Tuesday, October 19, 2010


Myersville Road and Killian Road
near Uniontown
What a beautiful fall weekend we had here in northeast Ohio! Sunshine, clear skies, temps in the 60’s and color surrounding us on all sides from the trees and foliage preparing for winter.

Friday night was all about rock and roll (the good stuff from the 70’s) and catching up with my friend Cathy. Although we’d decided we wanted to go “out” to listen to a band and grab a drink, the bands starting at 9pm were just too late for us. We found a band starting at 7pm at the Upper Deck on the Lakes (that would be Portage Lakes for those of you not from around these parts). Named “Midnight Special” the band was lively and did rousing renditions of songs from the 70’s, both rock and country. Tunes like "Old TIme Rock & Roll" and "Main Street" had me singing along and dancing with the music.  The band started at 7, the patrons were properly inebriated by 9:30 and I was home and tucked into bed by 10.

I think you can easily tell we’re getting older. My co-worker Dan says that “old” biddies are so defined because we have lunch at 11am and hit the early-bird specials at 4pm. I wonder if my Friday night was a variation on the theme? Band starting at 7pm and home in bed by 10. Hmmmm… bar hopping - old biddy style?

The reason I was so insistent about getting home early on Friday is that I had a 6am alarm calling me on Saturday morning. This weekend was the annual Longaberger factory visit arranged by a co-workers friend, Barb. Barb has been selling Longaberger for many years (and teaches middle school by day) and has been organizing this annual trip to Dresden to take some of her customers and their friends to visit the factory.

World's Largest Basket
I was invited to ride along last year and it was so much fun I decided to go again this year. We leave Wadsworth at 7:30am, arrive at the Longaberger factory around 10:30 and spend the day shopping the factory outlet and other shops on the property. Included in the trip is a tail-gate style lunch, arranged and presented by Barb and a terrific family-style dinner on the property in the evening. The afternoon is available to walk the property or take a shuttle into the charming little town of Dresden where you can find things basket-related from one end of Main Street to the other…including the World’s largest basket. Oooooo!

There wasn’t nearly as much shopping this year as last, it’s easy to see that the recession has hit this company as much as any other. I’d guess about half the number of people were visiting the factory as last year and the bargains were fewer and harder to find.

Regardless of the bargains available, we had another fun day thanks to Barb. I was very happy to be included again this year.

City Fresh share
Finally a day to spend at home! Sunday was the perfect day for getting a few chores done around the yard, some laundry finished and a good scrub down of Robert (my car). And, I’ll admit that I needed some time for my legs to rest from the busy day yesterday. My only intention for the day was to ensure that I got a pot of soup on the stove at some point so that I could use up some of that fantastic vegetable bounty from this weeks City Fresh share. Everything else was bonus.

A quick jaunt to the store to pick up some cheap beef for soup and I was ready to slice and dice my way to a hearty beef vegetable soup.

I’ll give an ingredients list below, but veg soup is really all about what you have hanging around your fridge and pantry. You don’t really even need beef, but I like it in here, it gives this soup some heft if this is all you’re eating for a meal.

For me, the only staples for this soup are mirepoix, beef broth, cabbage and a can of tomatoes. (Mirepoix is fancy French for the vegetables that go into the pot first with a little oil to create your flavor base…in this case, onions, celery, carrots and a little bell pepper.) Add liquid in the form of stocks or tomatoes, any combination of vegetables to this and you have soup. In this case I added beef to the pan first to brown it up, then the mirepoix. Once that has all browned nicely, add the stock, tomatoes and other vegetables et voila! Soup!

The main lesson to learn from making a good pot of soup like this is to get your soup started well with a nicely browned and seasoned mirepoix. Remember that this is the flavor base that will carry all your other ingredients to soup nirvana. There is a fine line between browning and burning, so watch this carefully.

Also, seasoning with salt and pepper as you add ingredients is another great way to ensure that each layer of flavor you build will be well seasoned. If you wait till the end to add salt and pepper, your soup tastes salty and peppery – not “well seasoned”. For instance, if your overall salt amount would be 1 teaspoon, parse that out over the course of the cooking process rather than adding it all at the end.


Beef, carrots, onion, celery &
a bit of red bell pepper
browing in the pot
  1 Tbls vegetable oil
  4 oz beef stew meat – cut into very small chunks
  ½ stalk celery – chopped to a fine dice
  2 carrots – chopped to a fine dice
  1/2 small onion – chopped to a fine dice
  ¼ small red pepper – chopped to a fine dice
  Salt and pepper to season

Add the oil to a large heavy pot and heat to medium high. When oil is hot, add beef and brown on all sides – lightly season with salt and pepper. Once meat is browned, add celery, carrots, pepper and onion – again season lightly as you go. Lightly brown the vegetables then begin to build your soup.

Stock base
  2 cups beef stock
  14 oz can diced tomatoes

Add the tomatoes and stir enough to pick up any browned bits that are in the bottom of your pot. These are concentrated flavor bits you do not want left behind. Then add the beef stock.

This will most likely not be enough liquid to complete your soup. Once you begin adding vegetables, you can easily add enough water to make sure they are covered while cooking.  More stock is not really necessary, there is plenty of flavor in here already.

From here you can add whatever vegetables you like. I happened to have the following things in my fridge and freezer, so in they went. The trick here is to make sure you chop everything small enough to fit on a spoon, I like everything cut in about 1/4-1/2 inch dice.

  ½ cup green beans 
  ½ cup diced zucchini
  ¾ cup shredded cabbage
  ½ cup shredded kale
  ½ cup frozen corn
  ½ cup frozen peas

Add all of the chopped vegetables; make sure they are covered with liquid, cover the pot and let cook over medium heat for 20 minutes or until everything is cooked to your liking.

Taste for seasoning and add whatever else you might. If you still have some herbs hanging on in the garden, chopped parsley or chives would be a good addition. The rule for adding herbs to things like this is, dried herbs DURING cooking, fresh herbs when the pot is done.

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