Iris Clark Neumann: Vegetable chicken soup brings warmth to chilly boat ride

Garden vegetables and noodles are added to chicken soup to create an easy and delicious soup for a chilly day in any season.

Roasted tomatoes are a tasty ingredient in a delicious sauce for pizza or pasta.

Tomatoes are fresh from the garden and ready for a good bath before being prepared for roasting for a delicious tomato sauce.
By : 
Iris Clark Neumann
Food for the Neighborhood

I had a salad in mind for my column this week, which has an amazing barbecue-flavored dressing.

There are leftovers of it in the fridge, which I should have sent with my husband to the cabin, because he loved it.

But today, after trying to spend a day catching up on things, I could only think of the chicken noodle soup I'd made when we were up north for Labor Day weekend with my son, Tyrel, and his family.

Everyone wanted to have plenty of boat time, but it was a chilly, windy day on the lake and we'd decided a lunch cruise was needed.

I didn't really have a good idea of what to pack, but soup might make us feel just a bit warmer, in spite of the weather. But I'd never served soup on the boat.

Trying to pick something kids might like, I searched for noodles in the cupboard and a frozen chicken breast in the freezer. Because I'd brought a supply of garden vegetables from home, I chopped up green beans, carrots, and cut corn off a few cobs, thinking those additions wouldn't be too exotic.

I cut up a long baguette loaf and topped each piece with cheese, then popped them in the oven for the cheese to melt while the soup cooked.

Then I fit the soup pot into a thermal bag, along with the bread slices arranged in a bowl. Once on the boat, we had our soup in paper bowls with plastic spoons. It wasn't until we were back home in Eyota that Granddaughter Kylie told me how much she'd liked the soup. She was looking in my fridge for lunch on Tuesday, when she found leftovers. So she ate it again.

I liked how quickly I could make a batch, using the same pot from start to finish.

Summer has had a few flaws, which made life a bit more difficult for me, like the day I fell over a short fence while finishing watering my garden.

I don't know how I forgot the fence was there, but I was hurrying so we could leave to attend a concert in the park.

The ground felt really hard and although I skinned and bruised my legs, I thought I'd not suffered too many ill effects. However, for a while after, I found I needed many sessions lying in bed with my giant rice bag, that I heat in the microwave, placed under my back.

By the way, that rice bag is a real miracle worker for me. They are sold at our farmers market by Laurie, who creates amazing useful stuff on her sewing machine. The bags are 100% cotton and the rice stays hot a long time. I usually flip it over a time or two as it gets hot again when the rice is readjusted.

I've had various small injuries, which required remembering to bandage so the wound would heal properly, while I continued gardening and other things.

Something that is more apparent to me daily is that I need to be more deliberate in thinking where I will next put my foot or hand. Accidents or losing something keeps happening, which make me realize I am getting older.

Today, I was trying to be more deliberate in choosing what I was doing to maximize my time. My kitchen is always a mess the day after a farmers market, but I try to get it picked up, get dishes in the washer, and sweep the floor first thing in the morning, so I'm ready for the next project. That next project might be a batch of pickles or tomato something or freezing a vegetable. But it might just be working outside.

This morning I felt tired because my dog, Delilah, the basset hound, had a bad night resulting from the 4 a.m. storm. I felt like I never really got to sleep. She would wake me up by walking on my head to alert me there was a problem. How can a dog sense hours ahead that a storm is coming?

She was frightened and could not be consoled. Eventually, I lured her into my closet, where she could nestle under a rack of my hanging clothes and feel secure. I knew when checking on her a couple hours later and hearing her snore, she was finally fine.

We admittedly love our pet and wondered how we'll manage when she's gone. At 12, she's an old basset hound. We lost our cat this summer. Dejia was 17 and had been my husband's pet before we got married. She actually had not moved into my house until a couple of years ago.

One night after returning from the lake, I noticed she was oddly sitting on the kitchen floor as if she'd been waiting for us to get home. The odd part was that she was not moving.

My husband held her and knew she was very ill. She was an odd frail cat and had always been. We had her in our bedroom with us and she died within a few hours after we got home.

It was heartbreaking as she'd taken her place in a corner of our lives and especially painful for my husband. We met in Rochester the next afternoon and picked out a little hosta to plant on our little Dejia's grave.

