Stay warm in cold weather with soup

Already, one week into this new year. Too many folks are thinking it couldn’t be any more frustrating than last year, but I know better than to tempt the spirits by saying that. I’m just thankful for being here. There is no need to get upset over the things over which we have no control, so why get stressed over them. It is useless to worry. Fix what you personally can fix and let those who caused the other problems handle them. Just smile and think, “Not my problem!”

“Thankful” is the word I picked for the year. It is only a week, but I am trying hard to keep it. Things that are on the “thankful” list include the sparkles on the snow when the sun shines on it; the delightful night view of snow with the big, beautiful moon shinning on it, the hot and cold water still running in the kitchen; still half a tank of fuel to keep warm; heavy sweaters, beautiful granddaughters and handsome grandsons. It is an effort not to think about some others that fall from that “thankful” list, but I’m trying.

Another “thankful” thing — enough leftover pork ribs and sauerkraut for two more meals. One of those granddaughters thought that belonged on the “unthankful” list. Young ones are not always glad to hear about old-time food traditions.

This past weekend was the “dream weekend” for college football fans. It was good to hear the groups, choirs and bands that performed the National Anthem as it should sound. Very few single voices have the range and/or volume to do it justice. The Rose Bowl Parade was especially pleasing to watch. How proud those school bands should be of the marching and performances they displayed.

Yesterday was the Twelfth Day of Christmas. Today starts the Mardi Gras season. We think of New Orleans for that holiday, but several cities throughout our country have good celebrations of it with parades, parties and events to draw tourists. In many countries, it is called Carnival. No matter what it is called, it is a party-time season for all who like wild parties. Experience it at least one time — while you are young. When you do decide to check Marti Gras out, get firm reservations in New Orleans early.

Husband Norm tells the story about when his son who was attending Florida State, decided one year to go to New Orleans with a group of buddies. Invite Dad, of course. He has the billfold. When Norm arrived there, he asked where they were staying; they said everything was booked up, so they all were going to sleep in the “Truck Bed Hotel.” It was a good thing he had a business associate who lived there that could offer him a bed.

New Orleans is one of those cities that should be on everyone’s Bucket List, but not necessarily at Marti Gras time. It is usually hot and muggy in the heat of summer, too. Check the weather forecast and don’t go if a hurricane is headed that way, but most of winter, spring and fall are good times to visit.

This past week, the seed catalogs have started arriving as expected. So far, they are lying in a stack away from my eyes. It is always so tempting to try “just a couple” of the new plants. That is what gets me in trouble. I love to garden, but the back and other bones don’t, so the Evil One and his weeds take over. Guess who gets the complaints about a messy garden?! So, I promise, this year will be a gentler and calmer year, away from many of those problems as I reduce the plantings. Maybe, there will be only three tomato plants and all the marigolds that come up from last year’s seeds. The blackberries and grapes are more than I really want to control anyway. (I will burn this promise as soon as it is printed so there is no evidence of that crazy idea.) All kidding aside, I really do need to control that big gardening dream.

This weather is the perfect time to try new soup and baking recipes. It warms the body while it warms the heart. After all the bargain shopping in the stores, it is nice to just relax at home and try some new recipes for the family, such as those that were in the News and Sentinel Annual Cookbook. We have such good cooks in our valley and they share their recipes. Do try some of them. Too often, we all get into the lazy habit of just cooking the same things over and over when there are so many new dishes just waiting for us to try. Cooking keeps the kitchen warm, too.

Hug your kids — everyone needs at least three hugs a day. Thank those who guard and protect us and pray for guidance for all. Count your blessings and be thankful.

God Bless.

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CHICKEN NOODLE SOUP

(Old-fashioned cure for everything!)

1 teaspoon butter

1 large carrot, chopped

1 large stalk celery, chopped

1 medium onion, chopped

6 cups chicken stock, canned or homemade

2 cups chopped cooked chicken

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1/4 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon dried parsley

1/8 teaspoon pepper

1 1/2 cups uncooked small or medium egg noodles

In a large soup pot or Dutch oven, melt the butter over a medium heat. Add the carrot, celery, and onion and saute until the veggies are tender, about 10 minutes. Add stock, chicken and seasonings. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and then add noodles. Cook 10 minutes or until noodles are tender.

