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Pody's column: Soups on

January is our coldest month of the year.  It comes as no surprise that January is also National Soup Month.

We associate soups with comfort meals. Recipes are unlimited, with meats and/or vegetables.  Some must be simmered all day in the slow cooker while others can be tossed together in a short time.  Most soups can be frozen and eaten later but most are best the day they're made.

Canned soup is OK but when you check the ingredients and high sodium content it's not as healthy because of the preservatives.

Growing up, if we had a cold or cough, we knew mom would make a batch of chicken soup for dinner.

First the old hen went in the pot with carrots, onion and celery.  Then she'd strain the broth, cube the chicken, add vegetables and rice or noodles and simmer for another two hours before it was done. Mom knew best, because we were all healthy the next day.

During the cold weather I thought of walking in the house after a cold ride on the bus. We'd walk into the kitchen and smell aroma of the vegetable beef soup mom had been adding to all day. First she'd boil the beef bones for hours, then add the cubes of beef and finally the vegetables.  The soup, along with fresh homemade bread, was all we needed for a meal. Mom said soup warms the soul from the inside out and that is why it was a comfort food.

Our lives are so much simpler now with slow cookers.

We have a good friend who is very health- and weight conscious.  He always has a cup of soup before a big meal. He claims that by eating the cup of soup or broth and waiting 10 minutes before diving into a big meal, a person eats slower and less. He must be right because both he and his wife are the same size they were 55 years ago.

We kidded him about this and asked where he learned about it. He said his mother taught he and his brother when they were young. He said always remember what your mother taught you.

There are many kinds of soup with meat and vegetables, either in broth or a creamed sauce, that are easy to make and healthy for you. When I clean my refrigerator, I have small portions of leftovers that I froze and can toss into the pot for a healthy meal. 

While the January chill is in the forecast, check your refrigerator, toss some ingredients in the slow cooker before you go to work and have a healthy comfort meal ready when you step in the door at night.

Easy chicken soup

1 tablespoon butter

1 cup chopped onion

2 cups cooked chicken cut in half-inch cubes

1 10 oz. package mixed frozen vegetables

1 1/2 cups water

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1 14 oz. can chicken broth

1 bay leaf

8 six-inch flour tortillas, cut in one-half inch strips

Parsley for garnish

Melt butter and saute onions until tender.  Add vegetables and chicken. Cook for three to five minutes over medium heat.

Combine flour, water and broth and add to chicken mixture. Stir in pepper and bay leaf. Bring to boil and simmer for five minutes. Stir in tortilla strips and cook until soft.  Remove from heat. Discard bay leaf and garnish with parsley. Yield: four servings