Alphabet Soup

The soup to eat after the polar vortex arrives

The soup to eat after the polar vortex arrives

The polar vortex was here

and then it returned.

I needed to make food

that couldn’t be burned.

I’ll make some soup

on this cold winter day.

I’ll make it from scratch

so I don’t have to pay

the exorbitant prices

at the grocery store.

I’ll make it from scratch

and then I’ll have more

to send with my family

as they walk out the door.

The soup will last

more than a meal

Wouldn’t you agree

it’s a pretty good deal?

After reviewing the total amount of money we spent last year and finding a big chunk of change going toward food expenditures, I have decided to see if I can save money each month by preparing more home cooked meals in large batches to be taken for lunches or a second meal during the week. Here is my recipe:


servings: about 8 – 10

*** pressure cooker recipe *** You can use canned beans instead of dried beans and you can use a stock pot, but it will take you longer.

1 cup dried garbanzo beans

1/2 cup dried kidney beans

3 cups water

5 bay leaves

a large splash of olive oil

1 large onion chopped

5 garlic teeth minced

a few spoonfuls of Italian seasoning or  basil or oregano

a couple of pinches of salt

1 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes

5 carrots peeled and sliced about 1/2 inch thick

2 ribs of celery diced

1/4 lb green beans trimmed and cut in thirds

3  medium potatoes peeled and cubed

1 – 1 1/2 cups elbow macaroni

Combine first 4 ingredients in a pressure cooker, secure lid and cook for 12-15 minutes once pressure knob pops. (If using a stock pot with dried beans, they should cook in about and hour, but I would prep the beans first. If using canned beans skip this part). Once beans are soft, pour them into a large bowl (maybe the bowl you will use to store them for leftovers?) and set aside. Add olive oil to pot, then garlic and onion and cook over medium until soft. Add spices, then tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes. Fill tomato can with water twice and add to pot. Add carrots, celery, green beans, potatoes and macaroni. Add the cooked garbanzo and kidney beans, put the lid on the pressure cooker and cook for 7-8 minutes once pressure knob pops up.

Ladle into a big bowl, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and serve with crusty french bread.

Menu of the Day

Restaurante Burgales in the town of Aguilar de Campoos

If there is one thing I love about Spain, it is that food and taking time for the afternoon meal are an important part of the culture. Whether in Madrid or in a small town in a different province, a delicious Menu del Dia (Menu of the Day) is offered at almost any restaurant without breaking the bank. A Menu del Dia consists of  a first course, second course, bread, wine, water and dessert. It is very filling and unlike your typical American lunch. I guess you could say it is more like an American dinner in terms of quantity.

One day we ventured off for an excursion to the province of Palencia. When it was lunch time, we asked for a recommendation of where to dine from a local in the small town of Aguilar de Campoos.  Once inside the quaint restaurant,  the server announced an excellent selection of food for our meal. For the first course: judias verdes con jamon (green beans with ham), ensalada arroz (rice salad), and patatas con cosquillas (potatoes with tiny ribs). For the second course: filete con patatas (beef filet with potatoes), albondigas con patatas (meatballs with potatoes) and lengua con patatas (beef tongue with potatoes).

There were four of us dining that day and between us we tried all the first and second course choices.  Everyone appeared satisfied with their delicious home cooked food, as it soon disappeared from the plates. It was ample enough, as were the bread and wine.  I did have to leave food on my plate as I had enjoyed too much wine with my meal.

For postre (dessert), the choice was even greater: helado (ice-cream), natillas (runny pudding), flan (custard), tarta (cake) and fruta (fruit). Natillas was the favorite among almost everyone at the table. I somehow found room in my stomach for dessert and opted for flan. I was not disappointed. Had the children not been stuffed, I’m sure they would have finished their dessert.

For this luscious spread of ample, home cooked food, one would expect a high price, no? In fact, that’s the beauty of the Menu del Dia. It has a fixed price, yet includes everything from start to finish. The only item that we purchased ala carte was a café con leche (for me of course!)

In total, we spent 37 Euros for a healthy and delicious lunch for four people. The price per person was 9 Euros each, my coffee was 1 Euro. Even though the exchange rate is around $1.45 per Euro, our meal was only about $13 per person. How’s that for a bargain?

Oh, I forgot to mention: the price includes tax and gratuity. It’s too bad the U.S. doesn’t have more restaurants of this type. If the food was delicious and nutritious and the price reasonable, I for one would dine out more often.