Saturday, January 15, 2011

On Cooking

(this is my monthly food column for Heartland Women)
January 2011

My favorite soup pot sets sail on the USS Viking - Click here to see what's inside.

Recently, I was asked to write a brief description of my job. Simple enough, right? Well, not exactly. I actually have three jobs and one of them seems to confuse a lot of people.

Most people still don’t understand how my husband does his job as a commercial pilot, and pilots have been around for a lot longer than computers and the Internet. So try telling people that you are a food blogger and you’ll have a lot of explaining to do.
I used to be a stay-at-home mom who occasionally had jobs outside the home, mostly in education. Now my kid is married and has a job and a home of his own. I’m still a mom, but mothering requires less round-the-clock supervision as kids become adults themselves. I don’t work outside the home anymore. I know that because there is no more 5-minute-late dash out the door every morning, juggling a cup of coffee and fumbling for my car keys.

My work has changed often through the years, but I enjoy it now more than ever. And where there is change, there is also opportunity, and that’s where I am now. I am working in the comfort of my own home, right in my own kitchen, staring into the window of opportunity – my computer screen.

I think I’ve always wanted to be a writer, but I just wasn’t sure how or what to write about on my own. For whatever reason, I wasn’t compelled to pen a novel or create children’s books, and technical writing just sounded so tediously boring. But it was always there, in the back of my mind, that someday I would become a writer.

And then one day, I realized everything I liked to do had come together, but I didn’t have a job – I had three! And not one, but two of them were writing!

Wild and Creamy Mushroom Soup - Click here for Recipe from the Archives

I began teaching cooking classes for some my friends while we lived in North Carolina, and after we moved back to Southern Illinois, I continued to teach occasionally for small groups. I called my classes Season To Taste. I enjoyed seeing a group of women, all wearing Season To Taste aprons, cooking together in one kitchen.

Then, in January 2005, just a few months after we settled in back in my hometown, I began writing this column. I had always loved telling stories about food and sharing recipes, and the writing seemed to come easily. I considered my food column a written extension of my classes, so it was titled Season To Taste also.

With each new column came requests from far away friends to send copies. After a while, the mailings were more than I could manage every month, so My Favorite Husband took it upon himself to learn how to build a website. The website would be the Internet home for all of my columns, accessible by one and all, but more than likely, just my friends. The website became

When his computer and all the website data stored on it went missing, MFH wanted to rebuild the website with newer software and a better computer and blah … blah … blah. I didn’t know what he was talking about, but I was excited about the idea. What I was unsure about though, was when he would find the time to make it all happen. I didn’t even know how to communicate what I wanted exactly and I didn’t have a clue what he was talking about either. Was there any chance I could find my way through the computer jungle to create a website of my own creation? Not very likely, I thought.

Then, one day, I just knew I had to take matters into my own hands, if I was going to continue posting my columns on the Internet, even if it was just a temporary solution, until the real website happened. Maybe I could start my own food blog. Many of my favorite cooking websites were actually blogs, or personal journals, written by people just like me. It might be fun, I thought, to be able to write more frequently than once a month about food and cooking. I really wanted a place of my own on the Internet.

Savory Bean Soup - Click here for Recipe from the Archives

Fortunately for me, there was a website called Blogger for computer geek wannabes, just like me.  No previous experience or knowledge of HTML required! With a couple of hours of research and a little trial and error, I was up to speed with the necessary blog lingo to choose a template, some colors, and a few fonts. I wrote my greeting to the world and pressed “Publish” before I could chicken out. There it was! I launched my very own food blog!

Since the name Season To Taste was already taken, I decided to call my food blog Cora Cooks. Not very creative, but I didn’t know much about branding at the time and wasn’t really thinking about how it would sound to sponsors, or book publishers, or movie producers – yeah, right! I just wanted to write and, hopefully, connect with a few readers.

So what is my job description? I guess what I am now is a food enthusiast, who teaches private cooking classes, writes a monthly food column for a local newspaper and publishes a food blog with food writing, photography and recipes. I share with others what I know from my own cooking experiences, maybe with just enough spice to keep them coming back for more. Like most jobs, there really is a lot more to it, but it’s all good. I love my job-s!

And here’s what I have to share with you – my food readers – this month. These are some tasty recipes to get the New Year off to a good healthy, hearty start. January is typically the soup month in my kitchen. I think soup is the food equivalent of a cozy blanket -- it warms you from the inside, which is just what we need when it is oh so cold and snowy outside

Last weekend, I made three of my favorite soups that you can find archived on It was easy to gather all the ingredients and assemble them all at the same time. Well, as long as you have access to three soup pots, I guess it can be done simultaneously. Oh, and a bunch of freezer containers. Uh, along with a little extra room in the freezer. I’ll just let you sort all that out while you feast your eyes on these new recipes I think you might like.

You can find many more soup recipes from my Season To Taste columns published between 2005-2007 at

Happy New Year 2011 and Happy Cooking!

8 tbsp. butter
2 stalks of celery, finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 cup chopped fresh cauliflower
1 cup finely chopped broccoli
1 clove of garlic, crushed and minced
½ cup all-purpose flour
3 cups chicken broth
salt and pepper to taste
2 ½ cups milk
2 cups grated Cheddar cheese
1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

Melt butter in a Dutch oven or heavy soup pot over medium heat; add celery, carrots, onion, cauliflower, broccoli and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Add flour; stir and cook for about 3 minutes. Slowly add the chicken broth, salt and pepper; stir until the mixture is completely blended. Cover and simmer over very low heat for about 20 minutes. Add the milk, cheese and Worcestershire sauce. Cook over low heat for about 10 minutes. Soup may be served hot after cooking or refrigerated for several hours to allow the flavors to blend. Reheat in a double boiler to prevent scorching. Serves 6.

4 tbsp. butter
1 medium onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 medium potato, chopped
5 ½ cups chopped carrots
2 tbsp. minced fresh ginger root
1 ½ qts. chicken broth
½ cup heavy cream
freshly ground nutmeg

Heat the butter in a Dutch oven or heavy soup pot over medium heat; add the onion and celery and sauté for about 5 minutes, or until soft. Add the potato, carrots, ginger and chicken broth. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for about 20-25 minutes. Allow the soup to cool for several minutes and then process in a food processor or blender until smooth. Return the soup to the pot; stir in the cream and freshly ground nutmeg. Reheat the soup over medium heat. May also be chilled and served cold after adding cream and nutmeg. Serves 6.

2 tbsp. butter
½ cup chopped celery
½ cup chopped carrots
¼ cup all-purpose flour
¼ tsp. paprika
1/8 tsp. pepper
2 cups chicken broth
2 cups milk
1 (15-oz.) can salmon, drained
½ cup shredded cheddar cheese

In a 3-qt. saucepan, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the celery and carrots to the pot; stir and sauté for 4-5 minutes, or until tender but not brown. Stir in the flour, paprika, and pepper. Add the chicken broth and milk all at once. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring, until the mixture is thickened and bubbly. Stir in the salmon and cheese. Cook and stir until the cheese melts. Serves 4.

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