Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Stone Soup

We are just entering the Depression era in our homeschool lessons, and I have been hunting for recipes that can be made or altered to be period appropriate. One "recipe" that I've used since my college days immediately sprung to mind, and became our lunch today.

While at college, I was required to pay for a meal-plan that covered two meals per day, five days per week. This would have been fine, but with my allergies there were quite a few days that I simply couldn't eat what was served... thus I became somewhat proficient at making the most of the itty bitty kitchenette in my dorm. One day in dire need of a trip to the grocery store, I checked the daily menu & found that lunch would be pork. So into my little kitchen I ran to see what leftover food might be found. I had three small potatoes, a can of evaporated milk, and a few baby carrots that were soft, but hadn't gone bad yet. So seeing as it was a chilly fall afternoon anyway, I diced the potatoes & carrots into a pot with the milk, and decided to make a warm bowl of potato soup.

One of my roommates came in, just as the potatoes were warming nicely & asked what I was making. I told her, and she asked if I would share if she gave me an onion she'd bought but not used. As we were dicing the onion, our other roommate came in, asking what on earth was making the hall smell so wonderful. She then offered the remains of a head of celery, and we added that to the pot along with some salt & pepper.

By the time our little pot of soup was done we had split it into two pots, to fit on our tiny stove. It smelled divine, and we shared it along with tea & a few lovely onion-rolls that had been donated to the dorm by a local bakery. (They would bring all sorts of baked goodies to the dorm & donate it the day it passed it's sell-by date, for anyone to use up immediately... Thursdays were very popular at our dorm!) That evening one of my roommates brought me a pretty lake-polished stone, insisting that I keep it in my kitchen as a reminder of the day we'd reinvented "stone soup."

That stone still sits in my spice-cupboard, and HAS reminded me that I can make dinner from anything, on several of our leaner days. Today as I dropped my stone into the pot along with potatoes, onion, carrot & celery I told the kids about my first pot of stone soup. My daughter decided that we needed to add black beans, parsley & garlic to the soup, but even with the new additions it was just as wonderful as that first pot... and we discussed how people during the depression probably cooked in a very similar fashion, using whatever they had in the most creative manner possible. If there's one thing I want my kids to take away from this next era of history it's that we may not always have everything we want, but with creativity & determination we DO have everything we need!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Old Favorites, Rediscovered

My kids LOVE carrots. They will eat them any way I serve them. Cooked, baked, mashed, raw, shredded... they all disappear faster than I can prepare them. So I've never really understood why my kids didn't like carrot-raisin salad. It's one of my favorite summertime dishes, and I love how quick & easy it is to toss together. This summer I was craving it, and decided that it just didn't matter if I had to eat an entire bowlful myself, I was going to make some.

As I was reaching for the raisins, our giant bag of dried cranberries caught my eye. I tend to prefer cranberries in just about everything, and since this was just for me I figured "why not?" and dumped a healthy serving of them in instead of the raisins. Since it was hot & I didn't feel like eating much, I also tossed a handful of walnuts in for protein. The next thing I knew, I had two kids begging to be allowed to try my colorful lunch. And they DEVOURED it! We have enjoyed our redesigned carrot-raisin salad at least a dozen times this summer, and it's now one of our favorite side dishes. The cranberries add a pretty jewel-like sparkle to what was otherwise a fairly "blah" salad, and the walnuts add enough protein that this can stand-alone or be enjoyed alongside just about any meal. And just like its' original recipe, it whips up in less than five minutes.

Today's lunch is a pretty dish of our carrot-CRAISIN salad, seasoned parmesan-rice with the last of our garden peppers, and a shaped hard-boiled egg. Everything was quick & easy to put together, and full of antioxidants & vitamin A. Hooray for rediscovered recipes!