversion, unless it’s in the form of a snowstorm or the tease of a few unseasonably warm days. So make our own fun — and some memories along the way. This week let’s think of what there is to do at home. For many parents who work during the week, weekends have become housework and homework time, days for errand-running and catching up in general. There are lots of things classified as seasonal chores this time of year. The holiday accoutrements need to be gathered, organized and put out of the way until next October. There are thank-you’s to be written and mailed — or phoned. Vehicles need to be made winter-ready if you’ve procrastinated up until now — weather-wise, the worst is yet to come.
Don’t forget to find (or make) time during these first dark and dreary months to have fun and relax at home with family and friends. Down time doesn’t have to be filled with TV, texting or zoned out plugged into something with earphones. Board games and interactive card games (with real cards, not played with a mouse on the computer) are just as much family fun as they were when I was a child. Did you ever play Rook?
If you plant a vegetable garden after the last frost, it’s time to start setting seeds in peat pots. Even the smallest family members can help. All you really need are the seeds, peat pots, a shallow tray to hold the pots and a gro-light. Oh, yes — don’t forget to water the pots. To watch the seeds germinate and help them grow is to participate in the start of a life cycle. It never gets old, fascinates kids and just might get you through to warmer weather.
How about cooking together? There’s nothing like creating wonderful smells in the house when the wind’s swirling outside and the temperature’s falling. If you have small children at home, take advantage of their desire to help — teach them to cook by having them work with you. Make plenty, freeze in portions, and you’ll be able to heat and eat on days when you’re totally out of time and energy.
Here’s a repeat recipe for a simple, satisfying soup that provides good times in the preparation (kids can help either chop or dump veggies from cans or frozen in packages) and good eating when it’s done. Whether you use nothing but fresh vegetables or go to the convenience of frozen or canned for a shortcut, this soup is just plain good. It cooks on its own while you play marathon Monopoly with the kids. Serve with crusty bread.
OL’ VEGETABLE SOUP
1 quart chicken broth, homemade or College Inn, fat removed
1 16-ounce can cut green beans, undrained
1 16-ounce can whole kernel corn, undrained or similar package frozen
1 14.5-ounce can whole or chopped tomatoes, undrained
1 cup fresh carrots, chopped
1/2 cup lima beans
1 large potato, peeled and chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
3 ribs celery, chopped
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
salt and pepper to taste (I “salt” with 1 or 2 chicken bouillon cubes.)
Place all ingredients in a large Dutch oven or crockpot. If ingredients are not covered by broth and liquid from cans, add water to cover.
For crockpot: Cook on low for 7 hours or high for 4 hours.
For oven: Cook at 250 degrees for 6 hours in a covered Dutch oven.
For stovetop: cook on low for 6 hours in a covered Dutch oven. Serves six to eight.
This soup freezes well.
If you see an ingredient your family doesn’t like, omit it and add more of something they do like.
Either chopped skinless chicken or lean beef can be added with the vegetables — this soup is good with leftover lean meat.
Vegetarians may substitute vegetable broth for the chicken broth.
Sizes of cans change — an ounce here or there doesn’t matter.
Linda Conway Eriksson can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com.