When we went to bed last night it was snowing and the ground was lightly covered. It was around freezing outside and we had hope of rising this morning to our first real snowfall of the winter. Instead, we woke to bright sun, 17f (-8c) temperatures and 35 mph wind. The snow from last night was piled in neat dunes along the edges of each pass of the brush hog from the last mowing. It is now mid afternoon and the temperature has only edged up to 22f (-5.5c) and not expected to rise further today and the wind is still howling.
When I was a child, on especially cold winter days (I’m from Virginia Beach, so it was rarely this cold), my Mom would make Vegetable Soup. Her veggie soup had a soup bone in it and was made with canned veggies, but it was comfort food. I cook much differently than my mother did, using fresh or fresh frozen veggies and only grass finished, pasture raised meat. Hubby would rather have stew than soup, I prefer the soup. On this cold winter day, I decided that we could have the best of both with a pound of stew meat in the freezer, plenty of our homegrown peas, green beans and tomatoes in the freezer, potatoes, carrots,celery, onions and garlic in the root cellar or refrigerator and dried herbs in the spice drawer in the kitchen. The base for the soup as I make it and the stew are the same and from there I will diverge.
Vegetable Beef Soup
1 lb stew beef (or venison) lightly browned in a heavy stock pot with olive oil
1 large onion coarsely chopped
4 large cloves of garlic coarsely chopped
3 stalks celery with leaves, sliced about 1/4″ thick
1 Tbs dried basil
2 bay leaves
1 quart broth or water plus 2 cups water
1 c peas
2 c green beans cut in 1″ pieces
3 medium potatoes scrubbed and diced
2 carrots sliced
2 c crushed tomatoes
Saute the beef in olive oil til no outer surfaces are pink. Add onion and continue to saute until onion is translucent, add garlic and saute for about 2 minutes, add celery, basil and bay leaves and stir to coat. Add broth and water, bring to a boil and reduce heat to a low simmer for at least 2 hours. Add tomatoes, potatoes and carrots and cook until potatoes and carrots are nearly tender, add peas and beans until thawed and hot through. Serve with bread for a complete comfort dinner.
Before I met my husband (a long, long time ago), I was a non meat eater and owned several nutrition and cook books that have long since passed from my library. One of those cook books, The Vegetarian Epicure, I think, had a recipe for Herb and Onion Bread which became a favorite with my family. It is a quick bread that can be made easily in an afternoon. It doesn’t require kneading, though, I often stiffen it a bit and knead it anyway. It makes a lovely accompaniment to a soup or stew.
Herb and Onion Bread
1/2 c scalded milk cooled to warm
1 1/2 Tbs raw sugar
1 tsp salt
1 Tbs soft butter
1/2 c warm water
1 Tbs dry yeast
2 1/4 c flour
1/2 small onion minced
1 tsp crushed rosemary
1/2 tsp dill weed dry
Dissolve sugar, salt and butter in cooled milk. Dissolve yeast in warm water. Add milk mixture, flour, onion and herbs and stir vigorously with a heavy spoon until smooth. Cover bowl and allow to rise to triple bulk, about 45 minutes. Stir down and beat vigorously. Turn into a greased loaf pan and let stand 10 minutes in a warm draft free location. Bake @ 350f until done. (the recipe said 1 hour, however, I have never with any oven in any location I have lived been able to bake it more than about 45 minutes without it getting too brown and dry, just check it after about 45 minutes and decide).
Tonight we will both enjoy our own version of comfort food, as I will remove the meat and portion of the broth and add about half of the potatoes and carrots to it to cook then thicken for stew and add the other half of the potatoes and carrots along with the other vegetables to make my soup and we will both enjoy the bread. What better way to spend a cold windy afternoon than filling the house with the aromas of homemade soup and bread.
Life is indeed good on our mountain farm.