wild rice soup

One of the great things about February is that it’s still prime soup season, which I enjoy more now that my boys are discovering that some of those soups I’ve been offering them all along actually taste good. Like wild rice soup. At some point during this winter it has become a family favorite. Everyone eats it. I mean the whole bowl of soup, not just a token spoonful.

I developed this recipe because I didn’t want to make a soup by opening several cans of pre-made soup. Still, it comes together quickly once you’ve cooked the wild rice. You can prepare that a day or two in advance to get a meal on the table faster. And an immersion blender comes in handy for pureeing the cooked potatoes, which thicken the soup and make it seem creamy even before you add any dairy product.

Here’s how we make wild rice soup:

1 cup wild rice

1 tablespoon olive oil

3 stalks of celery

1 medium onion, chopped

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 medium carrot, diced

3 medium russet potatoes, peeled, halved and thinly sliced

1/4 cup half and half or evaporated milk

1 1/2 to 2 cups diced cooked chicken or turkey

1 teaspoon salt

pepper to taste

Cook wild rice according to package directions. Drain, if necessary, and set aside. Saute celery, onion, garlic and carrot in a stock pot for about 5 minutes. Add three cups of water, salt and the sliced potatoes. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes or until all the vegetables are quite tender. Remove the pot from the heat and blend with an immersion blender until creamy. Return the soup to the burner and add the chicken, cooked wild rice and half and half. Heat thoroughly. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Notes: Add a bit more water or milk for a thinner soup.

The chicken or turkey is optional, and you’ll hardly miss it if you leave it out. I’ve also swapped in a half pound of browned ground beef for the poultry and no one seemed to notice.

kid-friendly pickle making

My boys are getting to the age where they are starting to be helpful in the kitchen. Well, almost. But the optimist in me is thinking that starting early means we get to reap the rewards sooner. And my goal is that by the time they are eight years old they’ll be cooking dinner once a week. (I’m not joking. Kids rise to the occasion. I wouldn’t want to set the expectations too low.)  So for our first son, I’ve just got a little over two years to work up to it. This is the reason pickle-making became a recent group project. One reason – the other reason had to do with the large stack of cucumbers on the counter.

The beauty of this recipe is that it’s quick and there’s no sweating over a hot water bath in a steamy kitchen. You just slice and slice and slice then heat up a brine to pour over all those sliced cucumbers. Where does the teaching come in? We reviewed the sizes of measuring cups and spoons as we prepared the brine. And I reminded them about level full spoons and cups as they helped measure.

Here’s what we did.

Put these three ingredients in a five-quart container (such as an ice cream bucket) in the order listed:
1 onion, sliced
4 heads of dill
Enough pickle slices or spears to fill the container

Measure the following brine ingredients in a saucepan and heat to boiling:

1 quart water

1 ¾ cups vinegar

1/3 cup canning salt

1/3 cup sugar

½ teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 bulb garlic, each clove halved

1 teaspoon mustard seed

½ teaspoon alum

Pour the brine over the prepared cucumbers. Cool slightly, cover and store in the refrigerator.

We tried them after a couple of days, and both boys liked them. But these pickles tend to get better with age. There’ll be plenty of opportunity for that. With the amount we made, we’re expecting to have homemade pickles till Thanksgiving.

baked oatmeal: hearty whole grain breakfast

A friend introduced me to this tender, almost cake-like version of oatmeal a while back and I was intrigued. Would this be a way to get my boys to eat more whole grain foods? Based on their request for seconds this morning, the answer seems to be “yes.”

Here’s the recipe I used, modified slightly from an old church cookbook:

2 cups quick oats

1 teaspoon baking powder

6 tablespoon margarine or butter

1 egg

1/3 cup sugar

1/2 cup milk

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

dash of salt

Melt margarine or butter in the oven in a 9 x 9 glass pan. Pour it into a mixing bowl and add all the other ingredients. (Sift the baking powder if there is any hint of lumps.) Mix well and put the mixture into the 9 x 9 baking pan. Spread it out evenly in the pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes or until it starts to brown slightly on the edges. Serve warm with yogurt or milk. I would have topped it with blueberries too if we hadn’t finished them yesterday.

how to make sweet potatoes disappear

This sweet potato biscuit recipe from my sister-in-law is a seasonal favorite in our home. If I’m baking sweet potatoes, I try to bake extra so I can mix up a half a batch of these the following day. With the fall spices, even the smell of them baking is a treat.

Here’s what you’ll need to make sweet potato biscuits:

2 cups baked, pureed sweet potatoes

1/2 cup melted butter

2 3/4 cups flour

4 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

3/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

Melt the butter and stir in the sweet potato puree and vanilla. Mix in the dry ingredients until the mixture forms into dough. Roll out the dough to about half an inch thick. Pull out the cookie cutters and ask your kids to help cut the biscuits into fun shapes. Place them on a nonstick cookie sheet and bake at 450 degrees for about 12 minutes. Serve warm. (With butter.)