Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Frugal and Fancy Free: Soupy Wednesday

I should really get Josiah his own camera. He spent much of the afternoon taking pictures like this.

And a few more like this.

And let's not forget pictures of the Real Players. Josiah is a huge Indiana Jones fan. He can spend hours recreating stories from the movies.  If you are made of plastic and resemble a humanoid you can play. If you are vehicle and fit in his bedroom you can play. Mutt Jones here has a prime part to play. I'm not sure what part the golf club is playing. I hate to ask.

I don't know what you were doing say 2:30am last night. I was blogging this. 

I set myself up a nice little quiet spot. But around 4:30am I realized morning was coming quickly and I needed to try and sleep. And then I had the brilliant idea of getting my Wednesday soup in the crockpot before going back to bed. I really shouldn't pay any attention of my brilliant ideas.

Wednesdays are always a bit of a bugger. Most Wednesdays we have PE in the mornings at a local University (we are off right now on the Winter Break). Then we have swim lessons in the late afternoon and church at night. And because Troy’s schedule is so strange I have to make sure that supper is something I can manage pretty easily. I love to fix soup for my Wednesday night meals...especially in the winter.

I personally don’t care for canned soup. I never met one I liked. But canned soup might be something you need to use or (in our case) it was given to you. You can doctor canned soup if you want. If you need a quick heartier meal and the cupboards are bare serve your canned soup over rice.

Soup in itself is a pretty cheap and easy way to feed your family. I have my personal favorites that take a little more time and money. My Chicken Noodle soup is involved. I roast a chicken, eat off that for a while then boil the bones for hours to make my stock. I can tell you, though, that it is well worth the effort.

When I was little a favorite Sunday night after church meal was Oyster Stew. A little bit of milk, a can of Oysters, a little salt and pepper and some butter. Sometimes my Mom would make it with a can of salmon. We’d pass around the saltines and there you go! Add a potato to that stew and you have chowder. It was almost like being at the seashore. Not really. But you get my point.

 I hope that all my Food Snob friends will give this little Oyster Stew a break. We didn’t have seafood markets in the hills and hollers of North Central Arkansas. And I certainly can’t afford to be buying high priced seafood nowadays. The point is to use what you have and what is available to you. I might have a hot dog and ramen noodle budget, but that doesn't mean I have to live off of hot dogs and ramen noodles.

We also had big pots of French Onion soup (something which I still make) a lot when I was growing up (onions are a great garden crop!) and crusty homemade bread. More often there would be hearty helpings of Vegetable Soup or a creamy potato soup. Mmm.

Tonight's meal is also a good example about how forgiving soup can be. Unless you scorch it or add something rotten you really can't mess it up. You also don't have to completely follow a particular recipe. You just need a "formula."
Back to tonight's soup. I want to use a protein, a starch and veggies for my soup tonight. I also need to decide what kind of soup base I will use. You can make your own soup stock pretty easily, but I don't have any at the moment. I also could use tomato juice. When parents canned tomatoes they also canned a few jars of tomato juice. I am guarding them with my life. My precious. Most likely I will use up the last of my tomato chicken bullion. It is easy to use and gives my soups a bit of a tanginess.

I am about to share with you the secret of  the extra good smackiness that comes when you taste my soup. 

Just a jar of Knorr's Caldo de Tomate. Knorr also makes just plain Chicken Bullion. But this "Tomato Bullion with Chicken is something special. I even use this when I make my homemade stock. (one of these days I'll share with you my Rubber Chicken Recipe...code words for "taking a chicken and making something out of every part")

After looking over the list of available ingredients I have I decided I wanted to make a chowder. The Studly Muffin needs something hearty to get him through the cold night.  I have a few potatoes...white and sweet...So I found a recipe that contains both.  I also plan on making some easy little butter muffins for Troy to take to work.

The soup recipe contains:

• Bacon (about 1/2 a pound)

• 1-1/2 pounds of red potatoes

• 1 medium onion

• Bay leaves

• 1 large sweet potato

• 4-5 cups of chicken stock

• ¼ cup of brown sugar

• 3 cups of fresh or frozen corn

• 1 T chopped fresh parsley

• Scallions

• 1 cup heavy cream

I can see right away I have a few problems. I don't have that many white potatoes. My corn is also of the canned cream kind along with a few small ears leftover from Monday night I can cut off the cob. I have bacon in the freezer. I bought a box of ends and pieces sometime back for just a few dollars. I divided it up and put it in the freezer. As for the heavy cream...Hah! I laugh! It sounds wonderful, but I seldom have room in the budget for "heavy cream."  I don't have scallions, either. I love scallions, but they haven't made an appearance in the crisper for a few weeks. The chopped onion will be fine...I just plan on using a quarter of an onion.

Here is what I came up with.

Because I was lacking in potatoes I decided to use a few carrots to bulk up my dish. I have some canned carrots (which would be handier), but I decided to use my moldy bag of carrots from the fridge. They are organic and I got them for .79 marked down. The fresh (well..freshish) carrots will also take longer to makes them a good crockpot choice. Both carrots and celery have a good life in the fridge. I can use a little here and there for weeks. .

I made a boo-boo when taking my "bacon" out of the freezer. I grabbed out a little package of ham instead. Bummer. I love cooking with ham, but a midweek crockpot soup is hardly special enough to use the little bit of ham I am hoarding in the freezer. Oh well. You can certainly leave the meat out of this soup (or any soup).  I miserly cut a little bit off the ham and stuck the rest back in the freezer.

I also decide to look for an alternative to the "heavy cream"...I only paid .25 for the soy milk...but I found a can of evaporated milk later I used. I am not going to waste any of my milk in the fridge if I have another alternative. You almost need to take out a loan to buy a gallon of milk at the store nowadays.

Because I used cream corn I didn't use as much brown sugar as the recipe called for. Besides...I am diabetic and really don't need to add the extra sugar. The cream corn will be plenty well as the sweet potato and carrots.

Into the pot it goes. I grabbed what I thought was a little dried parsley. It wound up being cumin. Hmm. This is why I don't need to be cooking at 4:30am. Cumin looks nothing like parsley.  I wound up not having any parsley. So I added some oregano to keep the cumin company.

I did have another bump on the soup cooking road. I started to get out the ingredients for my easy little muffins. 3 ingredients. Butter, baking mix, sour cream. Not the healthiest I agree. I only found a cup or so of baking mix (no problem...I'll just make half the recipe...I could make my own baking mix, but I don't have the time). I also don't have any sour cream, but I do have plain yogurt. Except that when I get it out it is way past it's prime. In fact, it looks like a science experiment. I might be cheap, but I'm not that cheap. So what to do?  I just mixed up the baking mix with a few tablespoons of milk and made dumplings instead!

Not bad for some of this and that. The only ingredient I purchased in the soup during my trip to the grocery store was the onion.

Be courageous! Make a pot of soup! Use what you have! (use the exclamation point any?)

Snow is in the forecast for tomorrow here in the Ozarks. I have a little bit of sausage ready to go. Sounds like a good night for Italian!


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