Kay Wheeler Moore

Welcome to my blog

Hello. . .

The Newfangled Country Gardener is for anyone who has a garden, would like to have a garden, or who simply enjoys eating the garden-fresh way. I don't claim to be an expert; in this blog I'm simply sharing some of the experiences my husband and I have in preparing food that is home-grown.

About the author

Kay Wheeler Moore is the author of a new cookbook, Way Back in the Country Garden, that features six generations of recipes that call for ingredients that are fresh from the garden. With home gardening surging in popularity as frugal people become more resourceful, this recipe collection and the stories that accompany it ideally will inspire others to cook the garden-fresh way and to preserve their own family food stories as well. The stories in this book center around the Three Red-Haired Miller Girls (Kay's mother and aunts) who grew up in Delta County, TX, with their own backyard garden so lavish that they felt as though they were royalty after their Mama wielded her kitchen magic on all that was homegrown. Introduced in Kay's previous book, Way Back in the Country, the lively Miller Girls again draw readers into their growing-up world, in which a stringent economic era--not unlike today's tight times--saw people turn to the earth to put food on the table for their loved ones. The rollicking yarns (all with recipes attached) have love, family, and faith as common denominators and show how food evocatively bonds us to our life experiences.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Brussels sprouts, bacon, balsamic vinegar—great mix for a great veggie side

On a holiday, when I see Hubby return to the table to graze on leftovers, I can pretty well suspect that he’ll emerge with a piece of pie on his plate.

But on Christmas Day afternoon, what showed up on his leftover plate that he brought to his easy chair to munch on while we watched the movie “Santa Clause 2”?

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon. I couldn’t believe my eyes—he was armed with this flavorful side we paired up with Maple-Glazed Salmon for our Christmas Eve dinner. Hubby thought it was one the best veggie items ever and thought the blend of bacon, onion, and balsamic vinegar just made the dish.

In the booklet which furnished the recipe, the comments say, “Who knew brussels sprouts could taste so good?” My sentiments totally. The balsamic vinegar gave it a tangy taste. I happened to have a couple of bags of frozen brussels sprouts in the freezer and needed to use them up, but fresh brussels sprouts, of course, would be wonderful as well.

I’m not sure Brussels Sprouts with Bacon (Taste of Home Thanksgiving Recipe Cards) will replace Eggnog-Sweet Potato Pie (Wednesday’s blog) on Hubby’s all-star fave holiday food list, but it sure gave him a new take on the sometimes-minimized brussels sprout. I’ve placed a star by it to remind me to fix for next year.

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon

3 bacon strips (I used turkey bacon)
1 1/4 pounds fresh or frozen brussels sprouts, thawed, quartered
1 large onion, chopped
2 tablespoons water
1/4 teaspoon salt (or salt substitute)
1/8 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

In a large skillet cook bacon over medium heat until it is crisp. Remove to paper towels; drain, reserve 1 tablespoon drippings. Crumble bacon and set aside. In the same pan saute brussels sprouts and onion in reserved drippings until crisp-tender. Add the water, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 4-5 minutes until brussels sprouts are tender. Stir in bacon and vinegar. Makes 12 servings.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Nutty topping and sweet potato-eggnog combo gives this pie holiday appeal

I had intended only to place it on my next year’s “be-sure-to-cook” wish list, but when we found some lovely sweet potatoes at a late-season farmer’s market, I could wait no longer. The photo in the recipe booklet just almost leaped off the page, it was so mouth-watering.

So I whipped up some Eggnog Sweet Potato Pie and took it as a contribution to the family Christmas Eve gathering. The nutty topping and eggnog-sweet potato filling made a memorable dessert—truly holiday in every way.

I was glad to find eggnog made with skim milk; the caramel ice-cream topping that I had on hand was sugar-free. The crunchy topping contained coconut, brown sugar, and chopped pecans that’s mixed with butter and flour and is sprinkled over the pie after it’s cooked for 45 minutes and the filling solidifies.

Hubby thought the taste was that of pumpkin pie with a crunchy layer on top—and he does love pumpkin pie! He was begging to have the leftovers of this pie for breakfast the next day, just as he does on the morning after Thanksgiving. A little sugar-free whipped topping was a tasty garnish.

