It’s National Homemade Soup Day- Recipe!

I am a huge fan of soup. It is the first meal I made solo at the age of five. Yes, I was five- you can read all about it here. My mom made this soup frequently and she taught me how.

Soup comes in so many forms ranging from extremely difficult to super simple. What we called homemade soup is super simple. Because I only know how to make soup in a large quantity, I often freeze portions in quart size freezer bags. This soup reheats well making it a great option for daily lunches. This recipe is very flexible making a great way to repurpose leftovers such as pot roast or pinto beans.

Recipe for Homemade Soup

1 lb. of ground meat or ground turkey
1/2 cup chopped onion
3 medium potatoes peeled and chopped
2-3 cups of mixed veggies- any kind you like
1- 13 once can of stewed tomatoes
1/2 tsp poultry seasoning
1 tsp ground sage
1 tsp cumin
Salt and pepper to taste

In medium skillet, brown the ground met with the onions. 

In an  8 quart stock pot or Dutch oven (you can use a larger stock pot- then you don’t have to worry about over-filling) bring water and potatoes to a boil.  Add enough water to boil the potatoes, but not so much that you have to pour a lot off, because the water does have lots of nutrients in it.  If you are using fresh or frozen veggies, add them now.  Boil until the potatoes are fork tender.  Add the ground meat, stewed tomatoes  and veggies- if you are using canned or leftovers.  Add seasonings and more water or broth as needed to achieve the desired consistency.  Bring to a boil and simmer for 15-20 minutes then let  cool a bit.  This soup is great with cornbread or crackers.

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Our Favorite Pancake

We can now eat out without any tears.
We can now eat out without any tears.

I love traveling with our kids.
I love traveling with our kids.

There was a time when Tony and I gave up eating breakfast out while traveling with our children.  The night before we left on vacation I would make up a batch of sausage & biscuits, pigs in a blanket, and breakfast burritos.  Most trips began before dawn and we would pile our four children, my nephew, and often times my cousin- Stephanie, aka the nanny- into the Excursion and a way we would go.  Then we drove and ate as we wanted.

This sounds crazy given how much Tony & I love to eat breakfast, but when the kids were little it was a bad experience.  The problem was that they always wanted to order pancakes.  I would tell them, “Now , these won’t taste exactly like mine.”  They would then swear up and down that they wanted pancakes.  So, Tony would order them pancakes and the food would come.  Then, they would take a bite and cry, “These don’t taste like yours!”  Refuse to eat anymore and drive Tony crazy.  Therefore, we gave up breakfast on the road.  Once at our vacation destination which was usually a house or cabin rental, I would resume cooking breakfast and all would be good.  I guess I should take it as a compliment that no one ever measured up to me.

Below is the recipe for our favorite pancakes.  When Cheyenne, now 19, was a preschooler she would know what I was cooking by the ingredients that I got out.  If I varied the recipes she got very upset.  One morning I decided to add vanilla to the batter and pour the pancake batter over a super then apple slice that I had browned in the pan.  She had a fit and went without breakfast that morning- a very good breakfast I might add.  I never tried to change up the pancakes again.  With her will of granite and flair for drama, there were plenty of battles to fight and the pancake recipe was simply not a battle I cared to fight.

Our Favorite Pancake

1 1/4 cup flour

3 tablespoons sugar

1/2 tsp salt

3 tsp baking powder

1 1/2 cup milk

2 tablespoon of olive oil

1 egg

Mix the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl.  Mix the liquid ingredients in a smaller bowl, beat slightly.  Add liquid to the dry mixture and mix.  Batter will be slightly lumpy.

Heat large skillet over medium heat.  Add a small amount of olive oil to pan, once hot pour in batter to make the size of pancake you want.  Once there are lots of bubbles popping on the pancake and the bottom is browned, flip pancake over.  Cook another 1-2 minutes- until center is cooked through.  Repeat until batter is gone.

The batter above make for a thin pancake.  I like them thin so that I can have nice crispy edges that are golden brown.  If you like a thicker pancake, reduce the amount of milk and cook over lower heat.

That is it.  So simple and so good.

Sauce Bechamel

The only thing that will make this sauce better if fresh raw milk.  Me & my Saanen dairy goat kid.
The only thing that will make this sauce better if fresh raw milk. Me & my Saanen dairy goat kid.

A few years back, when I decided that in the way of eating my family deserved better, I found myself in a quandry.  You see, when you cut processed and boxed food out of your diet you cut out a lot of convenience- at first glance.  Because of the lack of teaching basic fundamentals in the kitchen, most of us don’t know how to cook quickly and from scratch.  The truth of the matter is that if you master a few certain sauces, you can make a gourmet meal in the amount of time it takes to cook up Hamburger Helper.

I hesitate to use the word “sauce” because I am concerned that those reading this will think of the little buckets of BBQ sauce handed out with the non-food items we eat from the drive thru windows.  But in real cooking, a sauce is the body of the dish, it brings the ingredients together.  It’s the part of the dish you can’t leave behind, why do you think the French love sauces and bread. You have to have the wonderful bread to soak up every last bit of sauce left on the platter- either that or you will find yourself using your fingers which is frowned upon in certain circles.

Anyway, as I say we were cutting box dinners out of our lives.  This may sound funny, but around my house we  really liked the Tuna Helper. I added peas and carrots to it and this made a tasty lunch for me and the kiddos.  So, I really wanted to figure out how to recreate that at home.  I knew that somewhere was a real food version of the powdered sauce that came in the box.  I stumbled upon a recipe for Bechamel Sauce, it sounded creamy and good.  Once I had made it and tasted it I knew that this was the sauce I had been wanting for our lunches.  I cooked up some pasta combined it with the sauce, tuna, and peas.  What a tasty dish and so, so simple.  I must admit that the first batch of Bechamel was a bit thick, but with a little practice it was perfect.  My daughter, Savannah, quickly picked it up and now makes a mean sauce without ever consulting a cookbook.

This sauce goes well with any sort of poultry, fish, shellfish, and most vegetables.  A great addition to the basic sauce is garlic, as a matter of fact, garlic is the basic recipe for our family.  I add garlic to just about everything given that this is an herb that has so many great health benefits.  Once you learn this sauce, quick meals made from real food are easy to assemble and are as nutritional as they are tasty.  Recipes of this type are what folks need to be able to make meals that have the convenience and speed of boxed dinners but the nutrition of whole foods.  Now some of you may take a look at the ingredients and worry about fat and calories.  However, read the ingredient labels on the ingredients- butter, milk, wheat, garlic, salt.  Now, go read the ingredients label on the boxed dinners in the pantry.  Stark contrast in the least.

Sauce Bechamel

2 Tbsp unsalted butter (real butter not margarine)

3 Tbsp flour

2 cups milk with 1/4 tsp of salt

1 clove of garlic minced (optional)

In a heavy saucepan or 9 inch cast iron skillet (which is what I use), melt the butter then stir in the flour , by the way this is what is called a Rue.  Cook together at a foam, but not hot enough to brown the flour add the garlic at this time.  After 2 minutes, stir in milk.  Stir quickly with a wire wisk or slotted metal spoon and bring to a boil, boil for approximately 1 minute. Salt and pepper to taste.

All done- its that easy.

An easy recipe using this sauce would be to add 2 cups of diced cooked turkey (or chicken), 1 cup of cooked peas or carrots, and 16 oz of cooked pasta and heat through- this will feed up to 6 people.  You don’t get much easier than that!

What is your favorite easy and healthy meal?