JEFF TIEDEMAN: Simple soupsEasy-to-fix recipes allow more time to enjoy summer days.
There’s no better to place to be during the winter than in the kitchen.
For one thing, it’s probably the warmest room in the house if you have something in the oven. For me, there’s also a television on the counter, so if Therese is watching something she’s DVR’d on our bigger TV in the living room, I can catch up on my favorite Food Network shows, an NHL hockey game or a movie that’s caught my eye while preparing a meal.
And as much as I like outdoor activities such as ice fishing and ice skating, my preference the past couple of years has been cooking. I just love the way the house smells after something has been simmering on the stove or slow-cooking in the oven all day.
But the kitchen is just about the last place I want to be in the summer. I’d much rather be watching one of my grandson’s baseball games, gardening or taking my dogs to the park for a little exercise.
I don’t totally abandon my culinary pursuits when the weather turns warmer. I just switch gears and fix dishes that are quick and easy to make — things such as BLTs (bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiches), three-bean salad and broccoli pasta salad, just to name a few.
Another food that fits this criterion is soup.
If you’re like a lot of people, you probably consider soup a winter food, as essential as a good pair of mittens and a warm coat. There’s nothing better than a bowl of soup after clearing the sidewalk and driveway of snow from one of our patented winter storms.
On the other hand, it’s nice to come in from one of the aforementioned summer pursuits to a slow cooker or pot of soup. The same goes if you’re at the lake and would rather fish, water-ski or swim instead of slaving in a hot kitchen.
I just finished off a pot of Czechoslovakian Cabbage soup. It hit the spot when I was home at noon to let my dogs out. And this kind of soup takes little time to prepare.
Another that I can add to the list is taco soup, which also qualities as “fast food,” since most recipes call for only canned vegetables, ground beef and a few herbs and spices and can be made in a slow cooker or soup pot.
But unlike restaurant fast food, this soup is much healthier because ingredients are rich in nutrients and phytochemicals and have known cancer-fighting properties.
Of course, there are a lot of taco soup recipes, so you do have to be careful when considering your options. Recipes I’ve come across recently include one that’s popular in Weight Watchers circles and another that was given to me recently by a neighbor, Judy Lavoie. (Both can be viewed at www.grandforksherald.com/event/tag/group/Life/tag/food/.)
For the most part, all taco soups are pretty tasty, but you can make some of them healthier with just a few changes. For example, you can:
n Use extra-lean ground beef and cut the amount of meat in half.
n Bake your own corn chips instead of using Fritos, saving calories and fat grams while adding fiber.
n Use light sour cream and reduced-fat cheese to trim more fat and calories.
n Drain and rinse beans to cut down on salt.
What it really gets down to is that we all like food that is simple to prepare in the summer.
And who wants to sweat over a hot stove?
Tiedeman is food editor at the Herald. Reach him at 780-1136 or toll-free at (800) 477-6572, or e-mail at email@example.com.