Soups and Stews

I can’t imagine the work that went into food production and preparation when my mother was growing up.  They raised all their own vegetables, fruits, chickens, cows, and pigs.  To preserve them, they had to can them because they had no freezer.  I’m sure the food tasted very good, but I can also see why when people in my mom’s generation were able to purchase convenience foods like boxed cereals,  canned vegetables and fruits, butter and margarine, and bread, they were thrilled.

One convenience item that was used a lot and still is, is Campbell’s condensed soup.  Cream of mushroom, cream of celery, cream of chicken, tomato, and many others are added to recipes for thickening and flavor.  I use them occasionally, but because I don’t have to cook everything from scratch, sometimes I just enjoy the extra steps involved in not using convenience foods. I also don’t like some of the ingredients in canned soup like monosodium glutamate and yeast extract.  Seems like we can afford the time to mix a little butter and flour and milk together and add some herbs or spices.

I made my mom’s Potato Soup this week, and I wasn’t sure I would like it because it has a can of cream of chicken soup added to it.  The first day it wasn’t anything special, but when we reheated it the second day and added a few extra potatoes, it was delicious.  And it certainly was easier to make than my recipe which calls for a lot more chopping – there are potatoes, onions, celery, and diced carrots in it.  I’ve decided I will stick to my recipe, but when short of time I will probably make my mom’s recipe.  Here it is:

2 tbsp. butter                1/2 cup chopped onion

2 c. potatoes, cubed (I used a few more)

1 1/2 cups water           1 can cream of chicken soup

3 cups milk                      1/2 tsp salt      dash pepper

Melt butter in 2 qt. saucepan over low heat.  Add onion, cook until soft, not brown.  Add potatoes and water, cook until tender 10-15 minutes.

Stir in soup, milk, and seasonings.  Blend well.  Simmer until heated through, stirring occasionally.

My husband loves any potato soup; I think he considers it the ultimate comfort food because his mother used to make it.  And, of course, it’s best if a grilled cheese sandwich goes along with it.

Most of the soups my mother made probably didn’t have a recipe – chicken noodle, vegetable beef, bean and ham – she could probably make them with her eyes closed.

Tomorrow I plan to make a beef stew from my mom’s recipe.  It also has cream of chicken soup in it along with cream of mushroom.  They go in the dutch oven along with potatoes, onion, carrots, celery, rutabaga, and water and cook in the oven at 300 degrees for 5 hours – I’m sure the house will smell great!

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