Eggnog-Sweet Potato Pie (instructions courtesy Taste of Home Thanksgiving Recipe Cards) was a very good way to help end a year of spectacular food experiences.

Eggnog-Sweet Potato Pie

1/4 cup caramel ice cream topping (I used sugar-free)
1 unbaked pastry shell (9 inches)
2 cups mashed sweet potatoes
3/4 cup eggnog (I used skim)
1 egg, lightly beaten (I used egg substitute)
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup sugar (or sugar substitute)
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 cup flaked coconut
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup cold butter
1/4 cup chopped pecans

Carefully spread caramel topping over bottom of pastry shell; set aside. In a small bowl combine the sweet potatoes, eggnog, egg, butter, and vanilla. Stir in the sugars and cinnamon. Carefully spoon over the caramel layer. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees; bake 30 minutes longer. Meanwhile in a small bowl combine the coconut, flour, and brown sugar. Cut in butter until crumbly; stir in pecans. Sprinkle over pie. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until a knife inserted near the center emerges clean and topping is golden brown (cover edges with foil if necessary to prevent overbrowning.) Cool on a wire rack. Store in the refrigerator. Makes 8 servings.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Tango with the mango to yield an awesome cranberry-sauce version

Cranberry-sauce time is upon us again; doesn’t every holiday table need some of the tart, crimson mixture to enliven the Christmas turkey and dressing?

I found a version with such an unusual twist, I just had to share it—Mango Cranberry Sauce, with such healthy and diverse ingredients that it definitely got my attention when I saw it in my Taste of Home Thanksgiving Recipe Cards book. Only healthy elements all around—mangos, whole cranberries, chopped cilantro, tangerine, pineapple, red onion, and jalapeno.

Makes for a terrific combination; my booklet says it will “wow your gang” when you put it on the table. I’m serving it for tomorrow night’s Christmas Eve dinner. We’ll see if my gang is wowed—certainly hope so. It also keeps very well, so it can accompany leftovers for several days.

Instructions with the recipe contain the reminder to be sure to wear disposable gloves when cutting hot peppers and to avoid touching your face. An important caution that can save you lots of grief! This is the first time I’ve ever seen a recipe contain this heads-up alert, but talk about something that quickly could turn your Christmas tearful—using your hands to swat away a stray eyelash immediately after chopping up a jalapeno!

This post does it for The Newfangled Country Gardener until after Christmas, but I already know of two can’t-miss, scrumptious dishes I’ll be sharing in the days ahead. I can guarantee these will be must-tries!

Merry Christmas—and happy and healthy cooking! May your tables reflect all the goodness that preparing foods the garden-fresh way has to offer—and may our hearts all reflect the reason for the season!

Mango Cranberry Sauce

1 1/2 cups whole-berry cranberry sauce (I instead used fresh cranberries and prepared them according to package directions; then I measured 1 1/2 cups of the cooked whole berries)
3 tangerines, peeled, seeded, and chopped
1 medium mango, peeled and diced
1 cup diced fresh pineapple
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded, and finely chopped

In a large bowl combine all the ingredients. Cover and refrigerate until you serve it. Makes 4 1/2 cups sauce.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Thinking outside the box brings forth comforting Curried Acorn Squash Soup

Acorn squash—just so many things you can cook with it, right? For years Hubby has done a great job of sawing those large green orbs in two, dotting them with butter and brown sugar, and baking them on trays in the oven—then scooping out the sweet, tender insides for us to enjoy.

But when I saw a recipe for Curried Acorn Squash Soup, I was intrigued. A new twist on the baked variety—seasoned with curry and nutmeg, then topped with bacon bits. Had to try, had to try.

The recipe book’s comment on this soup (source: Taste of Home Thanksgiving Recipe Cards again) mentioned that this dish was easy to make and that it kept well. All true. The smooth, unique combination of the squash and the spices was delightful. This would make a great first course for a sit-down Christmas dinner. For us it became a wonderfully warming treat on the night this week that the winter storm blew in and the frightful-sounding gales outside made indoors around our kitchen table a comforting place to be.

Thinking out of the box for you, acorn squash! You do yourself proud in this mellow, interesting soup.

