In retrospect, I imagine I’ll look back on the summer of 2022 quite fondly. I’ll focus on the abundant sunshine and overall good weather. The less than desirable attributes are often pushed out of memory, not to be recalled. Among those were the complete lack of rain during most of July and August, the absolutely unbearable temperatures and high humidity during much of that period and the resultant hefty water bills as a result of the above!
People, including yours truly, don’t much care to cook when the mercury climbs out of the normal range. Even with the air conditioning running, firing up the oven or the stovetop didn’t sound like anything I was up for. So, we made do, as I’m sure you did as well, with sandwiches, take-out and the like. We ate from the garden as produce became available; fried yellow squash, delicious string beans and cucumber salads to name the most prominent. My family absolutely loves slices of cucumber, drenched in Hidden Valley Ranch with a splash of red wine vinegar, then seasoned with coarse ground black pepper and crushed red pepper flakes.
Personally, I like nothing more than to cook up a big kettle of soup, stew or chili when the temperatures begin to cool off. Unfortunately, I don’t always have the time, particularly if it happens to be a weeknight. That’s where I sometimes cheat! In aisle three, along with the baked beans and ethnic foods, we have (and I just counted them to make sure) 18 varieties of bagged soups where you bring the water to a boil, add the contents of the package and simmer for 10 minutes. Voila! Soup!
There are simple favorites like chicken noodle, chili and onion soup. There are also more “exotic” varieties. A couple of weeks ago when it was cool and rainy, I opted for the navy bean variety. Now obviously they aren’t going to put any meat in that dried bag mixture, and that’s one thing I demand in any soup I make or eat. Even potato soup gets some ham chunks if I’m the one making it.
To that dried soup mixture, I added a pound of browned Italian sausage, a couple 8oz bags of diced ham chunks a cut up Spanish onion. After that was all good and cooked, I added the 8 cups of water called for in the directions and the contents of the bag. After a 10 minute simmer which thickens the broth nicely, it was ready to eat. It is a quick, convenient and surprisingly satisfying alternative to home-made!