12 Days of Soup, Day 5: Minestrone

Minestrone has a long long history that dates back hundreds and hundreds of years. Its popularity began wayyy back the 2nd century BC when Rome conquered Italy. Because there was suddenly a whole new culture living (and controlling) Italy, they brought some of their food with them from Rome. Suddenly Italians had a whole lot of new foods to try, and new vegetables were being planted. (Still no tomatoes! Those didn’t arrive from the New World until much later)

Instead of being limited to only a few vegetable crops, Italians could now enjoy a wide variety. It was this new mix of vegetables, and plates being made, that started the minestrone craze. Gathering ingredients from leftover meals, Italian peasants would make this “poor man’s soup”. That’s why even to this day, there’s no one exact recipe for how this soup should be made, and you are welcome to add, or leave out, anything you’d like to.

12 Days of Soup, Day 4: New England Clam Chowder

Although its unclear who “invented” Clam Chowder, its clear that the colonists that were newly arrived in New England thought it was a good idea and ate the soup! The Indigenous people of the region, the Mohegan’s, Pequot’s, Narragansett, Mi’kmaq, and Wampanoag would build contraptions in the rivers and bays to catch fish, clams, oysters, lobster, and mussels for their soup. Its not as simple as this, but once the seafood of the Americas met the kitchens of the settlers, clam chowder was probably born, mostly of necessity by using what they had to make a meal.

It’s now a long-standing tradition in New England, and Boston’s Union Oyster House – which is the oldest continuously operating restaurant in the United States – has been serving it up since 1836! While the New England style is the best known, there are many other variations of clam chowder. We will be focusing on only New England style today, so if you know someone who makes Manhattan or Long Island, or even Floridian style instead, great! Try that soup too!

Instead of sending everyone to the coast from land-locked states to either catch or buy clams off the docks (which is a great idea if you’re close) lets make a simple chowder with canned clams, written by Hayden S. Pearson, who lived his whole life in New England and published recipes passed down to him from his family, friends, and neighbors of the area. This recipe is from his Country Flavor Cookbook, published in 1958 and was given to Captain Create by a real-life New Englander who was raised in Maine and ate lots of clam chowder growing up. Good thing she knew Captain Create loves to cook!

12 Days of Soup, Day 3: French Onion Soup

This bistro classic will warm up even the coldest folks! Traditionally topped with gooey, melty cheese and a bit of bread, the rich taste of onion can distract you from the fact that onions are full of vitamin C, vitamin B6, potassium and folate! There is also yummy garlic in the soup, which is rich in vitamin C, vitamin B6, thiamin, potassium, calcium, phosphorous, copper and manganese. Why does that matter? Your body needs all those things to work properly and keep you from getting sick in these cold months when we spend more time inside. What a yummy way to stay healthy!

This is not a quick soup though! Caramelizing onions takes a long time because you cook them low and slow to release the sugar hidden away in the onions. One easy way is to caramelize the onions in a pot inside the oven; set the oven to 375, add sliced onions to an oven safe vessel, like a cast iron pot or pan and stir them infrequently… it can can take an hour or more this way, but the onions are less likely to burn. Its okay if you step away to do yoga, clean your bedroom, learn to knit, or read a book while they cook. Just be sure to check on them from time to time so they don’t burn! There are a lot of different onions out there; which one should you use?

You can make this soup with any of these onions, but why not mix it up and use a variety? This way you can enjoy what each different kind of onion has to offer!

12 Days of Soup, Day 2: Creamy Mushroom & Thyme Stew

On the second day of Christmas Captain Create shared with me….. a tasty soup to warm you up after sledding (or to give you strength after cleaning up a mountain of wrapping paper).

Mushrooms are packed with fiber, vitamins, and flavor, while the thyme adds a hearty quality guaranteed to warm everyone’s heart. Barley is a whole grain that will fill you up, give you energy that will last all day, and is what makes this stew nice and hearty for a cold winter’s day.

Serve this soup with a tasty salad and a whole wheat roll to make the perfect winter lunch.

Twelve Days of Soup: Day 1; Christmas Green Pea Soup

The Twelve Days of Christmas start on Christmas Day, Dec 25th and end January 5th, on Epiphany. Its also in the middle of winter and cold outside! Instead of partridges, swans, and nine lords a’leaping, how about we celebrate the Twelve Days of Soup?!

On the First Day of Soup, Captain Create shared with me: Christmas Green Pea Soup from Czechoslovakia. The bright green color adds to the festivity of Christmas Day! This soup can be served in small portions between the salad course and main dish, or as part of a holiday buffet. Don’t skip the croutons, which add another texture to make your mouth happy!

While we all know that a recipe will lead to a tried and true soup to eat, soup is king of the No-Rules Recipes, so feel free to mix up, change up, or even just look at the photo for inspiration, instead of feeling like you must follow the recipes perfectly (and have fun in the kitchen!)

Recipe of the Week: Apple Cinnamon French Toast Bake

Some mornings (like Christmas morning) are busy! It’s easy to fill up on candy and give yourself a tummy ache for lunch, but not with Captain Create’s easy Apple Cinnamon French Toast Bake!

