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It's OK to lick the bowl

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(Alex T. Paschal/apaschal@saukvalley.com)
Graces lays out all the fixings for a bread bowl.

Editor's note: This is a rerun of a Dash of Grace that previously ran in Sauk Valley Media publications on Jan. 20, 2010.

I know we already have had a column about soup this winter, but I just can’t help it when the weather is freezing cold and the snow is flying. I get the urge to make soup. And there is nothing better than a simmering pot of soup on the stove when the family comes home cold and hungry.

There are so many recipes for soup, and so many soups and stews that don’t even have a written recipe. You just get out the old soup pot and start putting things into it. You can start with a hambone and add some beans and onions; you can start with a chicken and add noodles or dumplings; or you can start with beef and make a stew that will grab you when you walk in the door and smell it.

From those starting points, you can add just about whatever you have in the house. Then you can make some hot biscuits or corn bread to dip in the soup and you have a meal fit for a king (or queen). And if there are leftovers, they are even better the next day.

I decided I wanted to try bread bowls this week, in which I would serve the hot soup. They turned out to be a real hit with my family and easy to make. The bread and soup enhance each other – dipping the bread-bowl pieces drenches them in the soup flavor, and the hot bread makes the soup twice as good.

You can make the bread bowls from scratch, you can make it from frozen bread, or you can buy a large loaf of round bread. 

If you buy it, choose a hearty bread that feels heavy. Pumpernickel, raisin, rye, or sour dough are perfect choices.

If you use frozen loaves, proceed according to directions for the scratch bread after it is thawed and punched down.

Your own bread bowls

Here is a good recipe for bread bowls from scratch. This makes three bread bowls large enough for individual servings.

1 1/4 cups water

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons sugar

3 tablespoons corn meal

3 3/4 cups of bread flour

1 package (2 1/4 teaspoons) dry yeast

Bread machine method:

Place ingredients in pan in order listed. Set cycle for dough. At the end of the cycle, remove dough and follow shaping and baking instructions for scratch bread.

From scratch method:

Combine yeast, 1 cup flour, and other dry ingredients. Heat water to 120-130 degrees and add to dry ingredients. Beat 3 minutes at medium speed of electric mixer, then stir in by hand enough of the remaining flour to make a firm dough. Knead on floured board enough to make the dough smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes, adding more flour if needed. Cover and let rise until dough is nearly, but not quite, double. If you put two fingers in the dough and pull them out, the holes should remain. 

Turn dough onto floured surface and punch down, to get out all the air bubbles. Divide into three round loaves. Sprinkle corn meal over a greased baking sheet, place loaves on baking sheet, leaving plenty of room. Let rise again until light and bake at 425 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until crusty and brown. Brush with cold water once or twice during the first 10 minutes to make the loaves crustier. 

Remove from baking sheet and cool.

To make bowls:

Cut a thin slice off the top and hollow out the inside, leaving 1/2-inch sides. The bread from the center can be cut out with a serrated knife, but I like to just pinch it out. Place bowls in a 300-degree oven for 10 minutes to dry sides. 

Fill bowls with your favorite chili, stew, or thick soup; cut into wedges to serve and let the bread soak up the flavor. Or fill a bowl with a salad or dip, and break off the crispy bread and scoop with it. You’ll be the hostess with the mostess.

You may want to try some of these recipes to fill your bread bowl.

Hearty chicken stew

Servings: 6-8

4 small onions, quartered

6 cloves garlic, peeled

4 celery stalks, sliced thin

8 whole carrots, scrubbed and cut into 2-inch chunks

2 pounds chicken, bone in, such as thighs and breasts, skin removed

1 teaspoon ground thyme or a handful of fresh

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 1/2 pounds red potatoes, washed and quartered

2 handfuls green beans, trimmed

Hot sauce to taste, optional

In a large pot, combine onions, garlic, celery, carrots, and chicken. Season with thyme, salt, and pepper. Add cold water to cover. Bring to boil then reduce heat to a simmer. Skim and discard any froth that comes to the top.

Simmer until the meat of the chicken falls off the bone with almost no pressure from a fork, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Remove the chicken pieces to a plate. Use two forks to separate the meat from the bone. Add the meat back to pot.

Add the carrots, simmer 10 minutes, then add potatoes and cook until fork-tender, about 20 minutes. Add green beans, cook until crisp-tender, about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from heat, add hot sauce. Taste and add more salt and pepper, if needed.

Bread bowl chili

This simple chili works well in a large round bread loaf, such as sour dough.

