Country Kitchen: Soups For Those Frigid Days

Country Kitchen: Soups For Those Frigid Days

By Mary Emma Allen

As the temperature hovered around zero today and the wind blew outside our home, I decided that a hearty soup would be perfect for a meal. This reminded me of my childhood, too, when Mother simmered thick, hearty soups in the black iron pot on our wood cook stove.

Father and the hired man liked the homemade soup that contained more ingredients than liquid, the kind that "stuck to your ribs," they called it. So we'd make a meal of soup or stew, hot biscuits or bread. Perhaps Mother might make dumplings or steamed bread.

Steamed bread was one of my favorite accompaniments to stew or a thick soup. She laid slices of bread on top of the brew, then covered the pot and let it steam until the bread was moistened and had absorbed a little of the juices, but wasn't soggy.

Soup of Leftovers

The soup I concocted today consisted of leftover beef pot roast and vegetables. I cut the beef, potatoes, and carrots into small pieces, then placed them in a kettle with water to cover, about two cups. I added some of the thickened pot roast broth (which had been saved in a separate container).

Then I added 1 medium chopped onion, 1/2 cup frozen peas and carrots, 1/2 cup frozen green beans and 1 tablespoon beef bouillon powder. (The amount of bouillon powder you use will depend on how well seasoned your meat and gravy are.) This simmered until flavors were blended and the vegetables cooked.

I also like to add chopped celery, sliced mushrooms, cubed tomatoes, and/or corn for variation to a vegetable or vegetable/meat soup.

One cook explained how she put leftover vegetables into a container which she stored in the freezer. When she wanted to make soup, she simply thawed this and added to her soup pot.

"Easy" Baked Bread

I served the soup with freshly baked bread which I prepared the "easy" way. We often purchase frozen pre-baked bread at the bakery of the local supermarket. Much of the bread they receive in these bakeries is partially cooked, then frozen, to be finished as needed.

We buy this bread and store it into the freezer until needed. Just thaw out the bread, pop it into a 350 degree F. oven for 15 minutes.

Healthy Soups

When making soups, be aware that you can cut the fat and calories in several ways:

*Remove the excess by chilling the soup until the fat solidifies on top of the soup. If you don't have time to chill the soup, skim as much fat off the top as you can.

*Another method of keeping soups healthier is to thicken with a vegetable puree instead of flour and milk or water. Simply puree a vegetable like carrots or potato and return to the broth. Some cooks like to thicken soup with instant mashed potato flakes.

Lentils for Protein

Lentils make a nice addition to vegetable soups and with meat/vegetable soups, too. However, since they're a good source of protein, lentils can add that factor to your vegetable soups.

This small, brownish green dried seedlike legume can be stirred into the soup mixture without soaking beforehand, like you must do with dried beans.

What soups are you creating these winter days?

(C) 2003 Mary Emma Allen

About the Author

Mary Emma Allen has been writing her "Cooking Column" for newspapers and online publications for 30 years and has compiled a family cookbook. SheÂ’s currently compiling a cookbook/story book, "Tales From a Country Kitchen." Visit her web site for more cooking articles. Contact her at

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