Sunday, February 01, 2009

Aiken's 'Souper' 2008 in Review

SIMMERING -- Last week's Golfing for Inclusion fundraiser of The Bubel/Aiken Foundation was greeted by warm weather in Palm Beach Gardens, Fl. Graphic by cindilu2, photos by Katy4Clay.

Aiken Fans Replay 2008

Soup Recipes Ease Winter Chill

Compared with the wintry weather conditions around the country, the Triad at times might even qualify as the tropics. However, to this southerner, the 22-degree temps of this past week are cold enough.

As I have viewed reports of atypical southern weather, my thoughts naturally transition from the continuous parade of wind chill factors to favorite soup recipes.

In a previous blog entry, I shared some of these cold weather dishes; but, true to form, the versions below have evolved with several alterations. Some might even qualify as excellent Super Bowl Sunday fare.

Like most Clay Aiken fans, I have enjoyed January's steady stream of 2008 replays by montage creators and graphic artists. The photo interlude also reflects attention to the annual rewinds.

Graphic by cindilu2 links to '2008 Year in Review'

An outstanding example of the many memorable replays is Dreamlarge's "2008 Year in Review" montage. Clicking on the above graphic of Clay and son Parker by cindilu2 will link to the video at YouTube. It can also be downloaded with this Sendspace file.

For other exceptional looks back, see 2008 Year in Review at and 2008 Year at a Glance at the Clay Aiken Kids site.

Crock Pot Knocks Correct Notes

Several years ago when my week included 55 private students and a growing family, my slow cooker was probably the most used appliance in the kitchen, making it possible for me to fulfill dinner preparation and an afternoon of music lessons at the same time.

Enticing aromas from the trusty crock pot wended their way into the studio and almost always had the latest students thinking more about supper than key signatures, much less correct notes.

Kicking off this winter sampling is Cabbage Bean Soup, a family favorite from the beginning. The "framework" for this recipe can be located in the Harpeth Valley Elementary School Cookbook, purchased during a PTA fund-raiser in Nashville, TN.

Typically, I experimented with the original from the get-go. Since our family enjoyed hot, spicy flavors, I don't think I ever prepared this soup the same way twice.

There are several Cabbage Bean Soup variations available on the Internet. For example, the recipe can be prepared in a slow cooker (4 hours on high or 6-8 hours on low), in a Dutch oven, or on top the stove. An array of substitutions can be applied, and some of my alterations are provided within the ingredient list.


1 T. vegetable oil
1/2 to 1 pound low-fat ground turkey, beef, or meatless ground burger [Best combination is part ground turkey and part turkey sausage, chopped. The sausage adds lots of flavor.]
1 large onion, chopped
1 small head cabbage, chopped
1 can (16 oz) can stewed tomatoes (Mexican, Italian, Cajun)
[Optional addition: 1 can tomatoes with green chiles]
2 (16 oz) cans red kidney beans [mix or substitute pinto, navy, black beans]
2 cups (or cans) water
1 can (16 oz) can tomato sauce (chunky, garlic, plain)
1-2 beef/chicken-flavored bouillon cubes or Better Than Bouillon equivalent [Option: the original recipe called for 2 cans beef or chicken broth; if I use bouillon, I make up for the liquid with water.]
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
Spices to taste: garlic, Italian seasonings, red pepper flakes, cilantro, etc.

Brown ground turkey or beef with onion in a skillet, using 1 T. vegetable oil. Cook until meat is well browned and crumbled. Drain fat; transfer meat and onion to a large pot along with all other ingredients except the cabbage.

Cook for an hour and a half. Add the cabbage at the halfway point. Serve with cornbread or crackers.

Makes 10 servings, which -- for me -- means lots of leftovers that can be frozen and reheated in the microwave for lunches and/or dinners.


I was given this recipe by a dear friend in West Texas years ago. The 3x5 recipe card is now splotched by time and spilled ingredients, as I prepared this dinner often for our family.