Servings: 4 

2 teaspoons olive oil

12 ounces lean ground beef

1 jalapeño pepper, chopped

2 medium yellow onions, chopped

1 medium green pepper, chopped

2 teaspoons chili powder, or to taste

1 can (14 1/2 ounces) crushed tomatoes, undrained

1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed

1 can (7 ounces) whole kernel corn, drained

Use a knife and fork to finely chop the jalapeño pepper. Avoid touching pepper and seeds with hands.

In a large nonstick skillet, heat oil and cook beef over medium heat, stirring for 2 minutes. Add jalapeño pepper, onions, and green pepper and continue to stir until meat is browned. Add chili powder, tomatoes with liquid, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 5 or 10 minutes, until chili starts to thicken. Add drained beans and corn and cook 5 minutes longer.

Pour chili into bread bowl and serve. After all the chili is served, slice the bowl into wedges and serve.

Mediterranean beef stew

Servings: 6 of 1 1/3 cups

1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil

1 1/2 half pounds beef stew meat, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 large package (8 ounces) fresh mushrooms, cut in half

2 cups carrots, sliced diagonally

2 small onions, chopped coarsely

1 cup sliced celery

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 1/2 cups water

1 cup dry red wine

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon ground pepper

2 (14 1/2-ounce) cans stewed tomatoes, undrained

2 bay leaves

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1/4 cup fresh chopped parsley

Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add beef, browning on all sides. Remove from pan. Add mushrooms and next 4 ingredients (mushrooms through garlic) to pan. Cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Return beef to pan, stir in water and next 6 ingredients (water through bay leaves) and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 1 1/2 hours, or until beef is tender. Discard bay leaves. Stir in vinegar. Sprinkle with parsley. 

This can be served in a bread bowl, if desired.

Lasagna soup

Servings: 4

1 pound ground beef

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

2 (14-ounce) cans of beef broth

1 teaspoon Italian seasoning

1 (14 1/2-ounce) can of diced tomatoes, undrained

1 1/2 cups uncooked spiral pasta

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

In a medium nonstick skillet, over medium-high heat, cook beef and garlic powder until meat no longer is pink. 

Drain grease off meat. Add broth, Italian seasoning, and tomatoes; bring to a boil and stir in pasta. Cook over medium heat 10 minutes, or until pasta is tender. Stir in cheese. Serve with additional cheese, crisp bread and a salad.

Creamy chicken noodle soup

(Not suitable for a bread bowl.)

I made this soup when I was recently visiting my sister, and it was such a hit, people could not stay away from it. My sister had the last bowl for breakfast the next morning. It is so easy, you won’t believe it. We had garlic bread, a relish tray, and fried okra with it. We were in Arkansas!

Servings: 10-12

2 quarts chicken broth (canned or made from boiling chicken)

1 (24-ounce) package Reames frozen homestyle noodles

2 (10 3/4-ounce) cans condensed cream of chicken soup, undiluted

3 cups chopped cooked chicken

1 cup (8 ounces) sour cream

Salt and pepper to taste

Minced fresh parsley

Bring broth to boil in a large saucepan. Add noodles. Cook, uncovered, until tender, about 10 minutes. Do not drain. Add soup, chicken, salt, and pepper and heat through. Remove from heat, add sour cream. Sprinkle with parsley.

NOTE: I used Reames frozen noodles, because, in my opinion, they are as close as you can get to homemade noodles without making them yourself.

Jambalaya soup

(Not suitable for a bread bowl.)

Serves 8

1 pound raw chicken, white, dark, or mixed, cut into 2-inch dice

1 (3-ounce) fully cooked sausage, such as andouille, chorizo, or kielbasa, sliced and halved

1 red bell pepper, diced

1 cup thinly sliced celery

1 1/2 cups chopped onions

4 cloves garlic, crushed

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon or more of Cajun spice, to taste

Salt and pepper to taste

3 (14 1/2-ounce) cans chicken broth

1 (14 1/2-ounce) can diced tomatoes with juice, undrained

2/3 cup instant rice (white or brown)

1/2 pound cleaned and deveined small or medium shrimp

1/2 pound fresh or frozen okra, sliced 1/2 inch thick

In a large skillet or wok, sauté chicken until nearly cooked through; add sausage, peppers, celery, onions, and garlic, and continue to sauté another 2 minutes, adding spices as you stir. 

Add chicken broth and tomatoes; simmer about 5 minutes. Taste and adjust spices, if needed.

Add rice, shrimp, and okra. Simmer another 5 minutes, until rice is tender, shrimp are pink, and okra is crisp-tender.

Each serving has 228 calories, 56 calories from fat, 1.9g saturated fat, 53mg cholesterol, 826mg sodium, 578mg potassium, 21.7g carbs, 2.0g dietary fiber, 4.7g sugar 

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