So, today, my goal was getting the kitchen back in order, but I hoped for a little more sleep, which never happened. It took two loads in the dishwasher before I was finally at ground zero and ready for a project. It was either saucing tomatoes or shredding cabbage in my food processor to start another jar of sauerkraut fermenting.

I'd thought of doing another round of the barbecue salad with peas in it, but soup fit my mood better. Cabbage would be nicely easy, but when I opened the front door and looked at the two tubs of tomatoes, which were getting more advanced in splitting as an aftermath of the Monday rain, I knew tomatoes had to be my choice. Cabbage would keep quite easily in the fridge for another day or two.

The reason I really needed another batch of salad was that I doubt anyone could easily copy a recipe that included sprouting peas. I'd purchased a bag of pea pods to use instead.

The peas, which had been saved for so long that they sprouted, is a whole other story, starting with a two gallon bag of peas in pods I was gifted by my farmer son. I took them to the cabin with me.

I didn’t shell them until we were on our way home and then I did so into a gallon bag. Yes, there were lots of peas. Half of them became a pureed soup, which was wonderful. Another couple of portions were added to pasta. But the last of them were nearly given to the chickens when they all sprouted.

But upon discovering they were still crunchy, they rode to the cabin again, but never found their way into a salad. But back home, they starred in the barbecue salad. How easy would it be for anyone else to find sprouting fresh peas to pop into a salad?

Today I “fast roasted” the tomatoes in the oven, but made a decision after filling a giant roaster pan of them that the rest would have to wait another day. The sauce I created needs another hour or so of simmering so they can become spaghetti sauce for granddaughters at the cabin this weekend.

I cleaned up the kitchen twice today, but went to bed with it a mess again. But, there's tomorrow...

Vegetable Chicken Soup

1 boneless chicken breast

Olive oil


1 32-ounce box chicken broth

1 minced garlic

1/2 cup chopped onion, sweet preferred

1 cup thinly sliced carrots

1 cup chopped, stemmed green beans

1 cup corn kernels cut off the cobs (2 to 3 cobs)

3 cups water

1 cup uncooked pasta

Fresh thyme sprigs (or 1/2 teaspoon dried)

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

Freshly ground pepper

Cut partially frozen chicken breast into half-inch cubes. Heat about a tablespoon olive oil in a soup pot. Add chicken, sprinkle with salt, and cook while stirring occasionally until it loses its pink color. Clean cutting board with soap and hot water or use a second cutting board for chopping vegetables. Add minced garlic and chopped onion to chicken, continue cooking and stirring until onion is soft. Pour in container of chicken broth. Heat to boiling.

Add carrots, green beans, and corn. Heat to boiling again, then simmer for about five minutes. Add water and heat to boiling. Stir in your choice of pasta and continue cooking. Stir in fresh thyme stripped from leaves. When pasta is cooked, stir in chopped parsley. Adjust flavors with additional salt and pepper.

Roasted Tomato Sauce

For pasta or pizza

5 to 6 pounds meaty tomatoes, cut up (see notes in recipe)

Kosher or sea salt

1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves or 1 teaspoon dried

2 tablespoons fresh oregano leaves or 2 teaspoons dried

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

5 cloves garlic, sliced thin or 1 teaspoon dried minced garlic

1/2 cup olive oil

Prepare roasting pan by lining it with a layer of foil, then a layer of parchment paper. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Meaty plum or heritage tomatoes are preferred, but others can be used if most of seeds and juice are scooped out. Wash tomatoes, then cut away any split or damaged spots and cores. Cut smaller tomatoes in half, larger ones in fourths and arrange them on paper. Amount in recipe is after any damage to tomatoes (from weather) is removed.

Sprinkle tomatoes generously with salt, then sprinkle with thyme and oregano leaves. Add a couple drops of balsamic vinegar to each piece and sprinkle with garlic slices. Drizzle with olive oil.

Bake in oven for at least an hour or until skins begin browning. A doubled recipe might need as much as two hours baking. Cool in pan for 15 minutes or more. Then, remove seeds and skins by forcing through a sieve. If sauce is not thick enough, simmer in a pan, stirring occasionally, until it reaches the desired consistency. If not used within a few days, it can be frozen. Recipe will create about a quart of sauce.