The main dish consists of cornbread with a center of ground meat, onions, green chiles, and shredded cheese. A side salad with the cornbread dish has been a popular combo in our home.

At first, I prepared Mexican Cornbread as printed below. However, with time constraints as a teacher and mother, in later years I substituted instant cornbread mixes. Prepare according to the mix recipe, adding the cream corn of the scratch version.


1 C. yellow corn meal
2 eggs, beaten
1 C. milk (any per cent)
1/4 C. yellow cream corn
1/2 tsp. soda
3/4 tsp. salt
1/3 C. vegetable oil

Mix all of the above well, and set aside; or do the same with the cornbread mix and cream corn.


2 T. vegetable oil
1/2 to 1 lb. ground meat (turkey, beef, meatless burger)
1 large onion, chopped
1 small can chopped green chile peppers
Grated 2% cheese

Saute 1/2 to 1 lb. ground meat and one large chopped onion with one T. vegetable oil. Drain on paper towel. Mix with one small can copped green chile peppers (mild or hot). I have even prepared this dish one half hot peppers and the other half mild or bell peppers.

Grease the bottom and sides of a large iron skillet with remaining tablespoon of vegetable oil. Sprinkle with corn meal, and brown briefly to help form a crust. Pour half the batter into the pan.

Sprinkle grated cheese evenly over the batter. Add a layer of the meat, onion, and peppers. Pour remaining batter on top. Bake 45-50 minutes at 350 degrees.

An excellent Super Bowl meal, this dish would be a great alternative to Clay's preferred tacos!

PHOTO INTERLUDE: The February calendar graphic by cindilu2 highlights Golfing for Inclusion photos by Katy4Clay. For a widescreen version, see her Yuku page. Also featured in this collection of clickables are graphics by Amazing_CA. Photographers include Jaysue, 2, and LynninNJ, 5.

Cooking for Just One

Though less time-consuming, preparing meals for just one can sometimes be a challenge. Always seeking ways to simplify, I created a winter soup recipe with that in mind.

My cooking bywords are now "simple" and "substitution," so feel free to create your own variations. Just be sure to share your findings [grin].

These ingredients can be multiplied to yield servings for any number of people. Preparation time for one is around 10 minutes.


Cook the following -- approximately 1/4 cup for the vegetables -- in a microwave-proof bowl for 2-3 minutes:

Frozen bell pepper strips (red, yellow, green)
Frozen corn
Frozen lima beans
Three-inch link of turkey sausage, chopped

Variation 1: Use one inch of the turkey sausage and a portion of shredded chicken, meatless burger meat, ground turkey, shredded chicken alone, etc.

Variation 2: Add of a little bit of wine -- or a few drops of vinegar -- when the vegetables are cooking. Both yield a distinctive flavor difference.

Add these ingredients, and microwave all for another two minutes:

3 T. canned black beans (or another variety)
Half a can of Mexican-flavored stewed tomatoes (alternates include stewed tomatoes, Italian-flavored stewed tomatoes, etc.)
Water or small amount of tomato juice
Spices to taste -- I use cumin, red pepper flakes, and Mrs. Dash Italian seasonings
2-3 T. shredded 2% cheese on top

RESULT: A warm, tasty one-dish meal in record time!


Another method for preparing a winter soup dish is to add frozen vegetables, chopped onion, and leftover chicken to a favorite brand of canned soup, effectively creating more than one serving.

I like the healthy varieties of Mexican Tortilla, Chicken with Wild Rice, etc., with less sodium and fat. Again, Mrs. Dash, red pepper flakes, and a variety of herbs to the flavor rescue. My frozen vegetables of choice are generally lima beans, corn, peas, peppers, etc.

For a different taste, add a dash of vinegar and sprinkle parmesan cheese to the mix.


