Bowls of Warmth
Story and photos by Angie Sutton
Mother Nature scoffs at the calendar. It indicates that spring is here but not without a sprinkling of the last vestiges of Ma Nature’s winter weather. We welcome the moisture, but if you’re like me, you are itching to get that garden plot tilled and the potatoes planted without scooping snow first.
My grandma Dorothy asked everyone she knew on March 17, “Did you get your potatoes in today?” Last year I tried a new venture in potato planting. You take an old car tire, lay it on the soil, fill it with bagged garden soil and place six seed potatoes in it. Add some moisture and when the potatoes have sprouted and are about 3 inches tall, add another car tire and more soil. Once the plants have climbed through that soil and are about 3 inches tall, you continue the stacking until you have four or five tires. When they are ready to harvest, you simply unstack the tires and have potatoes galore. The trendy name for this is “vertical gardening.” I started early last year and created a greenhouse effect by laying an old window over the top tire during the first few cool weather weeks.
I’m most excited about my culinary herb garden. A few herbs are perennials, such as oregano and thyme, but my other favorites, basil and dill, are annual. I love grabbing a handful of fresh basil to add to a soup recipe or having fresh dill available outside my back door during canning season. I’m dedicating a small area to experiment with chocolate mint this year, which will make a delectable cake.
Since cool weather is hanging on a bit longer and packing blankets is a must for watching softball games and track meets for a few more weeks, I’m sharing a three of our favorite tummy-warming recipes.
Chicken and Wild Rice Soup
We like this recipe because it’s ready in less than 30 minutes when I have shredded chicken in the freezer! If you need to cook the chicken, add about 20 minutes to this recipe*.
4 c. chicken broth
In a large stock pot over medium heat, combine broth, water and chicken. Bring to a boil and immediately stir in rice (not seasoning packet). Cover and remove from heat. In a small bowl, combine salt, pepper and flour. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Stir in contents of seasoning packet until mixture bubbles. Reduce heat to low, slowly add flour mixture a tablespoon at a time until it forms a roux. Use a whisk to slowly add in cream and mix until smooth. Continue to cook until thickened, about 5 minutes. Add cream mixture into rice mixture in large stock pot. Add the can of sliced carrots. Cook over medium heat until heated through, about 10 minutes.
*If you need to cook your chicken, simply place your chicken to a large saucepan, add in a couple raw sliced carrots and a chopped celery stalk and cover with water. Bring to a boil over medium heat and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes (chicken should reach 170 degrees F). Let the chicken cool slightly before shredding. Reserve 2 cups of the broth to replace tap water in recipe. Reserve cooked carrots and celery to add in the final step.
Hearty Slow Cooker Taco Soup
This hearty soup is open to many adaptations depending on your family’s taste buds. Add jalapenos or replace one can of diced tomatoes with a hot version of diced tomatoes and green chilies. You can also replace the ranch seasoning with spicy ranch seasoning. We like to throw it all in a slow cooker in the morning so it’s ready to eat when we walk in the door. You can also make the soup on the stovetop and let it simmer for an hour.
1 lb. ground beef
In a medium skillet over medium heat, brown the ground beef* until cooked through. Drain if needed. Dump the ground beef and all remaining ingredients in a slow cooker and stir until combined. Cook on low for 8 hours. Serve with sour cream, guacamole and tortilla chips!
*If you want to make this even easier, brown ground beef and onions in advance and freeze. Simply defrost the beef the morning of and dump it into the bottom of the slow cooker.
Great Northern Bean Soup
This protein-packed soup is a belly-warmer! We like this recipe because the taste is different from our usual fare and is quick to the table in about 30 minutes.
1 c. baby carrots, halved
Heat a large saucepan and melt butter. Saute carrots, onion, garlic and kielbasa for about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Reduce to medium heat and cook 5 minutes longer. Add broth, Italian seasoning, pepper and beans and simmer for 5 minutes. Place 2 cups of soup in a food processor or blender and process until smooth. You can also use a stick blender. Return pureed mixture to pan. Simmer 5 minutes. Remove soup from heat and add spinach, stirring until spinach is wilted. Serve with crusty bread.