This is a fun recipe to make as a family on Christmas Eve as you get ready for the Big Man to pay a visit. Smaller kids can cut or tear the bread into pieces, medium sized kids can measure and pour, and anyone can add cinnamon and sprinkles (everything tastes better with sprinkles) then you can put it in the oven first thing Christmas morning, and breakfast is ready when all the gifts are open!

You’ll have a bunch of good whole grain powered energy to play with toys or play games during the day. The cinnamon apples add the fruit component, so all you need is a glass of milk to make a complete meal on the MyPlate plate! What a good breakfast!

Around the World in 80 Plates: Gingerbread

Gingerbread is not new; early gingerbread can be traced all the way back to the ancient Greeks and Egyptians. Gingerbread wasn’t recorded in history in Europe until around the 11th-century, when Crusaders brought back ginger from the Middle East for the wealthy folks’ cooks to experiment with. Ginger was added to many things, but one food that stuck around was gingerbread.

Gingerbread can be baked as a bread, or as a cookie. Many European countries have their own version of a gingerbread; some are a loaf of sweet gingery bread, and others are a cookie like we are more used to seeing today. Houses made of gingerbread weren’t popular until the Brothers Grimm wrote their still-famous fairy tale Hansel & Gretel. German settlers brought the tradition of building a lebkuchenhaeusle (gingerbread house) with them to the Americas, and there are some amazing examples every year in the United States every winter.

People shaped gingerbread cookies were first recorded after Queen Elizabeth of England (in the late 1500’s) had her cooks prepare cookies that looked just like the guests she had invited! There is also the story of the Gingerbread Man, who pops out of the oven he was baked in and runs away!

Gingerbread loaves are easy and tasty, and make a great addition to a Winter Solstice or Christmas Dinner. Serve it as a dessert with a topping of whole-berry cranberry sauce and whipped cream, or add it to a snack platter at a party. Be sure to line the baking pan, or your loaf will get stuck!

Gingersnaps are spiced little cookies that are baked until they are crisp and snap when you bite them! They are great to dunk in hot cocoa!

Gingerbread house cookies don’t usually taste as good as they look and smell because it is a building material more than a tasty snack. Captain Create has build gingerbread houses a time or two, and has a good recipe for walls. Be sure to plan ahead and make the right icing to glue the walls together, and feel free to use anything you like to decorate, not just candy!

Nutrition Tip of the Week: Drink Winter Infused Water

It’s easy to forget to drink your water each day if it is cold outside, but your body needs water all year long! Snowball fights, sledding, and making snow angels all keep your body moving and use up some of the water you have inside you. Drink up and stay moving! (You even use up water while snuggled under a blanket with a good book by the fire!)

Infusing water is a tasty way to add nutrients to your water, not to mention that there are endless combinations you can use to make them more festive during the holiday season.

Recipe of the Week: Easy Bruschetta

It is Holiday Party season, and Captain Create loves to make easy appetizers or snacks to share. Today’s recipe is a no-rules recipe based on an Italian tradition of eating things with bread and olive oil. Bruschetta can be anything from fresh or roasted tomatoes, to a whole bunch of vegetables, to tomatoes, olives, and cheese. You get to decide!

You take take this to a party this holiday season and be the star of the show! This tasty snack is also full of nutrients like vitamin C, energy and fiber from the veggies and bread, and the olive oil helps your body use the vitamin A and E! Wow!

Try this recipe out this holiday season, and let us know who loved it the most!

Eat in Season: Persimmons

Persimmons mean fall is over! They are ripe and in season in late fall/early winter and can be found in lots of places like grocery stores, or in farmers markets that bring in fruit from California. (Utah is not ideal for persimmon growing!) They are beautiful and delicious, and tasting them is a good idea!

Persimmons are of the plant family called Diospyros, which in Greek means “divine food” or “fruit of the gods.”1 They are prized in many parts of the world and are considered Japan’s national fruit!1

Something so yummy must be worth a try right?! Hachiya persimmons, which have a pointy end, are usually known as the “mushy” ones, because they are sweet and jelly-like when they are ripe and can be eaten with a spoon right out the skin.2 When they say mushy, then mean mushy, like a tomato that is overripe2, and be warned that eating one will make a mess; some people just lean over the sink so that the fruit doesn’t drip on their clothes.

The Fuyu persimmons are edible when they are firm and crisp, like and apple, or you can slice it up in salad, or bake with it.2 They also soften as they get more ripe, and if you wait long enough they will get squishy and need to be eaten at the sink too.

They are very lightly flavored, like they have a hint of honey and cinnamon in them, but possibly not. Nothing else in the world tastes like either variety of persimmon. Captain Create found some Fuyu Persimmons this week at a roadside stand and after eating a few for an after school snack, he decided to bake with them and share the recipe with you!

Today, Captain Create’s tiny helper make cinnamon & persimmon scones.

They are quick and easy, plus have whole grains to give extra energy!


1- https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=97458318

2- Bittman, M. (2008). How to Cook Everything (10th ed.). John Wiley & Sons, Inc. page 401

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