Snow, Soup and Soul

It just cannot be ignored anymore, the freezing weather that has blanketed across the entire United States of America and how it’s affecting people’s lives. Some parts of our country would say being suffocated. Others might say knocking the breath right out of them. No matter how you classify it, it is downright and horrifically cold. 

 Cornell is anxious to get inside our home.

Cornell is anxious to get inside our home.

I’m not sure about you, but this weather has changed my routine. My dog and I now spend precious minutes each putting on our winter coats before going for our walk. It is too cold these days to even take my cup of coffee along. Gone are the leisurely walks where I take pictures of every little thing I see. It is so cold that our walks have now turned into sprints. He goes to the bathroom right outside our front door and pulls me right back into the house.  If he is feeling brave we venture down the driveway, but inevitably it ends with me carrying him and his frozen paws back home! When an animal that has its own fur coat has had enough that’s saying something!.

This cold weather has also turned me into an early morning plumber. Twice this past week panic set in when I turned on the water and nothing came out.  For that first second I panicked thinking I forgot to pay the water bill, but then I realized the pipes were frozen. Envision me, if you are brave, running around frantically in my pajamas, hair sticking up every which way grabbing for the hairdryer, searching for a WORKING flashlight and extension cords.  Next I am climbing into the attic, moving around a bunch of insulation and warming the pipes to melt the ice inside. It is dark, freezing and a very lonely place to be and I find at those times that I am making deals. “Please pipes defrost, I’ll never take you for granted again.” Somehow my “negotiating” paid off and thankfully I averted the potential flooding situations. I did cover myself in a dusting of tiny glass shards, however. There’s always a trade off of sorts, right?

I’m not going to lie. I actually like cold weather. While we were living in southern Florida, it was the cold weather I missed the most. There is just something about cold air on my face. I did not say below-zero air, just simply cold. Once I flew from Florida to New York City to help my sister move apartments and the forecast was for a blizzard. I recall stepping outside to hail a cab and was hit by a blast of chilly air and I thought to myself, “I am going to cry.”  It felt like home to me; reminded me of my growing up years in the Northeast. I jumped inside the cab and that’s when the tears began to flow. You might be wondering why? Well I like wearing my boots and sweaters, sweatpants and sweatshirts, or even my fuzzy pajamas on cold days like that. I like sitting in front of a fireplace. I LOVE looking at the pretty snow through my window. I love the quiet it drapes over the world. I love the endless snowflakes and how they drop from the sky. I love making snowmen. But most of all, I love the warming up process.  I love drinking hot cocoa and slurping up a bowl of warm soup.

 Standing in the middle of New York City during the Blizzard of 2011! Who is happier than me?

Standing in the middle of New York City during the Blizzard of 2011! Who is happier than me?

My soup addiction may be traced back to the book Chicken Soup with Rice by Maurice Sendak. Or that growing up chicken soup is what moms made when you were not feeling quite right. Regardless of the reason, there is something very comforting to me about sitting with a bowl of warm soup in my hands as it warms my face. I get that same “filling” feeling when I serve a bowl of my homemade soup to someone. Soup is love. Soup warms your heart, body and soul.

So this seems the perfect time for me to share one of my go-to soup recipes.  You will come to see that I hardly ever make anything that is difficult. Actually, the more shortcuts I can use the better! These recipes I will be sharing are basically healthy, delicious, will hardly dirty up your kitchen, are easy to make and hence, should make you all around happy.  I choose to share my Black Bean Soup recipe with y’all because a sweet friend in Alabama requested that I do … so I shall do just that!

 This is where I create all my soups

This is where I create all my soups

Black Bean Soup

3 cans of black beans

1 medium Spanish onion chopped *

1 can chopped green chilis (I use mild, but if you like it hot, use accordingly!)

1 small jar of your favorite salsa

Sour cream (use whatever level of richness you prefer)

Chopped scallion or chive (your call)

Swirl olive oil onto bottom of your soup pot and turn to medium high heat.  Once warm, add chopped onion and a sprinkle of kosher salt. Cook until softened. Add two drained cans of beans, entire can of chilis and half a jar of salsa into soup pot and give it a mix. Fill both of the empty black bean cans with water and add to soup pot as well. Let it simmer on low for a bit.  Now is a good time to mash up that third can of black beans right in its can with a fork. Oh, no need to drain this one. Add that to the pot, stir it up and then taste it. This is the doctor-it-up time. Need more spice? Add more salsa. Like it more liquidy? Add some water. You get the gist, right? Told you it wasn’t rocket science! Serve with a dollop of sour cream and then top with chopped scallion or chive!

I personally think no Black Bean Soup is complete without the cornbread.  So here is another one of my easy, peasy recipes.

Homemade(ish) Cornbread

I box of Jiffy corn muffin mix

I small can of creamed corn

1 egg

1 tablespoon of oil

1 8-inch cast iron skillet

Place cast iron skillet in a 425-degree oven to preheat! Mix all the ingredients into a bowl, careful to not over mix. Carefully take preheated skillet out of oven, IT WILL BE SUPER HOT, and pour cornbread mixture in. It will make a most wonderful sizzling sound. Bake in oven until top is a golden brown and toothpick comes out clean, about 15-20 minutes. Let sit a bit on counter until you can’t wait another second, cut into triangles and serve with your soup!

Moral: If you take a short cut, just be sure to use that extra saved time to do something kind for yourself or others!

with warmth,

*A little thing I do: I stock my freezer with bags of chopped onions, frozen kale and corn when it goes on sale. This way I always have them on hand for soup season. They are just one step from fresh, and time and cost effective! With the time I save in peeling, chopping and crying over an onion I could rule the world! I could pack a box! I could write a blog! I could eat a handful of peanut m&m’s! I could take a nap! So many options… so little time!