Curried Acorn Squash Soup

3 medium acorn squash, halved and seeded
1/2 cup chopped onion
3 to 4 teaspoons curry powder
2 tablespoons butter
3 cups chicken brown (I used low-sodium variety)
1 cup half-and-half cream (can use whole milk, 2 percent, or skim)
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
salt (or salt substitute) and pepper to taste
crumbled cooked bacon (I used turkey bacon bits)

Place squash, cut side down, in a greased, shallow baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes or until the squash is almost tender. In a large saucepan sauté onion and curry powder in butter until onion is tender. Remove from the heat; set aside. Carefully scoop out squash; add pulp to saucepan. Gradually add the broth. Cook over medium heat for 15-20 minutes or until squash is very tender. Cool slightly. In a food processor or blender process the squash mixture until smooth; return to the saucepan. Stir in the cream, nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Cook over low heat until heated through (do not boil). Garnish with bacon if desired. Makes 4-6 servings.

Monday, December 19, 2011

This veggie pasta toss has Christmas written all over it

I’m surprised I remembered it. After all, a full year had passed. I’d slept a lot since I made the notation to myself.

But on a page of my Christmas binder in which I keep the recipes I love to cook at Christmastime, I found a notation—“Make this for next year’s holiday gathering.” I further noted that the green and red colors of the salad contents would look festive on a party buffet.

So when my cousin called to announce the date she was having folks in for a pre-Christmas lunch, I was ready to sign up for my food item: the Italian Vegetable Toss.

One luncheon guest, as she dined on my salad, asked me what all was in the melange. Another question might be, “What’s not in it?” Lots of fresh veggies—broccoli, cauliflower, mushrooms, tomatoes, avocado, green onion, and artichoke hearts—along with cooked bow-tie pasta (which I subbed for the called-for shell macaroni) and the simple addition of bottled Italian salad dressing are mixed up to make this winner of a food item.

Unfortunately the recipe in my Christmas binder was clipped in the long ago and doesn’t contain the source. I’m going to guess it’s from a holiday Southern Living issue at some point in the distant past. The demo dish was photographed with pine cones and Christmas greenery around it, so I’m not the only person who once deemed this perfect for a holiday occasion.

The salad tasted great, but the best part for me was serving it in my mother’s cut-glass salad bowl, which has contained countless other salads in past years as we made the trek to my cousin’s house for holiday get-togethers. Although the elegant bowl didn’t house her usual gelatin, I think she would have enjoyed this dish that just looks like Christmas.

Italian Vegetable Toss

1 1/2 cups shell macaroni (I subbed with bow-tie pasta)
2 cups broccoli flowerets
1 cup cauliflower flowerets
1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
1 (6-ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained, rinsed, and chopped
1 cup sliced pitted ripe olives
1/2 cup chopped green onion
2/3 cup Italian salad dressing
1 medium avocado, seeded, peeled, and sliced
1 medium tomato, seeded and chopped

Cook macaroni according to package directions; drain. Rinse with cold water; drain well. In a large bowl combine macaroni, broccoli flowerets, cauliflower flowerets, sliced mushrooms, artichoke hearts, ripe olives, and chopped green onion. Toss with Italian dressing. Cover and chill for several hours. At serving time toss vegetable mixture with avocado and tomato. Makes 12 to 16 servings.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Calling a truce with raisins makes for enjoyment of this sweet salad

In earlier blogs I’ve discussed how I finally made peace with having raisins as ingredients in carrot salad. I’ve mentioned how my adoration of the carrot salad offered during the glory days of Wyatt’s Cafeteria during my growing-up years was tempered only by the detestable raisins that swam in the sweet, juicy dressing that held the shredded carrots together.

Then, years later, my own child began picking at her foods and strategically working her way around parts of salads, casseroles, and veggie dishes that she didn’t want to eat. When I adjured her, she said, in effect, “Why not? You pick the raisins out of your carrot salad.” Ouch! Out of the mouth of babes . . .. Lesson learned. I began eating ALL my carrot salad—raisins, too!

My Taste of Home Thanksgiving Recipe cards that I’m so in love with featured a beautiful, colorful Carrot-Raisin Salad and recommended it as a side dish. Because of my fascination, dating back to my early years, with carrot salad, I just had to try this. But before I did, I had to make sure that I could use some raisins from the stash that Hubby uses for snacks. See, I’ve made peace for sure.

