Kitchen Wit & Wisdom: Soup marks the occasion

Cathi Litzenberger celebrates 17 years of recipes for The Morning Star with her traditional and annual soups

The first week in November marks my debut column in The Morning Star, back in November of 1997.

That day I offered soup recipes along with a bit of an essay on energy, and ever since, I have marked this week with the same.

Soups are one of my favourite comfort foods and for the most part, are easy to prepare. It is the type of energy that we put into them that will make the difference in the degree of comfort they will transfer. Since energy is neither created nor destroyed, it has to go somewhere and believe it or not, it goes into anything you are working on. It’s imperative to remember to be conscious of your thoughts when preparing foods for those you love. Thoughts are things; they have energy that can be felt, so try to make them positive and loving. Even on those days when it’s all you can do to maybe just open a can, stir in loving thoughts toward those who will be consuming it, for if you do this, even a canned soup will become a blessing to those who consume it.

Comforting Ground Beef

and Barley Soup

1 lb. lean ground beef (use beef with less than 10% fat for South Beach Diet)

2 tsp. + 1 tsp. olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

2 tbsp. minced garlic (or less if you’re not that crazy about garlic)

6 cups homemade beef stock (or use 3 cans beef broth and a little water to make 6 cups)

4 cups vegetable stock (or 2 cans veg. broth and a little water to make 4 cups)

2 tsp. dried parsley

1/2 tsp. dried thyme

1 cup finely chopped celery

1 cup finely chopped carrots

1/2 cup pearl barley

1-2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar (add 1 tbsp., then taste to see if you want to use more)

Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

Heat 2 tsp. olive oil in a large dutch-oven type pan; then sauté the ground beef until it’s cooked through and lightly browned.  If desired, put the ground beef into a fine mesh strainer and rinse with VERY HOT water to remove the fat.  (This is optional, but I think it improves the flavour and makes the soup lower in fat. If you don’t have a fine mesh strainer, you can skim off some fat when the soup is cooked.)

Put ground beef back in the pan, push to one side, add 1 tsp. more olive oil (if needed) and then sauté the onions and garlic until they are starting to soften.  Add the beef stock, vegetable stock, dried parsley and dried thyme and let soup cook at a low simmer for 30 minutes.

While soup simmers, finely chop the carrots and onion. After 30 minutes, add chopped vegetables to the soup and simmer for about 30 minutes more. Then add the barley and simmer for an additional 30 minutes. (Before you add the barley you may want to skim off any fat that’s floated to the top, especially if you didn’t rinse the ground beef. You may also want to add a little more water at this point.) When the barley is done but still slightly chewy, turn off heat, stir in the balsamic vinegar, season soup with salt and fresh ground black pepper, and serve hot.

This soup freezes or reheats well, although the barley soaks up the liquid so you may want to add water when you re-heat it. It’s family-friendly, and uses ingredients you may often keep on hand, so you may want to make a double batch for winter meals.

Hearty Vegetable Soup (vegetarian)

3/4 cup chopped celery

3/4 cup chopped onion

1 cup chopped carrots

1 (14.5 oz.) can diced tomatoes, drained

3 cups tomato-vegetable juice cocktail

2 cups water

1 leek, chopped

1 potato, peeled and cubed

1 (15 ounce) can peas, drained or 1 cup frozen peas

1 (15 oz.) can whole kernel corn, drained

2 (15 oz.) cans garbanzo beans, drained

1 cup long-grain white rice

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1/4 teaspoon dried thyme

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon dried dill weed

In a large pot over high heat, combine the celery, onion, carrots, tomatoes, tomato-vegetable juice, water, leek, potato, peas, corn, beans, rice, soy sauce, thyme, ground black pepper, garlic powder and dill weed.

Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes, or until vegetables are tender.

Cathi Litzenberger is longtime food columnist for The Morning Star, appearing every other Wednesday and one Sunday per month.