Saturday, September 12, 2009
9:55 PM | Edit Post
"The pot is by the fire.
The water in the pot is hot.
If I put something in the water,
I can make Birthday Soup.
All my friends like soup.
Let me see what we have..."
~excerpt from Little Bear by Else Holmelund Minarik
My husband's family has a tradition of making a special dinner whenever someone has a birthday. This tradition has been a blessing to me. I'd rather have a homemade family meal than a technicolor party with the cheeseburger clown or the hyperactive pizza rodent any day! At any rate, my husband and I have started our own little tradition-within-a-tradition--
Little Bear's Birthday Soup.
We adore the Little Bear early readers by Else Holmelund Minarik, with pictures by Maurice Sendak. We have read them out loud ever since our eldest was a toddler. So, when he turned two, and we asked him, "What would you like for your birthday dinner?", he gave us a look that said why would you have to ask that question and said, emphatically, "Soup!"
Soup makes a fantastic toddler meal, while at the same time being enjoyable for the whole family. It is hearty and nutritious, with vegetables that are tender enough for little teeth to chew. It is also an economical way to feed an ever-growing family of aunts, uncles, and cousins. Little Bear made his soup using only carrots, potatoes, peas, and tomatoes. Our version is more substantial, and extremely delicious!
I hesitate to write a "recipe" for soup...after all, soup is more of an art than a science. It can be adjusted to suit your family's tastes, dietary restrictions, or the contents of your pantry. I don't think we have made this soup the exact same way twice.
Nevertheless, I can tell you the basics of how this is done. What you make of it is up to you!
We start with 1-3lbs of venison steak, cut into small chunks. Beef works well too, of course, but there is something about the complex flavor and lean nutrition of venison that is hard to duplicate. Besides, we're pretty sure that when Father Bear went hunting, he was more likely to come home with a deer than a steer!
In a large soup pot, bring eight cups of water to a boil. Add meat and simmer over medium low heat for about twenty minutes. Skim fat off the broth if necessary--if you're using venison, you probably will not have to do this, because it is so lean. Add one large (46-48oz) can of tomato juice. Season to taste with salt, pepper, thyme and a bay leaf. Our "secret ingredient" that really adds a lot of flavor is worchestishire sauce. I never measure any of this stuff. I just use my best judgement and do a lot of tasting before the soup gets to the table.
Return to a simmer and add any and all of the following:
1/2 cup lentils
1/2 cup barley
1/2 cup brown rice
4 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
3 large celery stalks, chopped
Simmer until the lentils and grains are tender and the vegetables are desired consistency, about 30-45 minutes. I find that the potatoes are a good indicator--if the potatoes are done, the soup is probably done. At this point, I like to add a bag of frozen mixed veggies and simmer just a little longer. This adds peas, corn, green beans, lima beans, and a few more carrots. Of course, if you have any of these veggies fresh on hand, by all means, add them with the rest of the fresh veggies earlier in the recipe.
If your little bear happens to be a vegetarian, you can start with your favorite vegetable soup base and increase the lentils or add other beans or legumes to increase the amount of protein per serving.
Did our littlest bear enjoy his birthday soup? Absolutely! I think yours will too!
- I'm a Stay-at-Home, Christian, "crunchy" mama. I have been blessed with the calling to be a godly wife and mother. I am passionate about bringing up my children in the discipline and instruction of the LORD, through home education and discipleship. Helpmeet to my best friend and soulmate, Christopher since 1/29/2000, and mama to four little blessings, including a tiny, precious, newborn baby girl.
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- ► 2010 (67)
Our Curriculum 2010-2011
Bible--Child's Story Bible by Catherine Vos, Apologia Biblical World View Book 1, "Who is God and Can I Really Know Him?"
Catechism-- "Training Hearts, Teaching Minds" by Starr Meade
Phonics--Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons
Literature--Ambleside Online Year 0 Recommended Books
(Kindergarten), Year 1 Booklist (1st Grade)
Handwriting--Bible Copywork, made using Educational Fontware
Spelling-- All About Spelling Level 1 (1st grade)
Science--Apologia Exploring Creation With Astronomy
World History--Simply Charlotte Mason's Genesis Through Deuteronomy and Ancient Egypt
American History--The Light and The Glory For Children Series
Art--Interest-led projects and handicrafts
Geography and Missions-- "Hero Tales" by Dave and Neta Jackson, as well as various other missionary biographies, incorporating globe and map study
*We will be studying music and phy-ed., participating in a writing club and nature club, as well as attending various field trips, with our church's homeschool group.*