Monday, February 6, 2012

As a child, I enjoyed the old folk tale, “Stone Soup,” in which hungry travelers persuade a village to give them food. As a teacher, I still enjoy reading this book to my students from my original paperback copy. The story teaches a lesson of cooperation even in hard times.

In the story, two hungry travelers announce they are making stone soup. The pair add water and a stone to their pot and say they only need “a little of this and a little of that” to make the soup taste delicious. The villagers are reluctant at first, but agree to help out hoping to get a taste of the hot soup. Soon the villagers are coerced into adding more and more ingredients to the steaming pot. Finally, a satisfying pot of soup is enjoyed by all.

Today soup is still a warm and nourishing meal to be shared with others, especially on a cold winter’s day. (You can use up ingredients you already have and make it your own. Soup is also one of those dishes can be eaten right away or left to simmer in a crock pot all day.)

Plaza Three Steak Soup

My colleague, Stephanie (Kilker) Hein, taught band and choir for Ar-We-Va Community Schools in 2008-2009 and is very familiar with the Carroll area. Stephanie has made this soup for staff lunches at our school a few times. I asked for the recipe since I like the thickness and flavor of the soup. The velvety texture comes from the addition of flour and butter. The beef base adds to the rich flavor. The recipe calls for one pound of hamburger, but Stephanie usually adds a pound and a half for her husband, Michael. Any combination of mixed or fresh veggies you have on hand can be added.

1-1 1/2 lb ground beef
1 large onion, diced (white or yellow)
2 large carrots, diced
1 stick of butter
1 pound of frozen mixed veggies (corn, peas, green beans, lima beans, etc)
1 ½ tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce
1 ½ tablespoons of beef base (not bouillon)
1 6 ounce can tomato paste
1 cup flour
6 cups of water

Brown ground beef and add to slow cooker. Saute onions and carrots in butter and add to slow cooker, about 5-7 minutes, until vegetables soften. Add remaining ingredients to the slow cooker. Cook on high for 4 hours or low for 6-8 hours.

Pasta E Fagioli Soup

Pasta e fagioli means “pasta and beans” and is a meatless Italian soup traditionally eaten by peasants.

My colleague, Pam Szakacs, and I share a classroom and office and the topic of making dinner for our families often comes up. This soup is well-liked by Pam’s family. Her kids, Sophia and Noah especially like pasta, so she adds a few extra noodles for them.

2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 lb ground beef (optional)
3/4 c chopped onions
1 1/3 c slivered carrots
1 c diced celery
1 1/2 c diced canned tomatoes
1 c canned red kidney beans, rinsed and drained (Pam prefers black beans)
1 c canned white beans, rinsed and drained
5 1/2 c beef stock (or 5 cans beef broth)
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
3/4 teaspoon ground pepper
1/4-1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
3 c spaghetti sauce
2 ½ tablespoons fresh, minced flat leaf Italian parsley
4 oz (2/3 c) dry pasta shell macaroni or ditali (short tube pasta)

Combine oil and ground beef in large pot and cook over medium heat until beef starts to brown. Add onions, carrots, celery, and tomatoes. Simmer about 10 minutes. Add beans, beef stock, oregano, pepper, hot sauce, and spaghetti sauce. Add minced parsley. Simmer until vegetables are tender, about 45 minutes. Stir in pasta and cook until pasta is tender.
Makes enough soup to fill a crock pot.

Baked Potato Soup

We all love to indulge in a rich, creamy soup once in a while. This comforting soup comes from Iowa Machine Shed’s website. They have a collection of Chef’s Kitchen recipes The Iowa Machine Shed is known for their baked potato soup topped with cheese, bacon bits, and green onion.

2 ½ lbs baby red potatoes
½ lb raw bacon, diced
1 quart water
1 quart milk
1 teaspoon black pepper
¼ cup chopped parsley
1 cup whipping cream
1 jumbo yellow onion, diced
3 stalks celery, diced
½ c chicken base
1 teaspoon salt
¾ cup flour
1 ¼ sticks margarine

Garnish: shredded Colby cheese, bacon bits, chopped green onions.

Boil potatoes in water for 10 minutes, drain and set aside. In a large, heavy pot, sauté bacon, onions and celery over medium-high heat until celery is tender. Drain bacon grease and return bacon, onions and celery to pot. Add in milk, water, chicken base, salt and pepper. Heat over medium-high heat until very hot, but do not let it boil. Melt margarine in a large, heavy saucepan over low heat. Stir in flour to make a roux. Mix well and allow to bubble, stirring for one minute. If desired, a larger amount of roux can be made to produce a thicker soup. Gradually add roux to soup, stirring constantly. Continue to cook, stirring until thick and creamy. Stir in potatoes, parsley and cream. Serve hot, garnished with cheese, bacon bits, and green onion.
Makes 10-12 servings.

Gina’s Hot and Spicy Tortilla Soup

Pat and Gina Neely of the Food Network are known for their down home comfort foods. This spicy soup is comfort food with a kick.

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 onion, finely diced
1 yellow bell pepper, diced
1 jalapeno, seeded and diced
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
32 oz low-sodium chicken broth
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced Mexican style tomatoes
1 cup frozen corn kernels, thawed
1/4 cup roughly chopped cilantro, plus 2 tablespoons
1 (12-oz) boneless skinless chicken breast, diced
1 cup crushed tortilla chips
sour cream and Monterey Jack cheese for topping
lime wedges

In a large heavy bottomed pot, heat the oil on medium-high heat. Saute onions. Add bell pepper, jalapenos, salt and pepper. Cook until the onions become translucent. Add cumin and stir until fragrant. Add chicken broth, tomatoes, corn, and 1/4 cup of the cilantro. Add the diced chicken and cook through for about 10 minutes. Season with salt to taste.

Ladle soup into bowls and divide the crushed tortilla chips between the bowls. Top with sour cream, Monterey jack cheese, remaining cilantro, sliced avocado, and lime wedges.
Makes 4 to 6 servings.