This easy recipe merely calls for grating the carrots, adding chopped celery and onions, and tossing it all with 6 ounces of nonfat vanilla yogurt. I didn’t happen to have celery, so I used pineapple tidbits, since the Wyatt’s cafeteria version often contained pineapple instead of the celery.

It was good to the last bite—with not one raisin left on my plate! We’re now the best of friends.

Carrot-Raisin Salad

2 1/2 cups shredded carrots
1 celery rib, chopped
1/2 cup raisins
3/4 cup (6 ounces) vanilla yogurt (I used non-fat)
(I tossed in 1/2 cup diced pineapple tidbits as a sub for the celery;
or it could be tossed in as an additional ingredient)

In a small bowl combine all ingredients. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours. Stir before you serve. Makes 4 servings.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

This delicious Pear Cobbler brought pleas for repeat performance

This one has netted repeated “Do-again!”s from Hubby. I think he really liked this recipe. He (not-so-subtly) hinted that he’d be just fine with my turning around and immediately making this dish a second time—RIGHT NOW! I think that means it was a winner!

The scrumptious dish was a Pear Cobbler made in a 13-inch-by-9-inch pan, so it lasted us many days (and still Hubby begs for more servings). I’ll have to admit that it was a big adaptation of a very good recipe card I just received from the Chickasaw Nation Nutrition Services. The card called it a Fruit Cocktail Cobbler, but I didn’t have any fruit cocktail on hand and had an abundance of canned pears instead. My wheels started spinning: Why wouldn’t pears work just as well?

I also have to admit that I used the canned variety of pears rather than the fresh, but I heartily recommend that you simply sub 2 cups of fresh, chopped pears that you have cooked in a small pan on the stove until the pears have just softened a bit. This will sub nicely for the 15-ounce can of pears I added in. I also sprinkled in about 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon to spice up the flavor.

This dessert actually can be served warm or cold; hubby and I got into quite a conversation about which version was better. He liked his heated and served with sugar-free, fat-free caramel sauce (We use Smucker’s sundae topping) and sugar-free whipped topping. Plain or with these additions, this was a wonderful, low-calorie, virtually sugar-free dessert adoption that shouldn’t produce Diner’s Remorse.

This Pear Cobbler represents a great way to feel indulgent at holiday time without lots of regrets about eating something not good for you.

Pear Cobbler

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar (or sugar substitute)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt (or salt substitute)
1 egg (or 1/4 cup egg substitute)
1 (15-ounce) can pears (in their own juice) or 2 cups fresh pears chopped and cooked on the
stovetop until just softened
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
cooking spray
1/2 cup brown sugar (or 1/4 cup brown-sugar substitute)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Spray a 13-inch-by-9-inch pan with cooking spray. Mix flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, egg, cinnamon, and pears with their liquid in a bowl. Transfer mixture to the pan. Top with 1/2 cup brown sugar (can add a little more if you desire). Bake for 40 minutes or until golden brown.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Beautiful first-course salad for Christmas (or anytime) meal makes great impression

Don’t let the recipe title fool you. This salad can be the “Taste-of” whatever season in which you desire to serve it—a perfectly beautiful Christmas salad for the first course of a holiday meal; an Easter menu item; or a cooling, refreshing summer buffet number. Take your pick—but this recipe, named Taste-of-Fall Salad, is a winner.

The toasted pecan halves that have been bathed in a balsamic vinegar wash and seasoned with cinnamon, cayenne pepper, and sugar (or sugar substitute) make a flavorful, crunchy topping. The simple oil-and-Dijon mustard dressing is terrific; shredded Parmesan is dusted on the greens; thinly sliced pears, of course, represent the key ingredient.

The recipe hailed from my Taste of Home Thanksgiving Recipe Cards, which suggested it for the Thanksgiving table. I’m still mining them for ideas that seem to work just as well pre-Christmas as they did for the previous holiday. This salad is a beauty, for sure.

