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Before we get started, I'm going to take a moment here and dedicate this column and all future articles to my grandmother's memory. She recently passed away, but she was a major influence in my life. She was a special lady and will be missed greatly.
Since one of the purposes of Home Cookin' is to bring families together at meal time, I thought I would write about a classic soup and story to help make mealtime fun and enjoyable. Stone soup is born out of a classic tale about how a peddler brings a town together by making a soup, starting with just a stone and some water in a pot. Each person in the town adds his or her own thing to the soup to make it better, just as our lives are enriched by the people we interact with each day.
Each member enriches the lives of other family member in many ways, and as parents we can help teach our children the valuable lesson of compassion and sharing by including our children in the preparation of this soup. While you prepare the soup, you can discuss the different ways that your family can help your community, or discuss ways that everyone could help around the house. You could even sneak in a history lesson by talking about trenchers, or bread bowls, that were often used for plates in the 15th century. Another good idea would be to read the story behind Stone Soup to your children while the soup is cooking.
Small children could help prepare the soup by washing vegetables or gathering them all in one place, even by putting them into the pan after they are cut. Older children could peel the potatoes with a potato peeler, skin the carrots, even peel the outer skin off of the onions. They could also use the can opener to open cans of peas or corn. Bread bowls could also be made with this soup as a great family project (see this month's feature article, Bread Bowls: Making Soup an Event, for instructions on how to make them.)
When making Stone Soup, I like to brown some cubed beef or leftover roast with the onion before I add the water. By the way, just because it's called Stone Soup, it doesn't mean you have to have a stone in your soup -- but if you do, it's best to use a piece of quartz to be sure that it doesn't break up in your broth, and you might want to boil the stone in a small pan of water before placing it in your soup. Also, pick a stone that will be easily found later, so someone doesn't accidently bite into it and break a tooth! After you've browned the onion and beef and added the water, you add in the potatoes, carrots, and a couple of beef bouillon cubes and boil it all until the potatoes and carrots are done. Sometimes, instead of adding the bouillon cubes, I like to use packaged gravy mix and stir it in after the potatos are done, then simmer the soup some more to thicken it. You can also take a potato masher and mash up the potatos a bit -- this will also help to thicken it. The whole concept behind stone soup is for everyone to make it their own way by adding a little of this and a little of that you can create your own special soup. You can try adding different ingredients, such as:
diced or crushed tomatos
...just about anything will work in this soup. Don't be afraid to be creative, have fun, and above all enjoy the time spent with your family!
Stone Soup Basic Recipe
6 medium potatoes -- chopped
1 - 1 ½ lb. cubed beef (hamburger may also be used)
1 medium onion -- chopped
2-3 carrots -- chopped or one can of carrot medallions
2-3 bouillon cubes or packaged gravy mix
Brown the meat and onion; put in water with the rest of the vegetables and bouillon cubes (if using) and cook until the vegetables are done and you can poke the potatos with a fork. Add in gravy packet (if using), or mash up potatos to thicken, simmer until desired thickness. Serve hot.