It’s another rainy, blustery day. It seems like it’s been pouring for weeks. Don’t get me wrong. I love the rain! The smell of freshly damp earth and concrete reminds me of mornings spent waiting at the bus stop with neighborhood friends. Listening to the rain tiptoe on the roof is one of the most relaxing ways to fall asleep at night. I have lived my entire life in the beautiful Pacific Northwest so I’m accustomed to frequent, seasonal rain showers. 2018, however has started off particularly blustery and rainy. January showered the Seattle area with 2 ½ inches more rain than normal. It’s cold. It’s damp. It’s dark. I find myself longing for the brightness and warmth that spring promises. So, what does a girl do when the weather is frightful? She makes soup!
To feel safe and warm on a cold wet night, all you really need is soup.
— Laurie Colwin
I pride myself on my soup making abilities. As a young married couple, my husband and I decided it would be best for our family if I stayed home rather than returning to work after our first child was born. We had to adhere to a strict household budget, so I learned to be creative in the kitchen. Monday’s left-over chicken and vegetables turned into Tuesday’s chicken & vegetable soup! Friday’s roast beef became Saturday’s beef stew. I became quite adept at creating tasty soup recipes out of random fixings from the refrigerator and pantry. A sprinkle of this and a pinch of that, and we had a delicious meal for the evening and extra to store in the freezer for another night.
I still enjoy making up soup recipes, often trying out new flavors with herbs and vegetables from my own back yard garden. My daughter once asked me for my chicken soup recipe, but I rarely write any of my soup recipes down. I just make it up as I go along! Craving a soup with Mexican flair? Add some cumin, canned tomatoes, chilies and top with toasted tortillas. Do you have some leftover rice? Throw that in a beef and vegetable soup! Do you want to add some noodles but all you have on hand is a box of spaghetti? No problem! Crush the uncooked spaghetti noodles and boil with the soup of your choice! The more I make soup, the more creative I become with flavors. However, I do have a few standard favorite family recipes. One of my favorites is a recipe for beef stew that came from my Aunt Marilyn (see recipe below). It’s hearty, delicious and feeds a large family with plenty of left-overs.
If you’re looking for a way to warm up on a rainy day, gather the family, and enjoy a nice, hot bowl of soup! It’s like a cozy hug in a bowl!
Aunt Marilyn’s Beef Stew:
3lb stew meat
2 TB butter
2 large onions, finely chopped
3 minced garlic cloves (see the “garlic trick” below)
1 C chopped celery
1/4 C chopped fresh parsley
2 -14 oz cans diced tomatoes
1 crumbled bay leaf
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 C frozen peas
2 C peeled and chopped carrots
12 small pearl onions
6 peeled and quartered potatoes or a couple of handfuls of mini fingerling potatoes
1/2 C flour
1 TB salt
ground pepper to taste
Before you get started, try this trick for peeling garlic. Put your unpeeled garlic cloves in a jar and seal the lid. Give the jar a good shake for about thirty seconds. Remove the lid and pour the garlic out onto a cutting board. The cloves will be completely peeled and ready to chops! Easy peasey!
Melt the butter in a heavy stock pot and brown the stew meat. Add chopped onion, garlic, celery, parsley, canned tomatoes with juice, crushed bay leaf, thyme, salt, pepper, and 2 1/2 C water.
Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 2 hours. Add frozen peas, pearl onions, chopped carrots, and quartered potatoes and simmer an additional hour. Blend 1/2 C flour with 3/4 C water and slowly stir into stew to thicken. Serve warm with rustic bread and enjoy a a delicious dinner with the family gathered close. Make some memories. Make some soup! xo