Taste-of-Fall Salad

2/3 cup pecan halves
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar, divided
dash cayenne pepper
dash ground cinnamon
3 tablespoons sugar (or sugar substitute), divided
1 package (5 ounces) spring mix salad greens (I used fresh spinach)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 medium pear, thinly sliced
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

In a large, heavy skillet cook the pecans, 2 tablespoons vinegar, cayenne, and cinnamon over medium heat until nuts are toasted, about 4 minutes. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon sugar. Cook and stir for 2-4 minutes or until sugar is melted. Spread nuts on foil to cool. Place salad greens in a large bowl. In a small bowl whisk oil, mustard, salt, and remaining vinegar and sugar; drizzle over greens and toss to coat. Arrange the greens, pear slices, and pecans on six salad plates. Sprinkle top of salad with cheese. Makes 6 servings.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Gingered Pumpkin Bisque a lovely first course for Christmas meals

Our orange Thanksgiving pumpkin had brightly cheered us during the entire fall, but the time had arrived to put it out to pasture and to claim its succulent insides for some pre-Christmas meals.

A recipe for a pretty Gingered Pumpkin Bisque had leaped off the page at me as I first surfed my Taste of Home resource. I was glad I now had the fresh puree (after we carved and boiled the aforementioned pumpkin) to cook this delicious soup.

The recipe called for 1/2 cup whipping cream or half-and-half. I recoiled at this and wondered whether the bisque would be just too, too watered down if I made it with only skim milk.

Not to obsess about this at all—the skim milk worked just fine, so I could dine in good conscience. Processing a portion of the well-drained batch in the blender, as the recipe directs, makes the soup thick and rich, so the substitution worked just fine. The recipe (from Taste of Home Thanksgiving Recipe Cards) said this made enough for four servings, but Hubby and I used it as a main course, so in our giant soup mugs we found none left over after the two of us consumed it readily.

This would be a great first course at a sit-down Christmas dinner. Guests would think you were utterly amazing if you tantalized them with a bowl of this special delight.

Gingered Pumpkin Bisque

1/3 cup chopped shallots
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 teaspoon minced fresh gingerroot
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can low-sodium chicken broth
1/3 cup apple cider or apple juice
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons canned pumpkin (or fresh pumpkin puree)
2 tablespoons plus 1 1/2 teaspoons maple syrup (I used the sugar-free variety)
1/8 teaspoon dried thyme
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon pepper
dash ground cloves
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream or half-and-half cream (I used skim milk)
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
additional whipping cream, optional
fresh thyme sprigs, optional
(I dusted the top with a little cinnamon.)

In a small saucepan sauté the shallots, onion, and ginger in oil until tender. Stir in flour until blended; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until golden brown. Gradually stir in broth and cider. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Stir in the pumpkin, maple syrup, thyme, cinnamon, pepper, and cloves. Return to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat; cool slightly. In a blender process soup in batches until soup is smooth. Return all to the pan. Stir in cream and vanilla; heat through (do not boil). Drizzle individual servings with additional cream. If desired garnish with thyme sprigs. Makes 4 servings.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Special-event perfect are these Triple Berry Muffins

Time to start thinking about those Christmas-morning breakfasts. In my recipe binder that houses Christmas-y recipes I’ve clipped over the years, I found this little jewel tucked away: Triple Berry Muffins. A wonderful and healthy combination of fresh blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries makes a beautiful muffin that’s special-event perfect.

The original recipe (from Quick Cooking September/October 2002) called for chopped fresh strawberries as the third berry in the ingredient list, but in place of those I used blackberries; as I’ve already mentioned numerous times, Hubby can’t be on the same planet with a strawberry without having an uncomfortable reaction, so the chopped blackberries worked just as fine.

We enjoyed a warm sampling briefly as they popped from the oven, but as soon as they cooled, I stored them away in an airtight container and sequestered them for a short winter’s nap in the freezer until the Big Day arrives. What a wonderful treat to look toward!

Triple Berry Muffins

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar (or sugar substitute)
4 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt (or salt substitute)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 eggs (or 1/2 cup egg substitute)
1 1/4 cups milk (or milk substitute)
1 cup butter or margarine, melted
1 cup fresh blueberries
1/2 cup fresh raspberries
1/2 cup chopped fresh strawberries (or blackberries)

In a large bowl combine the dry ingredients. In another bowl beat the eggs, milk, and butter; stir into dry ingredients until just moistened. Fold in berries. Fill greased or paper-lined muffin cups three-fourths full. Bake at 375 degrees for 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick emerges clean. Cool for 5 minutes before you remove these muffins from pans to wire racks. Makes about 1 1/2 dozen.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Soup month, Christmas month—great go-togethers; this corn chowder helps

Is December soup month, or what? These cool days, many of them rainy (no one in parched Texas is complaining about that fact, even if the weather seems less than Christmasy) are open invitations to have a stove top with a pot bubbling—with soup that warms all the way down.

