Cambrian: Opinion

Hearty soups easy to make, satisfying to serve — even for breakfast

A hearty and nourishing meal of peanut soup, ending with Mike Rice's homemade butter and Norwegian Sweet Bread.
A hearty and nourishing meal of peanut soup, ending with Mike Rice's homemade butter and Norwegian Sweet Bread. Special to The Tribune

Having spent many a moment day and night sky watching over the last month has been so satisfying for me. Next to working in the garden, that is one of my favorite things: the winter solstice, lovely Venus descending and mighty Jupiter ascending, the “super moon,” sunsets and sunrises, with resulting tugs on the tides. (I think that “king tides” followed by commensurate low tides may be what we used to call in Girl Scouts “spring tides” and “neap tides” — the highest of high tides and lowest of low tides.)

Wait a minute, did you see what I slipped in there? Observing sunrises? Consuelo Macedo: proverbial inveterate night owl was up and observing the sun rise? Not once, but inexplicably waking before dawn several days in a row. I have no idea why.

As I pulled on my jeans and sweatshirt like Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Milhone, I made my way down to the sea but, unlike her, did not go jogging. My speed is seeking peace over the Pacific with my little camera, and I then feel virtuous that I do not indulge in Kinsey’s favorite Quarter Pounder with Cheese.

Instead I heat up good hot nutritious soup for breakfast, and I especially enjoyed a batch that my good friend and neighbor Joyce Backhaus prepared in quantity for us. A friend passed on this modified recipe for three servings to her, originally from a young lady who lived in Ghana for six months. It is easy to double and freeze for later convenience.

West African Peanut Soup

  • 1 tblsp. olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, chopped
  • 1 tsp. minced ginger (or a little from the spice rack)
  • 1 sweet potato, peeled and cut in pieces
  • 2-1/2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup tomato juice
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
  • Dash of cayenne pepper to taste
  • 1/4 tsp. salt, optional

Heat olive oil in a large saucepan; stir in onions and carrots and cook until onions are soft. Continue to stir as you add the ginger and cayenne, cooking for one minute. Add sweet potato, water, tomato juice and seasonings; bring to a boil, stirring often until potatoes are soft.

Ladle cooled soup into a blender or food processor. Add peanut butter and process until smooth. When serving, garnish each bowl with chopped green onions. (Cook’s notes: I added one teaspoon cumin powder and topped with salted toasted pepitos — shelled pumpkin seeds.)

In Ghana they used shelled mashed peanuts, preparing the soup in their makeshift kitchens outdoors in big pots over a wood fire.

It’s always nice to hear from an old friend of many Cambrians, Linda Tonkinson. Her Christmas card from Rogers, Ark., showed a wolf in the snow near their home. She used to prepare lots of decadent dishes, but has turned her hand to convenient nutritious meals which we can all enjoy.

Crock Pot Dump Dinner for Four

  • 2 chicken breasts, still frozen
  • 1 can Rotel tomatoes
  • 1 can corn kernels, undrained
  • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 pkg. ranch dressing mix
  • 1 tblsp. cumin powder
  • 1 tsp. chili powder
  • 1 tsp. onion powder
  • 1 8-oz pkg. cream cheese

Put the chicken in the crock pot. Top with the tomatoes, corn, beans, ranch dressing and seasonings. Stir to combine, then top with the block of cream cheese. Cook on low for six to eight hours, stirring once or twice to blend in the cheese. Shred the chicken into large pieces and serve over rice or wide noodles.

(Cook’s notes: This does not need any additional salt. I used low-fat cream cheese and served it over the wide noodles. The easy recipe began with the sunrise, and was ready to enjoy at sunset after working in the yard.)