The days are cooler

It is with a feeling of sadness that I sit down to write my column this week. My beloved brother-in-law passed away this past Saturday. The last several years have been really hard on him, as due to truly poor circulation, he had lost both his legs and was pretty much confined to a motorized wheelchair. He usually had a great outlook on life, knowing how closely he had come to losing his life several times. He found a hobby in making bird houses for all of us, and then he began making miniature ones for us to use in our plants. He also loved using the word-find puzzles and went through one book after another of those. He was able to move around the house on his scooter and could do a certain amount of cooking and wait on himself to a great extent. And, most of all, he kept his binoculars at hand so he could keep an eye on the deer that frequented his yard. He was a dedicated hunter in his younger days and always worked hard at being a good sportsman, and that included going to the coast and fishing, as well as hunting turkeys, and just being outdoors. He spent twenty years in the Army Reserve and retired three or four years ago with a good rank. (He just told me what it was last week, but I don’t remember!) He was a veteran of the Army as well and loved our country, our flag and his church. He never missed going to church on Sunday, unless he was confined to bed and couldn’t attend. These last several years, they have had a vehicle that he could drive his wheelchair into, be fastened down and he and my sister would go, not only to church but occasionally to the grocery store and to Victoria or even to the doctor in San Antonio if necessary. Until recently, she was able to drive them anywhere they wanted to go, but she finally needed neck surgery, so for the past couple of months, they’ve had two caregivers, as well as help from their daughters when necessary. At one time when she had a health problem, I even managed to get him where he needed to be for an appointment or whatever was needed. He will be missed by many, many people! RIP, Bob Jungman, you were a good man and a good friend to all who knew you.
We are almost through our first month of winter, however, most of the time it has still seemed like summer, other than a couple of weeks ago when we had a spate of freezing weather. I was totally glad when it was over! Now, believe it or not, Saturday and Sunday both brought us rain…there was a thunder storm going on when I was ready to retire Saturday evening and it quit during the night, only to come around again this morning when I was dressing for church.
Have you ever given a thought as to how soup got started as such? Was a housewife making stew and she forgot to thicken the broth? Did she add too much water to the stew and make soup instead? There is nothing in any dictionary or encyclopedia that tells anything about the origins of soup. According to the Webster dictionary, soup is, “A liquid food made by simmering vegetables, seasonings and sometimes meat or fish”. A chef who had a hard time getting a joint or a tough old hen tender probably started it.
In stories from older times, you read of people taking a nice pot of broth or soup to a neighbor who was unwell. Chicken soup has long been touted as something to be eaten if you are ill. Believe it or not, it really is supposed to have some curative powers.
Soup was even the basis of a children’s story called “Stone Soup” which was featured on every child’s favorite show of the time, Captain Kangaroo! It was actually a story that taught children about sharing with others.
Following are some of my all time favorites, including Caldo de Res, that you will find in colder weather at many of the restaurants that feature Mexican food.
Caldo de Res
2½ pounds beef shank, sliced 1-inch thick, bone in
1 medium white onion, chopped
1 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
1½ cups beef stock
1 can tomatoes (if you use whole tomatoes, cut or mash them up, or use the diced, canned tomatoes)
4 ears fresh corn
4 medium sized russet potatoes
2 zucchini
6 carrots or 12 to 14 baby carrots
¼ cup chopped cilantro
Water to cover
1 small head cabbage
1 lime, cut into wedges
Sliced jalapeños, for garnish
Cut each piece of beef shank into three or four pieces, being sure to leave some meat on the bone. Sauté the beef chunks with the onions, salt and pepper. When beef is browned, add the beef stock and the tomatoes. Bring the mixture to a boil and simmer for about one hour, or until the beef is very tender.