I’m still finding recipes in my Taste of Home Thanksgiving Recipe Cards book that beg to be tried; next Thanksgiving seems too long to wait for them. One of those I had starred was a recipe for Corn Chowder. To me, golden chunks of fresh corn floating in a creamy base looked just beautiful as I gazed at the photo. (I had some fresh carrots on hand, so I threw them in as a taste addition.)

Hubby pronounced this the best soup he’d ever had. Well, you know Hubby; he’s always full of superlatives and affirmatives, but he may have been close to right on this one. Don’t know when I’ve dined on a more tasty soup. Preparation was simple, too. Boil the first part on the stove; process it in batches in a blender until the corn is blended smooth; then return to the pan and add the remaining fresh corn , carrot, red pepper, and spices.

I served this with some warm cornbread, which the recipe card recommends. Hubby and I had ourselves a feast!

Corn Chowder

1 medium onion, chopped
6 cups fresh (or frozen) corn, divided
3 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth, divided
1/2 cup chopped sweet red pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/8 teaspoon pepper
dash cayenne pepper
1/2 cup grated carrot (my addition)

Coat a large saucepan with cooking spray. Add onion; cook and stir mixture over medium heat for 4 minutes or until veggies are tender. Add 4 cups corn; cook and stir until corn is softened, about 5 minutes. Add 2 cups broth; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 10 minutes or until corn is tender. Cool slightly. In a blender process soup in batches until smooth; return all to the pan. Add the red pepper, rosemary, thyme, pepper, cayenne, and remaining corn and broth (I added the carrot here). Cook and stir for 10 minutes or until the corn is tender. Makes 6 servings.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Soothing soup eases busy December mealtimes—physical complaints, too!

Good thing I already had planned a blog break, or one would have been forced on me.

After announcing in this column that my 365th blog would end my daily postings, with others still to be added but not quite so frequently, Hubby and I both got laid low by upper respiratory maladies. Since Thanksgiving we’ve been swimming upstream trying to recover. One of the doctor's remedies (yes, she even wrote it on her list of instructions she sent home with me) was chicken soup!

We’ve always known that chicken soup was a legendary remedy for what ails you, but never have I seen it actually a part of a physician’s written orders! In looking up information online I found the actual health benefits listed—including carrots (fight off infections), celery (good for lung disorders), pepper (said to reduce infections), onions (anti-inflammatory effects), and garlic (boosts immune system). Chicken soup is said to break up congestion and ease the flow of nasal secretions.

Unfortunately I didn’t have any chicken on hand, but I did round up a lot of these same ingredients to make something that I believe was indeed soothing—Heart-Warming Minestrone Soup. This terrific concoction not only warmed the heart (as in comfort), it warmed all the way down and seemed to pour a balm around the irritated passageways to help with breathing.

A beauty of this recipe is that it’s absolutely quick as everything to prepare. When you’re under the weather—or facing a busy December with no time to cook—you’re grateful for time not having to be spent over the stovetop. I could feel health returning to my bones as I downed this food item (thanks to the Chickasaw Nation Nutrition Services, which provided the recipe). It made a big batch, too (9 1-cup servings), which will keep me away from the stovetop for several days—just what the doctor ordered!

Heart-Warming Minestrone Soup

5 cups beef broth (fat-free, reduced sodium)
3 carrots, medium, diced
3 celery stalks, sliced
1/2 cup onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon basil, dried
1/2 teaspoon oregano, dried
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped (my addition)
1 (15-ounce) can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 (14.5-oune) can tomatoes, diced, drained and rinsed
2 zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced (to make about 2 cups)
1/2 cup whole-wheat macaroni
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, optional

In a large saucepan boil broth, carrots, celery, onion, garlic, basil, oregano, parsley, and pepper. Stir in beans, tomatoes, zucchini, and macaroni. Return to a boil; cover and simmer for 10 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Serve and top with Parmesan cheese if you desire.