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Native Cooking Column by Dale Carson

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This time of year, there is nothing quite like the aroma of a simmering soup on the stove, or better still, on an open fire outdoors. Soup is one of those one-dish meals that can be light or hearty, hot or cold as well as everything in between. It can be a pure liquid broth or thick with meat, seafood, or vegetables. Some soup can be made in five minutes and others take hours to prepare. Everyone has their favorites.

About Soup

*Save juices from everything, canned vegetables, from cooked vegetables, from chicken, beef, buffalo, they can all be frozen to use later in soups.

*Save all bones from pork chops, steaks, roasts, ham to wrap and freeze to use later or make a broth and then freeze.

*If you buy soup bones, roast them before putting them in the soup broth. Salt them a little and roast at 375 degrees for about 40 minutes. This process will improve the flavor and color of your soup.

*To thicken your soup, puree some cooked vegetables then put this puree back into the soup. Saut? them first for even more flavor.

*You can also thicken soup by putting in a tablespoon or more of instant potato granules or mix 1/4 cup of cornstarch with cold water and add very slowly to the soup.

*A common mistake when making soup is adding too much salt. Use lightly then let people add their own if they want more, at the table.

*Make your soup in a high narrow pot. Pots with low sides let the liquids evaporate too quickly.

*Always simmer soup for a long time, don't rush it. Meats need hours, other additions need less time, like vegetables, and delicate herbs need very little time, so check often and adjust.

*If you are out of milk, or would just like a variety in flavor for a creamy soup, use evaporated milk.

*Soup freezes fairly well. If you have too much broth, you can freeze that in ice cube trays and use for seasoning vegetables now and again.

Watercress Soup

2 tablespoons butter or substitute

1 medium onion, chopped

2 potatoes, medium, peeled and diced

2 cups of water

2 cups of chicken broth

1 bunch watercress

Dash ground nutmeg

1/2 cup milk or half and half (optional)

1/2 teaspoon salt

Saut? the onion and potato in a little butter (or substitute) for about five minutes. Slowly add some water or broth and simmer until potato is tender. Cut the bigger stems from the watercress. Wash, drain and chop the leaves. Now, puree the watercress, onion and potato mixture in a blender or food processor. Put puree into a saucepan and add the chicken broth, nutmeg, (milk if used). Simmer uncovered over low heat. Do not let the soup boil. Add the remaining butter and salt if needed, test first. This soup can be served either hot or cold.

Hearty Vegetable Soup

1 large onion, chopped

2 cloves of garlic

1 cup of celery, chopped

2 tablespoons of olive oil

1 28-ounce can tomatoes, cut up or 4 cups fresh tomatoes, with juice

3 bay leaves

1 teaspoon oregano

2 teaspoons basil

1 teaspoon thyme

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4 cups of stock, vegetable, chicken or beef

2 cups each (or more) chopped: summer squash, potato, broccoli, green beans, carrots, bell pepper, corn ?

1-1/2 cups cooked beans: kidney, pinto, lima, black, white ?

1/2 cup cooked grain: wild rice, brown rice, barley?

2 cups fresh greens cut up, like spinach, kale, mustard?

Salt and pepper

Saut? the onion, garlic and celery in the olive oil until golden, crush garlic and add tomatoes, stock and herbs. Simmer while you prepare other vegetables you are adding. You can pick and choose. Add beans and grains as you simmer all. Add the fresh greens at the end, just a few minutes before serving the soup. Great with crusty bread and a little sprinkle of parmesan or cheddar cheese.

Corn Chowder

2 cups water OR chicken broth

2 cups milk

1/2 cup of chopped onion

1/2 cup chopped celery

1 or more potatoes, chopped

1/2 cup chopped parsley

1 cup or more corn, cut right off the cob or equivalent canned corn

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1 tablespoon butter

Put water or broth in a soup pot with the onion, potato, and parsley. Simmer them for about 10 minutes and add the corn, milk and seasonings. Simmer longer to blend flavors and cook the potatoes through, but do not allow the soup to boil.

Baking Mix for Home or Gifts

2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1-1/2 cups whole wheat flour

2 tablespoons sugar

1/2 cup old-fashioned oats

1/2 cup cornmeal, yellow or white

1 cup dry nonfat milk powder

2 tablespoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup shortening

Put all the ingredients in a food processor or a large mixing bowl. Work the shortening in until it becomes grainy. Keep this mixture in an air-tight container in the refrigerator. To make biscuits, pancakes, or use as a coating for chicken or fish by adding dried cheese, herbs, or spices. If you make this recipe in bulk, it makes a great gift, especially for people who live pretty far out in the rural areas.

Notes & Tips:

* It really isn't too soon to think about holiday food gifts. Many can be made ahead and frozen without harm, in fact, some even taste better after freezing, like quick breads for example.

* Chicken soup really does help a cold because the chicken itself contains a natural amino acid called cystine. Cystine is very similar to acetylcysteine, a drug used by doctors to treat bronchitis and other respiratory infections.

* An e-mail wisdom states that real success is not measured by what you are driven to achieve, but by what you can quietly understand.