NOTE: To make your own chicken stock, use the 10-lb bags of leg quarters that are often on sale in the grocery. Add carrots, celery, and onions, plus salt and pepper to your taste, when you cook them. I add a spoonful or two of chicken bouillon to increase taste. Cool the broth and the fat can be removed. This broth can be frozen, too, as well as the cooked chopped chicken.

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COUNTRY MINESTRONE

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 qt. beef broth

1 can (15-oz.) great northern beans, drained

2 cups chopped Italian-style tomatoes

2 cups shredded cabbage

2 large carrots, thinly sliced

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon dried basil

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground pepper

1 oz. vermicelli, broken

1 small zucchini, sliced

Grated Parmesan cheese

Heat olive oil in a large non-stick pan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and saute 5 minutes or until onion is tender. Add in broth, beans, tomatoes, cabbage, carrots, spices, and salt and pepper. Bring this to a boil and stir in the vermicelli. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until vegetables are tender — about 15 minutes. Stir in zucchini and cook, uncovered, for about 3 more minutes. Serve with a good shake of the Parmesan.

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MANHATTAN CLAM CHOWDER

2 tablespoons butter

1 large onion, chopped

2 large celery stalks, chopped

2 teaspoons chopped green bell pepper

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 cups hot water

1 large or 2 medium potatoes, cubed

1 large can (28-oz.) diced tomatoes, undrained

3 cans (6 1/2-oz. each) minced clams, undrained

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1/4 teaspoon ground pepper

Pinch cayenne pepper

2 teaspoons minced fresh parsley

In a Dutch oven, over low heat, melt the butter. Add the onion, celery, bell pepper, and garlic, and cook until the vegetables are very soft, about 20 minutes. Add the water and potato. Increase the heat to moderately high and bring the mixture to a boil; reduce the heat, cover, and simmer until the potato is tender, about 15 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes with their liquid, clams with their liquid, salt, thyme, pepper, and cayenne. Cook until the chowder is heated through; stir in the fresh parsley.

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PRALINES

1 cup sugar

1 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1 cup milk

8 large marshmallows

2 cups coarsely chopped pecans

2 tablespoons butter

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon rum extract

1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

Combine the granulated and brown sugars, milk, and marshmallows in a heavy saucepan. Over low heat and stirring constantly, cook until marshmallows are completely melted. Increase the heat to moderate and cook, stirring occasionally, until a candy thermometer reads 234-degrees to 240-degrees (soft-ball stage). Without stirring or scraping the pan, pour the mixture into a second heavy saucepan. Add the pecans, butter, vanilla, and cinnamon. Stir rapidly until the mixture is thickened and creamy, about three minutes. Using a tablespoon, drop the mixture onto a lightly butter-greased baking sheet. Placing the pralines about 1-inch apart. Flatten each slightly and let set until the pralines are set. You will need 2 baking sheets. Store candies in an airtight container.

NOTE: Prepare pans and assemble all ingredients before starting candy.

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HOT SPICED TEA

2 cinnamon sticks

10 whole allspice

1 teaspoon whole cloves

12 cups water

12 individual tea bags

1 cup brown sugar

1 cup cranberry juice

1/3 cup orange juice

1/4 cup lemon juice

Cut a 4-inch square of double-thickness cheesecloth. Combine all spices in the center. Bring together the corners of the cheesecloth to form a bag and secure with a piece of kitchen string. In a large, nonreactive pan, over high heat, combine the water and spice bag. Bring water to a boil. Remove pan from the heat and add tea bags; cover pan and let steep 5 minutes. Remove and discard tea bags and spice bag. Stir in brown sugar until it is completely dissolved. Add the juices, stirring until the ingredients are well blended. Return pan to low heat, and gently heat the spice tea thoroughly.

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Patty Christopher is a longtime food columnist for the Parkersburg News and Sentinel.

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