Washington Evening Journal
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Anyone else have weather whiplash? One day it’s a record-setting 97 degrees and feels like a blast furnace outdoors, the next I’m scrambling for long sleeves and starting to think about putting on the furnace indoors.
This time of year kicks off soup season. I’m self-confessed a soup addict and try new recipes every year, along with the standard never-fail favorites. With a Crock-Pot yielding eight to 10 cups, it’s great to have a variety of choices on hand in the deep freeze.
The most fun homemade soup to make is the kind that doesn’t require a recipe. I’m always cutting up leftover roasts and saving meat drippings and vegetable odds and ends in the freezer. Add some salt, pepper and onion and it makes a great hot dish on a cold winter day. My beef-potato-barley-vegetable soup never turns out the same twice but that’s half the fun.
Most soups are quick to make. A little of this, a little of that, toss it all into a slow cooker and come back in eight hours. In the meantime, the house smells wonderful. One of the best things about cold weather are the delicious scents of good food on the stove or in the oven.
I have one chicken and wild rice soup recipe, however, that is so labor intensive I have to clear an afternoon to put it together. Every time I swear I’m done messing with it but it’s so darn good I always leave the card with its five-star rating in my recipe book. It requires specific amounts of specific ingredient amounts, which puts a damper on my wing and a prayer soup-making style. While I’m tempted to wing it and try substitutes and shortcuts, I never do because I know the finished product will be worth it.
Chili is always a classic. I’m a great fan of chili, providing you leave out the chili powder and any kind of evil peppers. Call me a weenie but I’m perfectly content with a mildly seasoned bowl of ground beef, beans, tomatoes and onions topped with sour cream and shredded cheese. Don’t give me a bowl of anything that’s going to ignite my innards.
I’ve never understood the attraction of eating food that makes your eyes run, your nose pour, your stomach churn and results in evil things the next day that are better left unsaid. The enjoyment of food takes place in your mouth. Once you swallow it, there aren’t any taste buds in your throat or stomach, so I want to enjoy every bite I take. Frantically gulping water and mopping at my nose and eyes with a tissue takes a lot of fun out of mealtime. You can have your five-alarm firehouse chili. I’ll pass.
I’ve tried some store-bought soup mixes but the jury is out. The only good thing I had to say about one of them was that it didn’t make very much. Another tasted like the main ingredient was salt.
Homemade bread goes hand in hand with homemade soup. I never mastered the art of baking with yeast but I can make a fair artisan bread, buttermilk biscuits, cornbread and quickbread, all wonderful sides during soup season. The aroma is divine. One of my favorites is beer bread. Last year, I discovered Parmesan beer bread, which is even better and makes a great accompaniment to soup and pasta dishes as well. Carbohydrates are comfort food and I’m not going to argue about it.