Wash the vegetables, cut each ear of corn into four or five pieces, cut potatoes into quarters and the carrots into equivalent sizes, or if using baby carrots, leave them whole. Cut zucchini in half lengthwise, and then cut into 1-inch chunks. Add the vegetables and the cilantro. Add additional water to cover the vegetables and bring mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes. Cut the cabbage into 8 wedges, leaving the core intact and then place cabbage into the mixture and simmer for an additional 10 to 15 minutes or until cabbage is tender.
Cheese Soup
¼ cup butter or margarine
½ cup each, finely chopped carrot, celery and onion
½ cup flour
1 ½ tablespoons cornstarch
4 cups each, chicken stock and milk. (Canned chicken broth can be used
1 pound shredded cheese (1 cup cheddar, 1 cup Velveeta and ½ cup American)
Salt and pepper to taste if desired (salt may not be necessary if you used canned broth).
Sauté together the butter or margarine, carrots, celery and onions. Stir in the flour and cornstarch; cook and stir until bubbly. Add the stock and milk. Cook and stir until smooth and thick. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Potato Soup
3 or 4 large Russet potatoes
Water (I had chicken broth and used that to cook the potatoes, very good)
2 to 3 tablespoons butter or margarine
1 onion, chopped
¼ cup diced celery
1 to 2 cups milk or half and half or a combination of both
Salt and pepper to your taste
1 cup shredded or diced cheese (optional)
Salt and pepper to your taste
Parsley (optional)
Peel potatoes and cut into small chunks, place in pot and barely cover with water. Cover and cook until tender. While the potatoes are cooking, sauté onions and celery until onions are transparent. Set aside. When potatoes are tender, use your potato masher and lightly mash them leaving some un-mashed. Stir in onions and celery, add milk, and bring just to simmering. Add cheese if used. Heat gently until cheese melts, stir in parsley if used. (I had potato soup at a restaurant several weeks back, when we were in Victoria and it had either chopped up sausage or ham in it. I have tried this at home using diced ham, and it is delicious). (When I made this soup this past weekend, I had diced cheese and some shredded and not much of any of them, so just mixed it up and put in about 1½ or more cups).
The following recipe is called “Grandma’s Chicken Mulligan”. It is as much a stew as it is a soup, and the recipe is aptly named, as my Grandmother and Mother made it regularly in the wintertime when I was growing up. Of course, Grandpa had to go to the hen house and catch a hen, butcher it and clean it before Grandma could make this! It really tastes best when made with a stewing hen, but you can use a broiler/fryer instead if that is what is available to you.
Grandma’s Chicken Mulligan
1 cooking hen (4 to 6 pound) or use large broiler/fryer, or chicken parts if desired
1 to 2 tablespoons salt
1 or 2 onions, chopped
1 pint home canned tomatoes, or a 16-ounce can, whole, broken or cut into pieces
2 teaspoons chili powder
3 or 4 medium size red potatoes, cut into chunks (Grandma always had her own, garden grown red potatoes). Russet potatoes can be used, but they tend to break up and get mushy when cooked in this recipe, so the red are really best.
1 can cream style corn
Thaw hen; cut into serving size pieces. Place in a large pot and cover with water. Add salt and cook until chicken is tender. Remove the chicken, set aside and pick meat from bones if desired. Add the onions, tomatoes, potatoes and chili powder; cook until potatoes are done. Return chicken to pot, add the corn and simmer about 20 minutes. Serve in bowls with crusty rolls or corn bread. (I made this recently and it was a delicious as I remember it being.
Super-easy 5-can Soup
1 pound ground meat
1 package taco seasoning mix
1 can Ro-tel tomatoes
1 can stewed tomatoes
1 can shoepeg corn
1 can Ranch Style Beans
1 can mixed vegetables
Brown meat in a large pot with taco seasoning mix; then add all cans of vegetables without draining them. Bring to boil and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes to blend flavors. You can brown your meat and then transfer everything to a crock pot and keep hot on low temperature if desired.
(Instead of the ground meat, I used 1 qt. vegetable broth, the taco seasoning, 1½ cups frozen mixed vegetables, and 1 cup frozen corn).