Tuesday, April 3, 2012

More of "Eat Your Veggies!"

Spoiler: A link to my Kitchen Sink Soup recipe can be found below.

I really love a hearty soup. Living in Colorado, our winters can begin in early October and last pretty much into May. I've come up with a lot of soup recipes over the years. I think of soups as perfect food: you can have you veggies, protein and carbs all mixed together in one warm, thick, hearty, delicious and satisfying meal. Soups can be very forgiving: you don't have to follow soup recipes like a scientific equation. If you like the ingredient, it will play nice in the pot. As a mother, I've also found that you can pack extra nutrition into soups and fussy eaters won't even know it's there. Nutrition espionage at its finest.

Stone soup? I think not!
I remember being in Kindergarten and Mrs. Rogers, our teacher, told us a story about stone soup. Her version was (and I'm not quoting her accurately here) there was a homeless man camping in the woods. He had no food and no one in the village was charitable enough to give him any. Some children came upon him in the woods. He had a campfire going and a pot of water boiling over the flames. Nowadays this story would never be told -- who in their right mind would want their kids visiting with a hobo in the woods? Anyway, the kids asked him what he was making. He said "stone soup" -- and he tossed a stone into the boiling water. He said the soup was normally extremely delicious, but this one was missing something. A few carrots maybe. One of the kids ran home and brought him carrots. He tasted the water and said, "I bet an onion would make this taste great." So another kid brought him an onion. He tasted the soup and said, "something's missing, I think some celery would make this taste even better..." and so on until the kids had brought him many ingredients and he finally had this masterful soup. Well, I just thought he was the cleverest hobo that ever lived! And the story has stuck in my mind to this day. My Kitchen Sink Soup always reminds me of this story.

I wasn't planning to make soup this week. It has been sunny, glorious and at least 70° every day. Not exactly soup weather. But I had a few odd bits of vegetables left in the fridge from my excursion to Heavenly Harvest Produce a couple of weeks ago. I also had some leftover cooked veggies. None of them added up to a full serving. Tie breaker: I bought some pork neck bones for my dog as an experiment. She is on a raw, species-appropriate diet, and I'm always looking for something new and economical for her to eat. I hadn't added too many different bones to her diet, preferring to stick with the ever-safe natural chicken backs from WholeFoods and an occasional pork rib. The neck bones looked meaty and the bones didn't look too thick and hard. After opening the package I found only one I was willing to give to my dog, so I thought the rest would make a nice broth. That's when I decided that soup was definitely going on the menu.

Yes, they are in my sink.
Like my Kitchen Sink Salad, the name comes from my tossing an odd assortment of vegetables in the sink for rinsing. I also consider the soup consisting of "everything but the kitchen sink." Gotta keep an open mind. I start out with my typical basic soup base: a chopped onion, 2-3 ribs of chopped celery, a few cloves of chopped garlic and 2-3 chopped carrots. Sometimes I saute them in super-healthy coconut oil, but this time I opted for extra virgin olive oil. I saute these in a dutch oven until the onion starts to approach translucency.  At this point I added the pork neck bones, browned them just a little bit, and then added 8 cups of chicken broth. Since the pork was raw going in and I wasn't going anywhere, I turned the heat way down and let it simmer for an hour plus. I added some salt and pepper at some point. When it looked "right," I turned off the heat, moved the pork bones to a plate and left the pot on the stovetop to cool down. Once the bones cooled off, I stripped the meat off, put it in a separate bowl and placed it, covered, in the fridge. My son is a vegetarian and so to make life easier, I make one big pot of soup (he doesn't mind broths, he just won't eat meat) and keep the actual meat bits separate for my own dining pleasure.

When I had gathered all the other ingredients I wanted to put in my soup, I turned the burner back on, starting chopping veggies and adding them to the broth as I went along. Once the pot was full, I let them simmer for about 30 minutes. I had some teensy alphabet pasta in the pantry and threw it into the broth to soften. When we were ready to have dinner, I put some of the meat bits into my bowl and we served ourselves the hot soup. We grated some parmesan cheese on top and toasted and buttered some artesan bread for dunking. My absolute favorite is the rosemary bread sold at WholeFoods -- not only is it delicious, but when you toast it the fragrance of rosemary fills the kitchen. It also makes heavenly croutons. My African Greys and our pet rat also got--and loved-- some soup for dinner. What was left was given to the chickens who quickly cleaned their plate. There's nothing so universal as good, healthy food. The recipe is here for those who like to keep recipes.

PS: I finally broke down and bought a juicer this week. After watching this VIDEO of a doctor who cured her own MS by eating a lot of raw vegetables, plus a few years of internet research, I feel that nothing is better for our health than raw natural food. Supplements are okay in a pinch, but our bodies really run the best on the real stuff. What could be more natural? So... there may be a third Eat Your Veggies post in my future, but probably titled "Drink Your Veggies." Stay tuned!

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