To me there’s something magical about the way homemade soup can warm the soul on a blustery autumn day. But what if you don’t have all day to make soup? Don’t sweat it. If all you have is 20 minutes, that’s all the time you need to make any of these three from-scratch soups. They’re so easy and so delicious (and cheap, but let that be our little secret), you’re going to want to make it “soup night” at least once a week until spring.
Homemade Chicken Soup
- 2 14.5-ounce cans chicken broth
- 2 cups baby carrots
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1/8 teaspoon celery salt
- 2 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro or fresh dill (optional)
As you might imagine, I get a lot of mail. And since I could never respond to all your messages, questions and comments personally, I love to reach into the mail bag once each week selecting some of your letters to answer right here.
Dear Mary: Is it cheaper to wash dishes by hand since I wash most of my pots and pans by hand anyway, or use the dishwasher? Thanks. Audrey
Dear Audrey: According to the folks at EnergyStar.gov, using a dishwasher versus hand washing can cut your utilities bills by $40 or more annually. That’s because washing by hand uses more hot water, which is both a waste of the water (it takes 5,000 more gallons in a year to wash by hand) plus the energy to heat it. That’s just how efficient dishwashers are these days.
But that’s not all. Using a dishwasher will save you about 230 hours of personal time in a year–nearly 10 days! And if your dishwasher boosts water temperatures to 140 F., (Energy Star rated machines do), you enjoy improved disinfection compared to hand washing. That means better health, fewer doctor visits.
Faithful readers know I’m crazy for a product, Nok-Out. I travel with it and live it with. Actually, I wouldn’t want to live without it.
Nok-Out is both an odor eliminator and germicide (bacterial and viral). The best thing: No fumes, no perfume—absolutely not toxic. It looks like water, safe for pets, home and even the kitchen. Nok-Out is not a room freshener that tries to cover up odors. It truly knocks them out.
As I would expect from something I use and suggest that you need to consider too, I get lots of feedback from readers and a question now and then.
“I’m traveling soon. so I eagerly followed your advice by ordering Nok-Out to take along. But I’m puzzled because the product makes none of the claims you mention. In fact there is no indication it has any disinfectant properties only instructs for use as a deodorizer. So what’s the deal with Nok-Out?” Ruth
Perhaps this has happened to you: You’ve lived with carpeting, then for one reason or another you live with hardwood or some other type of hard surface flooring that shows up every little bit of dust and dirt. You can’t believe it! You can sweep or vacuum one day and by the next morning, the dust and dirt have returned.
Of course we think that some new dirt- and dust-producing thing has mysteriously descended on our living space, but the truth is it’s the same dust and dirt that has always been present only now we can see it.
I cannot tell you how shocked I was to see what accumulated in such a short time on my wood floors. In my mind I multiplied by 7, 14 and even 21 days. Am I the only one who doesn’t vacuum like every day of her life? Yeah, I admit it. Imagining what had accumulated in the carpeting almost made me wretch. Seriously.
One of the toughest things I battle in my life is procrastination. My natural response is I’ll do it later. And there’s a part of me that despises that procrastinator and wages a daily war to defeat it. That’s how I’ve come to rely on the power of habits and routines. If I can avoid having to make a decision, I lose the choice to put it off until later.
Habits are those things we do so often, they become automatic. Take my MacBook computer. You’d be shocked to know just how many hours a day I am on this thing. The keyboard is part of me. My muscles have totally memorized every stroke, the location of every key. Until something changes.
Due to a series of complications (Mavericks plus multiple monitors), I was forced to move my dock from the bottom of my screen to the left side. We’re talking about a 90-degree relocation from horizontal to vertical. And I’m ready to be committed.
Everything in me wants that dock at the bottom. Every muscle recalls exactly where each tool should be. For nearly three weeks I have battled this annoying change and it is driving me to the brink of insanity. My routines are disrupted, my old habit is screaming in torment. My brain, muscles and fingers are trained to reach effortlessly to get what I need. It was so automatic I didn’t have to think about it.
Today we celebrate cucumbers which will soon be in the peak of their season and dirt cheap! Cucumbers are not only delicious when prepared well, they are packed with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Home gardeners would do well to anticipate and plan for a big harvest because cucumbers, like zucchini, have a way to multiplying beyond expectations, and then producing even more. Farmers’ markets are always evident of this truth, where recently I saw a full box for just $5.
Personally, I love cucumbers so much, I would be happy eating them in salad, as pickles, in a sandwich or just straight up with a sprinkle of salt and I mean every day of my life.
One thing to know about cucumbers: When grown in extremely hot temperatures, the cucumber skin can get bitter. You can deal with this by either removing the skin prior to slicing, or soaking the cukes in salt water to remove the bitterness.
Today I have a recipe for you that may take you back to your childhood. It does for me because this is the way my grandmother made cucumber salad.
Dear Mary: Thanks for your most informative recent column on poultry labeling. I have seen chicken in the supermarket that includes “enhanced” on the label. As nearly as I can figure this means pumping salty water into the meat. What is all this about? Thanks. Mimi
Photo Credit: Getty Images/Adam Gault
Dear Mimi: You are smart to question that dubious description. The USDA allows meat products to include solutions that deliver ‘benefits’ such as adding moisture, tenderizing meat or add flavor. However, such additives must be fully disclosed on the label, which you know because you have seen this.
Turns out that a lot of our meat is enhanced. About 30 percent of poultry, 15 percent of beef and 90 percent of pork are injected with some kind of liquid solution before sale, according to the USDA, and it’s usually something high in sodium.
According to the American Meat Institute, the solution pumps up the meat’s volume and can “replace the flavor and moisture loss that results from raising leaner animals or from potential overcooking.” The process can increase the amount of sodium in chicken by five times or more. Enhanced chicken often costs the same as unenhanced chicken, so if you buy a 3-lb. chicken and it has 15 percent salt water in it, you’re essentially paying for a half pound of salt water.
What you figured is exactly right.
I had a striking déjà vu moment when I read today’s first reader tip. I don’t think I’d ever thought about it, but Roseanne’s tip brought back a memory of my grandfather doing this very thing on the big, black cast iron wood range that sat in my grandparents’ tiny kitchen in Potlatch, Idaho. The stove had a small door with a glass window to observe the fire burning inside. He would clean that door so my grandmother could see when she needed to add more wood to the stove. Sounds like something out of the the dark ages, doesn’t it? For the record, I was a very, very young at the time.
FIREPLACE GLASS. This is a trick I learned from my mother for cleaning the glass on the glass fireplace or stove doors that get fouled with smoke and soot, becoming opaque so you cannot see and enjoy the flame. Spread newspaper down, open the door. Take another wadded up page of newspaper, wet it, dip it in the ashes and use it to clean the glass. This will remove everything from the glass without scratching or harming it in anyway. Last step: Wad up one last piece of newspaper and use it to wipe away all of the crud and nastiness. The result is quite amazing and the price is right. Rosanne