CARTHAGE, Mo. —
With Carthage Maple Leaf week in full swing, my thoughts are already turning to Saturday's food.
I start the day at the Carthage Fire Department with all-you-can-eat pancakes and sausage. Then, my sister-in-law, Pam Roets, offers a smorgasbord of goodies during the parade. The same thing goes for Ken Schramm's house, where I try to pay a visit.
An afternoon stroll around the Carthage square brings a variety of lunch offerings and snacks. Who can pass up a funnel cake or kettle corn? And don't forget about the brats being served up by Carthage Rotary Club.
There have been years on parade day when the thought of soup or stew made me cringe because the weather was downright hot. But most of the time, the air is cool enough that soup is a perfect after-parade lunch.
Vegetable soup has always been my favorite -- so much so that I always requested it for my birthday dinner when I was growing up. My mother always made soup, not stew. But what's the difference between soup and stew?
First is the thickness. Soup is thin compared to thicker stew. Second, soup can be served hot or cold, while stews are generally served hot. Think gazpacho and strawberry soup; neither would be served hot. The third difference is that stews are typically cooked slowly, and soups are prepared fairly quickly and served right away.
The thickness of the dish seems to be the most important difference. Soups generally have pasta, veggies and meat cooked in water or broth, which makes them thinner. Soup is served in a bowl and can be part of a meal, but stew is often heartier and considered the main course. The liquid in stew is thick and resembles gravy more than broth. A good way to thicken stew is to puree some cooked vegetables and add it to the stew. Carrots, celery and potatoes are perfect thickeners, and they enhance flavors.
If you don't have time to check out the vendors on the Carthage square, a big pot of soup or stew could be just the thing to bring family and friends together after the parade. It's a good opportunity to warm up and spend time visiting and enjoying each other's company.
I want to give a big thank you to Rocky Artym for including me in the tasting of chili, stew and wings last weekend, and for giving me a chance to wear my eatin' shirt. A group of people get together a couple of times a year and compete with each other for bragging rights. Zeb Carney, John Bartosh, Hank Jr. and Ben Rotten were the other lucky judges tasked with choosing the winners. Having more than a couple of judges was a good idea because the three categories bring out definite taste preferences in everyone. Let me just say that I don't think the other judges will forget me being there. I would gladly chow down with them any time. Look for another outing in the spring. It's open to everyone, so feel free to show off your favorite recipes. The categories vary every time, giving everyone a chance to shine.
I hope you will be able to join me at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Carthage R-9 auditorium for the Three Minutes of Fame lip-sync competition. I get to be the master of ceremonies again this year and can't wait for the fun. What do you get for your $1 admission? An evening of youth and adult groups lip-syncing to a variety of songs, from those oldies I know by heart to the new songs I get to hear for the first time. I guarantee it will be a great evening.
Today I'm sharing the recipe for taco soup, which I try to do every year around this time. I got this recipe from my dear friend Cindy Harding. It's perfect to make on Friday night and put in the slow cooker to warm during the parade. Make it as spicy as you like by choosing Ro-Tel tomatoes with the desired amount of heat. I usually triple the recipe because the soup just keeps getting better, if there's any left after the first serving. Cornbread is the perfect accompaniment for this soup. I like to mix them together after I've slathered the cornbread with butter.
The stew recipe from the "Taste of Home Cookbook" is another dish that can be ready for a crowd at lunchtime. Cut the veggies (but not the mushrooms) the night before serving, then store in water in the fridge so you can throw the stew together quickly in the morning.
For dessert, the pumpkin bread, also from "Taste of Home," is pretty when sliced and served on a plate. But you won't want to just sit and look at it because the orange-flavored filling makes it really special. I'm always glad to see a bread recipe that doesn't call for yeast. Happy Maple Leaf Festival and happy eating!
1 pound ground beef
1 onion, chopped
1 package Hidden Valley ranch dressing mix
1 package taco seasoning
1 can pinto beans
1 can Niblets corn
1 can Ro-Tel tomatoes
1 can diced tomatoes
Brown ground beef and onion; drain. Mix remaining ingredients and simmer for 1 hour.
1 can tomato soup
1 cup water
1/4 cup flour
2 pounds beef chuck, cut into 1 to 2-inch cubes
3 carrots, cut in 1-inch diagonal slices
6 white or yellow onions, quartered
4 medium potatoes, cut into 11/2-inch chunks
1/2 cup chopped celery
12 whole large fresh mushrooms
2 beef bouillon cubes
1 tablespoon Italian herb seasoning mix or 1 teaspoon each leaf oregano, thyme and rosemary
1 bay leaf
Mix soup, water and flour until smooth; combine with remaining ingredients in covered roasting pan. Bake at 275 degrees for 4 to 5 hours. Yields 8 servings.
Pumpkin ribbon bread
2 (3-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon flour
2 teaspoons grated orange peel
1 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 2/3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon each salt, ground cloves and cinnamon
1 cup chopped pecans
For filling, beat cream cheese, sugar and flour together in small bowl. Add egg; mix to blend. Stir in orange peel and set aside. In large bowl, combine pumpkin, oil and eggs. Add remaining bread ingredients and mix to blend. Pour half of batter into 2 greased and floured loaf pans. Carefully spread filling over batter. Add remaining batter, covering filling. Bake at 325 degrees for 1 1/2 hours or until bread tests done with toothpick. Cool 10 minutes before removing from pans. Store in refrigerator. Yields 2 loaves.
Address correspondence to Cheryle Finley, c/o The Joplin Globe, P.O. Box 7, Joplin, MO 64802.