One large baking potato
Frozen bell pepper strips (yellow, red, green)
Frozen or fresh broccoli
One serving of turkey sausage, crabmeat substitute, or meatless burger crumbles
Canned black beans
Heart-healthy margarine
Seasonings to taste: Mrs. Dash (Italian Medley, Southwest, Lemon Pepper), cayenne, etc.
Shredded 2% cheese

Wash, punch holes in the skin, and microwave the potato on a plate until done, about 6-7 minutes. Cut in half, and refrigerate one portion for another meal. In a bowl, microwave onion, bell pepper, frozen broccoli, and meat.

Drizzle 2 T. black beans (with juice) over the potato half. Dot with margarine. Spread the vegetables and meat over this, and top with shredded cheese.

Run the "loaded" potato back through the microwave for 1-2 minutes. If desired, add a dollop of fat-free sour cream.

RESULT: A simple, healthy, delicious meal-in-a-dish for one!

Variation: Cube or slice the potato, and it will cook faster. Instead of broccoli, use frozen peas with onion and bell pepper strips.

Instead of the heart-healthy margarine, mix together (1-2 tsp.) mustard and low-fat mayonnaise. Toss with the cubed/sliced potato, sausage, peas, and the spicy seasonings. I sprinkle 2% cheese on top and nuke until melted.

Swinging New Sax Student

One of my new students this semester is a gentleman in his fifth decade who started the alto sax last month. Despite some strange and very loud (we are talking competition for bagpipes!) sounds coming forth the first week, he has the full support of his wife.

The couple live in a corner townhouse, and my student said he practices in an end room away from other apartments. At his first lesson back, he said his wife jokingly asked if she needed to sign a practice report.

He laughed and said, if need be, he was sure the neighbors could do the same. After a couple of lessons and some major embouchure/volume adjustments, hopefully, those neighbors are equally as thrilled about his saxophone studies.

Although he doesn't know it, Mr. Sax has the makings of a fan club. He has greatly impressed the mothers of the youngsters whose lessons lead into his.

Below is a clickable of cindilu2's lead graphic:

Happy Super Bowl Sunday! Have a wonderful week, Clay Nation, and do share what's simmering on your back burner!


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Anonymous said...

WOW Caro, lots of good stuff here. Thanks a bunch!


SueReu said...

I love the story of your new sax student!! KUDOS to him (and his wife & neighbors)

all the soups sound yummy (and the photo interludes are even yummier)

Thanks Caro & Happy Super Bowl!

Cindy said...

Hey Caro - what a tasty blog subject! (and the recipes aren't bad, either ;-)

I'm trying my hand at potato/cheddar soup today. I hope it's as good as all your recipes sound!

Anonymous said...

Neat graphics. Right click and save. I also saved the recipes. Thanks for your faithfulness in blogging, I enjoy them all.

Anonymous said...

Hi Caro

It sure is soup weather here too.

Yummy pictures of of our sweet man.

Stuffed pepper soup- huge recipe
ground meat 1#(brown with onion)
lots of green pepper chopped -2c.
1 lg can crused tomatoes
1 lg chopped onion
beef broth or bouilon cubes
3 c water
seasoning whatever you like
after it almost done put in
1c brown instant rice.
Good eating
Hugs Margaret

Anonymous said...

Hi Caro,
Loved your recipes for one.It is hard sometimes to cook for just one. Fortunately my daughter Arlene lives in the cottage next to my home and we sometimes eat together. I, too, love to use the frozen bell pepper mix in recipes, but never tried it on backed potato. Thanks for sharing your ono (good) choices.
Aloha, Betty Jean

Anonymous said...

I just discovered the recipes here, can't wait to try them. And I love the delicious pictures here too!

Ashes said...

Yum, two of my favourites..Clay and food!

Stories of your students are always so entertaining, thanks :)

LovesClaysVoice said...

Caro, thanks for all the great graphics and recipes!!!

Allegra said...

Loved your blog except now I'm hungry. :-)


musicfan said...

Well, I am officially hungry now. I am going to have to try some of the recipes. Easy cooking is the way it is at my home!!

I had to giggle as you were telling us about your new sax student.

Thanks again for your wonderful blog. I always leave with a smile.

Truth Rules said...

I like peppers but they don't like me.

It's always fun to read your blogs.