Winter Coming – Really?

by Celia Hayes

Well, one brief brush with overnight temperatures in the thirties – we even let the 'H' part of the new HVAC system out for a romp for a couple of nights running – and everyone was convinced that winter in South Texas had well and truly arrived. We've gone off Daylight Savings Time, Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and there is just about a months worth of shopping days until Christmas – and still the afternoon highs are in the 80s? All I can think to do at this point is to ask if someone couldn't invite Al Gore to come to town to make a speech about global warming, for unseasonable blizzards, rain and cold temperatures invariably follow him as a cloud of dirt follows the Peanuts character of Pigpen.

In an attempt to make winter really happen, I fixed one of my favorite soup recipes, which I found years ago in Nava Atlas' Vegetariana. Adding sliced kielbasa sausage to it takes off some of the onus of being vegetarian – and anyway, it is purely delicious. One time I settled down to make it and discovered that I was out of brown rice – but not to fear, I had wheat-berries instead. So wheat berries instead of rice – and it was all good. It might also have been just as good using wild rice instead. Another time I only had Rotel tomatoes with chilies – and that substitution worked so well I have used Rote with chilies ever since when I make it at home.

Winter Lentil & Brown Rice Soup

  • Combine in a large pot:
1/2 Cup dried lentils, washed and picked over
1/3-1/2 Cup brown rice (or wheat-berries, which is just as good)
2 TBSp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 TBSp soy sauce
2 Bay leaves
3 Cups water, or which is much better, 3 Cups vegetable broth
Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer over low heat for 7 to 10 minutes. Then add:
2 additional cups water or broth
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 medium carrots, thinly sliced
1 large celery stalk, finely chopped
Handful of finely chopped celery leaves
1 14-oz can chopped tomatoes with liquid (Or Rotel tomatoes with chili peppers, which is even better!)
1/2 Cup tomato sauce or tomato juice
1/4 cup dry red wine or sherry
1 Teasp dried basil
1 Teasp paprika
1/2 Teasp dried marjoram
1/2 Teasp dried thyme
Salt and pepper to taste.
  • Cover and simmer for half an hour or so, until lentils and rice are done.

(It is especially splendid when made with the Ro-Tel tomatoes & chilis, and a rich home-made vegetable broth.... plus you can take the onus of being vegetarian off it by adding about half a pound of kielbasa or other smoked sausage, sliced into rounds, towards the end of the cooking time, and serving it with a little grated cheddar cheese on top.)

This last time, my daughter made up a batch of Red Lobster cheddar biscuits to go with – absolutely sublime, especially made with extra-sharp cheddar cheese. She bought the box of cheddar biscuit mix at Sams' Club, but it's available on Amazon. Is winter here yet? Anyone seen any snowflakes?