“Some old-fashioned things like fresh air and sunshine are hard to beat. In our mad rush for progress and modern improvements let's be sure we take along with us all the old-fashioned things worth while.” Laura Ingalls Wilder

Friday, May 04, 2012

Souper Supper

I've been going 'crazy' reading and putting into practice ideas found in my new vintage book, 'The American Woman's Cook Book,' taken from my mother's bookshelf, written long before convenience foods were 'born.'

Did you know that soups made from bone/meat broths aid in digestion by stimulating the digestive juices.  Cream soups, purees, bisques and chowders are valuable as they increase the nutrient content of your meal.  A heavy meal should begin with a thin soup (stock based) .. and a light meal should begin with a heavier soup.  Who knew there was such good reasoning behind homemade soup.  Economical and Nutritious!  When I see advertisements for products such as 'Joint Juice' .. for restoring joints I shout at the TV .. 'MAKE SOME HOMEMADE SOUP!'

Years ago a 'perpetual' stock pot was on the back burner day and night.  You could add any meat, bone scraps and/or vegetables to produce a very flavorful stock.  It is well worth the effort to learn how make your own stock and and keep some on hand frozen for easy use.

Last night we started our meal with a thin chicken broth based soup.  To one quart of flavorful homemade stock I added a diced carrot, leeks and fresh herbs.  Now that was simple.

We've started eating our meals in courses.  The family is tickled at the whole process as it makes dinner more enjoyable with anticipation.  First a small cup of soup is set on top of the dinner plate.  Next salad plates are taken from the freezer and the second course of fresh garden salad is eaten .. followed by the third course (of Salisbury steak with a little pan gravy and a piece of garlic toast).  Dessert can be as simple as a small dish of applesauce.

Tonight our soup was cream of asparagus.  I have not so fond memories of such soup from a can as a child.  But made in about 15 minutes on the stove with fresh milk and asparagus .. well ...it was the star of the dinner.  We started with a first course of chilled salad followed by the soup and small grilled cheese sandwiches .. for dessert .. freshly picked rhubarb turned into a quick sauce with a little raspberry syrup.

Fresh Cream of Asparagus Soup
4 cups milk (I used whole) 
2 tablespoons butter                                           
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups chopped asparagus
1 small-medium starchy potato peeled and diced
3 tablespoons of thinly sliced leeks, shallot or onion
salt, pepper or other seasonings (I added fresh thyme)

Prepare asparagus by washing and  trimming off tough ends.  The tough skin on the ends can be peeled away exposing tender asparagus underneath that would otherwise get tossed out.  Cut into 1/2 inch pieces.

Add the butter to a medium sauce pan (4-6 quart).  Add the onion and saute for a minute until tender.  Add the flour and gradually stir in the milk, whisking to prevent lumps.  Bring to a light simmer and add the asparagus and diced potato.  Cook at a medium simmer until the asparagus and potato are tender.  Add salt, pepper and seasonings to taste.  With a stick blender, blend the soup into a puree in the pan (or cool slightly and blend a little at a time in a blender.  I picked up a stick blender at a thrift store for $4; using it saves on washing dishes).  Blending makes the soup thicken up. Cook the soup for a few more minutes.  If you let it sit for a bit and reheat just prior to serving it will thicken up quite nicely.  Store any remaining soup in the refrigerator.  

To aid in portion control, I have started serving our meals from the stove and better judging how much food to prepare so we don't have too many leftovers.  This saves dishes, calories, money and keeps us from eating second helpings.  Serving in courses .. ending with a tiny 'dessert' (fruit sauce, pudding, etc.) gives everyone a satisfying meal and not feeling hungry before bed.  No 'supersize me' portions allowed :)

The reasoning and common sense approach to cooking nutrient dense foods was a standard in homes worldwide prior to duel incomes that started relying on ready-made food 'helpers' with the industrial revolution. These so called 'helpers' have become so loaded with artificial ingredients they rarely have any healing powers, instead tending to be highly addictive causing degenerative diseases of all sorts.  Get the stock pot simmering .. even in the summer for soups that include the bounty of the garden.  If it's hot out, try a cold fruit soup.  Think of peasant food as being economical and good for the body and soul.  Bon Appetite!

vintage image from here


Felisol said...

Great stock revival! My mother would have loved this post.
If there were boiled vegetables for dinner, she would always remind me to take care of the stock. "Put it in the fridge and use it for soups and sauces."
She would also make stock from fish, let the head and the bones simmer for awhile.
Even today one can buy marrow bones at the butcher's in Norway.
The basic rules of good and healthy cooking really are very much the same.
Only difference I can see is that the Norwegians serve salad as a side dish, while you serve it as a separate dish.
I'm looking forwards to more "vintage food news."

Sue said...

Hubby and I rely on soups a LOT in the summer. I always freeze them in individual serving sizes--so easy to heat after a long day outside. I try to keep at least 3 varieties on hand--and personally, if it were just me, I'd LIVE on soup.
I so love those old cookbooks. Glad to see I'm not the only one...

Rebecca said...

No WONDER you're so excited about your vintage cookbook! Great ideas...and I love hearing that your family is "on board", too!

Sandy said...

Mrs. Mac,
First, I wanted to say Thank You for sharing the cook book. I've downloaded it on the computer and will start reading it later today. If you think about it, we were so much healthier during that time frame.
It's a great idea to continuously have a stock pot going. We ate soup last night (homemade chicken noodle, with my own broth and fresh vegetable and chicken).
Great post, Mrs. Mac.

Kim Gibson said...

Wow, so you get up between each course, clear the dishes, put food on the next plate, and serve each family member? Such service!

I'm going to try that Cream of Asparagus Soup. It won't be as good as yours made with asparagus fresh from your garden, but it sounds delicious.

Mrs. Mac said...

@ Felisol .. no wasting of vegetables and their cooking liquids when you can turn them into almost any variety of soup. After a little practice you get the hang of making soups without a recipe. Fish stock is so flavorful and nutritious when made with non oily fish heads and bones.

Sue .. glad to read that you enjoy soup all year long.

Rebecca .. I haven't been this excited about a cookbook in a very long time. Now every recipe is NOT of great nutritional value as there are lots of desserts in it loaded with sugar .. but this book is from an era when people worked hard and had more self control .. and there is enough nutritional info to make up for it;sweets once in a while in small moderation are a treat.

Sandy, I found a package of oxtails in the deep freezer and have a stock pot simmering. Did you know that large marrow bones (without meat) can be rinsed, double wrapped and frozen to be used again? They continue to release calcium when 're-cooked.'

@Kim .. yes, on serving and using separate dishes. We usually use a salad plate any way. Serving in courses slows down the eating process and allows for family conversations around the table .. and better digestion because the portions are smaller and there is a little time in between servings. With proper judgment in cooking amounts, there are hardly any leftovers to store. No one is even asking for seconds to be passed around.

Sandy said...

Mrs. Mac, I had no idea about reusing bone w/out the meat and that they keep releasing calcium. Now that is very interesting.

Mrs. Mac said...

Yes .. I used saved (defrosted) bones for the second time today along with several pounds of meaty oxtail bones.. the stock was very rich and colorful. The first time I use large bones I roast them well.

Lynn said...

Oh I love stock and even enjoy making it! This post must have Julia Child smiling down at you -- she was a devotee of properly made stock.

Serving individual courses is extraordinary! And yes, the presentation of each course along with the anticipation is part of the gastronomic desirability. Tres bien, Madame Mac!