Food news roundup

It’s tag-team tips for livening up your food life in The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.) today as Andrea Weigl and Kathleen Purvis offer a tip for each month. There’s a little healthy eating advice in there, but don’t fear, it’s not all yet more diet advice. Read the piece here. It’s in the Charlotte (N.C.) Observer, too.

The icy weather has brought out a run of chicken soup with matzo balls at my house. The Hub swears that EVERYONE uses the matzo ball mix rather than starting from scratch, and it’s good (especially since he’ll make them). Other ideas for soup + chicken are in the Winston-Salem (N.C.) Journal here, including a chicken basil soup and a Mexican version.

Preparing wild game, venison in particular, is on the menu at the Salisbury (N.C.) Post, along with tips for getting out the “wild” taste. Frankly, I like my food pretty wild, especially with hot sauce. Read the article here.

Despite the perception that Americans eat out a lot, a new study from the American Dietetic Association shows an increase in the number of family meals eaten at home. I notice that it says eaten at home. Should we assume that means prepared at home? Read the article in the Chicago Tribune here.

It’s Thud Food season. That means meals that have a satisfyingly solid feel in the tummy. Stews are definitely Thud Food, and a whole month’s work of recipes are in the Houston Chronicle, here.

Young entrepreneurs are dumping the traditional corporate life while in their 20s and starting careers making their own food products, says the Boston Globe here. Will croutons made from Monterey Jack jalapeno corn bread be a ticket to food stardom?

Veg out

Sugar cookies, fried oysters, chocolate cheesecake, spicy chili, crispy sweet potato latkes…I love all the foods that fall out of Santa’s pack this time of year. Yes, even eggnog and fruitcake. Deck the halls with lots of excess, I always say.

But even the most dedicated festive feaster needs a palate cleanser at some point. Last night, it was vegetable soup. I chose the recipe because it would be easy to prepare and serve before two other couples and the Hub and I went to a concert. But it also seemed to hit some cleansing, warming spot with me and everyone else. I’m glad, because I worry about expectations. When you’re a professional food writer, some people seem to think that you prepare lobster risotto with truffle oil every night, or some such thing. Sorry to burst your champagne bubble, but we need our vegetable soup, too.

The soup is so easy: About two cups each of chopped carrots and celery, about three cups chopped onions, all cooked in olive oil in the biggest pot you have (it makes a LOT) until they’re soft, not brown. Add about four cups of chicken broth and about four cups of water, or all broth if you want. Then about one and a half russet potatoes, peeled and chopped, and a can of diced tomatoes. Cook it all about 30 minutes, covered, on a low simmer, then add about a cup of shredded cabbage. Taste for salt and pepper. Maybe a dash or two of garlic powder (not salt, powder; read the label for once). That’s it. There are glorious leftovers in my refrigerator now, waiting to be frozen.

And before you think I’ve already gone over to the January dieting – as I write this, I am munching on my second piece of the day of Moravian sugar cake made by my neighbor, The Queen of Pie. I’ve earned it, after chopping all those vegetables. And I didn’t even deep-fry them in bacon grease.

Winter, here’s your eviction notice

I look out my office window into a mackerel-colored sky, anticipating yet another round of snow, and know I am

soup. like we need more.

soup. like we need more.

done with this winter. And its food. The endless bowls of warming vegetable soup. The comfort-foodiness of roasted stuff. The supposedly soothing smell of baking bread.

Usually, winter is fun in the kitchen here. Playing with winter foods, like big, chunky squashes, is a change of pace. We North Carolinians know that winter’s lease hath a blessedly short date. Except for this one, which has apparently signed a month-by-month extension.

I want to trade chewy kale for fresh basil, starchy bananas for tender strawberries and corn bread for sweet corn. I want to divorce the oven and pledge my troth to my grill.

I need a beverage with a little umbrella in it. Putting one in a bowl of chili isn’t the same, believe me.

Chicken soup vs. tomato soup

I’ve been socked by a winter cold. The symptoms include snorting water buffalo sounds coming from my nose and a desire to watch the Olympic curling competition (probably because it would induce sleep even through a throbbing headache and complete congestion). One disadvantage of getting a cold now that I’m over 50 is that I can’t tell if I’m running a fever or if it’s just another hot flash.

When I was growing up, the choice in the kitchen for a cold cure was tomato soup, not chicken soup. It’s what I always want when I’m sick. Even now, after years of making chicken soup from scratch and enjoying it (matzo balls, too), I need that bowl of canned, condensed red. I’m sure it’s as much for comfort as anything else. We all want to be babied by our mommies when we’re sick, no matter how old and self-reliant we are. And eating what Mom used to feed us brings back a little of that. But most people I know are firmly in the chicken-soup-as-cold-remedy camp. Many are repelled by my need for tomato soup (you don’t mess with people’s childhood memories, I guess).

Well, you sip your soup, I’ll sip mine.