Snow, Snow, Beautiful Snow!

1 Mar

I’m Back, an unfortunately so was the SNOW! Yes, a few weeks ago we had an every other day snow event here in New England and although I always said I loved the snow, now I am afraid that my age has finally caught up with me and I have to take that statement back.

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More snow, which meant that there would be no mail again and as you can see, my neighbors mailbox is once again buried in the snow. The next day it warmed up during the day, but the temperature dipped below freezing during the night and then came the ice.

I guess now it is a love/hate situation-I love the memories of coming home from midnight mass on Christmas Eve and seeing all the Christmas lights and the snow falling softly and arriving home an immediately putting the Christmas tree lights on, lighting a fire in the fireplace and of course putting the Yule log station on the television to listen to the Christmas carols. The view outside always put us in a festive mood and my husband and I would have a glass of wine and a midnight snack-traditionally my special holiday nut and poppy seed rolls- and then we would be up all night completing the finishing touches on the Christmas family celebration.

Yes, our Christmas family get-together was not just dinner, but an all day affair, which began with the unwrapping of gifts, all sizes and shapes. I usually missed this part, because I took time to oversee the food set-up and preparation. The dinner was set up buffet style in the kitchen consuming every space that was available and to accommodate our guest we used the dining room with tables set up in the living room. Always trying to satisfy every ones taste buds there were many dishes to choose from. With all the eating, talking joking and laughing the dinner lasted for many hours.

After dinner we would have our family grab bag, with everyone bringing a gift worth a set price. We use the usual rules-everyone receives a number that indicates their turn in selecting a wrapped gift that is displayed on a table. Others can take the gift three times only, and then the person holding it keeps it. Honestly it is so much fun and it can get a little violent (only kidding, just a lot of shouting.)

The dessert buffet is an array of goodies including special holiday treats from our guest-there is no calorie counting. After we finish dessert we are ready for the big event CHRISTMAS BINGO. I would purchase gift items during the year and make special food gift baskets for prizes. All kinds of winning bingo combinations were played and this would go on for a while, until all the prizes were won.

One year we had a special grab bag and to participate you had to make a donation to St. Jude Children’s Hospital. We told the family that we would match whatever amount was donated. We were shocked when we saw what was in the basket and although it was much more than expected we kept our promise.

Some of my readers are probably saying, “Now what does all this have to do with cooking?” Actually nothing, but it does have to do with cooking up ideas and food for thought and that has always been the premise of all my columns and this web site. Also, I can’t tell you how therapeutic it is to have such comforting memories.

I want you to know that I just didn’t go on an extended vacation and forget all about you. Actually, I took a short hiatus from producing my website due to a string of pulled muscles on my right side-neck-shoulder-arm-which made it almost impossible to work on my computer. In the future I will heed the advice from everyone and choose to do tasks that are more age appropriate and leave the ladder climbing and heavy lifting to someone else.

The good news is that with a little help, I was able to put a few decorations outside to make the house look somewhat festive. The bad news is that because of all the snow, ice and freezing temperatures the decorations are still outside. Gosh you just feel like wrapping yourself up in your snuggle wrap and hold on to a hot cup of soup.

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My Christmas decorations just began to thaw out last week!

Actually the best that we can do is to think spring, so I stopped to pick up some spring flowers and put up some spring decorations and to my amazement I feel as if I have a little bit of spring to my step. Or is it my new pair of Merrell Air Cushion shoes that I am wearing?

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THINK SPRING

Actually, I love a hot cup of soup and did you know that a cup or a bowl of soup is a healthy way to get all the nutrients that you need without all the calories. The best thing is that you can make a healthy meal for pennies by using ingredients that you have in you refrigerator, pantry or freezer. No recipe needed as long as you have a few Basic ingredients on hand such as a source of protein, vegetables, seasonings, and water and if needed flavored salt free stock or broth. My pantry always has a variety of spices and purchased and homegrown dried herbs and chicken, beef, vegetable and seafood no sodium stock to supplement my slow simmered (bone) stock, except when I am making a vegetarian soup. My go too commercial stock is Kitchen Basics No Sodium Stock.

Last week I was having a conversation with a friend about making soup and when asked how I made soup, I was quickly to suggest that for a non-vegetarian soup, it is a must to use bones from the protein source you are using, because that is where most of the nutrients are derived from. For instance when making chicken soup I prefer using a chicken carcass-do not ever dispose of a store bought rotisserie chicken carcass, because they make wonderful stock and always have enough meat on them to add to the soup. As a matter of fact, my daughters always give me the left over chicken parts and ham bones and I will be sharing two great soup ideas them today.

