When fall weather turns cold, I start making soup. I can't help myself. I also like to bake, but since soup is healthier than cakes and cookies, I feel better making soup — if you're looking for a real recipe you'd better look elsewhere. My soup starts by checking our freezer for ingredients. Sometimes I have to dig deep. Today a container of leftover roast beef gave me a head start.
Next I found a bag of frozen stir-fry veggies. That went into the pot, as did the last of a package of broccoli. Now this would have made a decent soup, but it was too much like the last pot I'd made. Time to be creative.
In the fridge I found part of a bottle of salsa. That gave the soup a nice flavor, but it still wasn't different enough. I unearthed an almost empty bottle of horseradish. With a swish of water, I cleaned out that bottle and sent the contents into the soup. Another seasoning addition meant dry herbs, a medley from last summer.
Now the soup is simmering on the stove, so it's time for a side trip to something totally different, a visit from Rebecca and Andy.
Our daughter and her husband live closest to us compared to the rest of our family. They visit the most, but I wouldn't serve them my soup. That wouldn't suit their taste buds. The last time we ate together we had venison sausage.
When Rebecca and Andy come in winter we play dominoes. We have a large set and play our own version of Mexican Train. Everyone has their own train to match dominoes to, but there's an extra train on the side anyone can play on, the Mexican Train.
According to the rules for extra train, players build in one direction. We adapted and said we could add tiles (bones) to both ends. In our game you can go to Mexico or Canada — if you want the real rules, check out the Internet. But if you play here, forget them. You play by our rules.
There are 16 hands in this domino game. The idea is to be without any bones at the end of each hand. If you have any left, you have to count up the dots. The person with the least at the end wins.
Earlier this winter Andy started keeping stats for our games. (Our son-in-law is an accountant. His life is numbers.) I had one particularly bad hand that left me with so many points that I couldn't count them all, so I asked Andy for help. My score for that hand was 289 points! I'm the current record holder for most points in one hand. No one has come close to breaking it. The best anyone has done is 161 points by Andy.
The idea is to have the most zero hands. One week, Rebecca went out game after game. It was simply unbelievable and a lot of fun, too, especially for her.
Dominoes or other games played with family and friends are another recipe to winter survival. Speaking of recipes, let's get back to my soup.
As I was writing, I stopped to stir the simmering pot. I added a bit of dry gravy mix, a small can of V-8 juice as well as about a third of a cup of instant brown rice. Kidney beans and diced tomatoes went in the pot, too — I think that's about it, except for some water as it was getting thick.
When Bob came in from plowing snow from our driveway everything was ready. Hot soup was my gift to him on a cold, cold day.
Now for our yummy meal sitting at the kitchen table, watching the birds come to the feeders. Bob adds crackers to his soup. I don't. I drink hot mint tea. Bob decides he wants a cup of instant coffee for cookie dunking, except he doesn't grab the instant coffee. He puts coffee grounds in his cup and wonders why its gritty. We have a good laugh. After dumping his version of cowboy coffee, he switches to hot cocoa.
If you can, cook something warm and find time to be with family. That's my recipe for surviving winter. Hope it works for you, too.
Susan Manzke, Sunnybook Farm, N8646 Miller Rd, Seymour, WI 54165; Sunnybook@aol.com; www.susanmanzke.net; http://www.facebook.com/susan.manzke.