by Kate Heyhoe
Now that household expenses have leaped from holiday gifts to heating bills, it seems an appropriate time to stir up the warming foods of winter.
Since the oil and gas industry shows no restraint in raising fuel prices, there's little a cold consumer can do to stay warm and stay within budget. But ever since humans discovered fire, the family cook has known that a simmering hot pot can be a magical source of warmth, both for the dwelling and the body. Seems like good wisdom, as we pull off our gloves long enough to write that numbing check to the local power company.
My suggestion: Ladle up a bowl of soup, go online, and start checking into clean-burning heating alternatives, like biomass stoves, and renewable energy sources. With fossil fuel costs ramping up so steeply, the costs of installing and using solar-voltaic, wind power, ground-source heat pumps, solar films, and renewable energy devices are starting to be mighty competitive. Just imagine: being in control of the energy you use to heat your home and run your car. Now, that's a road to true independence.
In the meantime, open wide and grab a spoon. A simmering pot of liquid on the stove isn't just something to eat; it radiates a low, consistent, energy-efficient heat into the kitchen. And we all know from experience that a hot bowl of chicken soup, chili, or chowder keeps the belly and body warmer far longer than just a fried pork chop or a hamburger. Besides, what could be more cozy and comforting than a mug of creamy, cheese topped potato soup, or steaming tortellini in brodo?
If you're not open to making your own chicken or other stocks, you can always use prepared broths. To make them tastier, start saving goodies to enhance them. Save the carcass from a roast chicken, and vegetable scraps from celery, carrot, onion, and other fresh vegetables. Dump them into a pot with canned or packaged broth, and simmer on low for 30 minutes, then strain out the solids. You'll be amazed at the flavor. You can also start a "soup starter" freezer bag, and collect the scraps over a few weeks, then make a big pot of stock out of them. Think of all the resources (both cooked and raw) you can use for flavor: steak bones, chicken necks and wing tips, pork ribs, squishy tomatoes, onion trimmings...as along as the food is still good to eat (not rotting) when you freeze it, it will be fine to use in a stock or a soup.
Here's another tip from the Italians: Instead of throwing away the rind from a chunk of parmesan cheese, toss it into a soup pot, toward the end of cooking. It not only adds flavor, but it helps thicken the soup a little as well.
Check out these books and recipes for cold-weather soups, and start researching energy ways to make next year a little bit warmer, or at least a bit more affordable. And no matter what your findings yield, there's never a bad day for a good bowl of soup.
Copyright © 2006, Kate Heyhoe. All rights reserved.
This page created January 2006
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