Actually, I didn’t learn this from a cookbook, but remembered it from my youth when it was obvious that I was in my comfort zone when I was in the kitchen watching my mom cook. On the subject of soup, mom always said to always use a fowl when making soup because it was the bones that made the soup healthy. I remember going to the market for mom, which was a little mom and pop store about a block away and asking the owner for a fowl and he knew exactly what I wanted and he would say “Mommy must be making soup today.” Not to long ago I went to the butcher department in my super market and asked the butcher if he had a fowl. I think he thought I was being nasty and said with a strange look “I never heard of it.” REALLY! They probably just call it plain old chicken today, but I think the fowl mom referred to was a domestic raised hen bigger boned and had more fat. I could be wrong.

Anyway this is so strange, because yesterday I was reading a magazine and I came across an article about a eatery in New York that is very popular with health conscience New Yorkers that sells soup like mom and grandma made and they call it Bone Soup and it cost $4.00 a cup. Today having my lunch, I was watching “The Chew” and this same restaurant was mentioned and it is called Brodo and it is a big hit. By the way, I think that I discovered another comfort zone, writing HealthyCookingForToday and I realized just how much I missed writing it. Also, I apologize for getting a little bit carried away.

DUMP SOUP

(A silly take on the “What is Old is New craze “Dump Cakes and Dinners)

I am not using a traditional format for this Dump Soup, I am just going to walk, no talk you through it.

On snowy Monday, I made a Chicken Vegetable, Rice Dump Soup. I began by using the carcass from a roasted crock-pot chicken that I made a few days ago. I first picked the carcass of excess chicken to add later to the broth. I placed the carcass in my soup pot, an covered it with cool water and brought the contents to a boil, then lowered the heat to simmer for a least an hour or until your taste buds indicate that the broth has taken on a distinctive flavor. This next step may seem tedious, but it is essential to remove any bone particles. Remove the carcass and drain the broth into a large bowl and return it to the pot. Add flavored broth if needed.

Now this is when you become creative-check out your refrigerator for left over vegetables and your freezer for any frozen vegetables you would like to add and your pantry for chicken stock, rice or noodles or my favorite bow tie pasta and perhaps some canned tomatoes-or if you prefer some fresh grape or cherry tomatoes, halved.

Add some diced celery and carrot and a whole onion that has been slashed criss crossed on top so has to release the juices. Season to suit your taste with salt and pepper. Slice or dice the remaining ingredients and add to pot. Simmer until all vegetables are barely tender. Add chicken, rice or noodles or pasta-my favorite-bow tie pasta-and simmer until tender. Enjoy!

This next soup recipe is adapted from one that my friend shared that was her mom’s favorite. The base of the soup is a ham bone, and with Easter only a few weeks away that ham bone and the left over ham pieces will come in handy.

FLASH-I just heard on the noon weather report that there is a snowstorm predicted for Friday-the first day of spring-that may produce as much as four inches of snow. WHAT!

Mary’s Barley Soup

1 ham bone with meat on it

1-cup pearl barley

1-cup carrots, diced

2 stalks celery, diced

1 small can tomatoes

1-cup potatoes, diced

1 onion

Season to taste with the following: Ketchup, salt, pepper, paprika, caraway seeds and 1 bay leaf or seasonings of choice.

Cut the meat from the ham bone into small pieces and set aside. Wash ham bone and put in pot with enough water to cover. Add one cup barley and bring to boil. Simmer for 15 minutes. Fill pot with water and add carrots, celery, onion-which has been slashed cress cross on top to release juices-tomatoes and seasonings. Bring to a boil and simmer for 1 hour.

Add the reserved meat and potatoes and simmer for another hour or until potatoes are tender. Delicious!

CREATIVE CORNER

My creative corner features recipes and photos of reader’s creative ideas for food, crafts, decorating ideas or for any creative endeavor you would like to share. Simply e-mail to my contact e-mail CookingForToday@aol.com.

Guess who is featured in the Creative Corner today? Me! I am sharing a photo of the diaper center piece I made for my grandsons wives baby shower. Our new baby was a beautiful baby girl.

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Well if you are still hankering-hey where did that come from-for more soup recipes, you will find a great and easy recipe, which is especially great for the working mom who wants to serve a healthy hearty soup to her family without much effort, check out my blog. Also you will find a wonderful Crock-pot Creamy Potato Soup on my Members Only Blog.

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