In Which We Make Stone Soup

Yesterday was a rather blustery day (It was Wednesday, after all) and I was pondering the age-old question “What should I make for dinner?”

We were headed to the YMCA, and I told the kids I would like to make some beef stew. They agreed that beef stew sounded yummy and perfect for such a blustery day. I asked them what I should put in the stew. They really didn’t know what would be good besides potatoes and carrots (which I always put in our pot roast). I wanted a real stew with lots of vegetables. The problem is, I don’t really like vegetables. So I was having a hard time thinking of what vegetables might be good in our stew.

We did our workouts at the gym, then stopped at the grocery store. I guess they had worked up an appetite, because they started coming up with ideas for things we could put in our stew.

I had already planned to get beef cut up in cubes and beef broth. I had red potatoes at home. We grabbed carrots right away. I had thought I would use canned diced tomatoes, but Shawn wanted real ones, so we put some tomatoes in our cart. Then Shawn suggested some kind of beans. We went to the beans aisle. We looked at all the beans and decided on black beans. I’m not a big bean person, either, and I was a little leery of beans I’d never tasted before, but I decided to be brave. Then Patrick said we should put some kind of grain in it. I thought of lentils or barley or something. We couldn’t find the chewy little things that I thought might be barley, but Patrick saw the Penne pasta and said we should use it. So we put Penne pasta in our cart. Shawn remembered that we had added V8 to our chili before, and he liked it, so we decided to get some V8, too. Then we went to get the beef.

On our way to the beef, Shawn remembered that we had some canned asparagus left from Thanksgiving. (I’m really not an asparagus person. My mom didn’t even grow that in our garden!). I was game to try it, but Patrick insisted that we couldn’t used canned – it had to be fresh. So I sent them back to get some asparagus, and I went on to get the beef. The meat cutter was putting hamburger on the shelves, and I told him we were making a beef stew. He said it was the perfect day for it (it being a rather blustery day), and I said that I wished I had homemade bread to go with it, but homemade bread takes all day to make. He started thinking about how I could make homemade bread more quickly. I could tell he was as inexperienced as I (maybe even more) but he really wanted to help. So he led me toward the freezer department, and on the way I remembered that stores sometimes have frozen bread dough. That would probably have the homemade bread flavor and smell that I was after without all the time and energy that homemade bread takes. So I started looking for frozen bread dough. The young man that was helping me was kind of at a loss, so he went up front to ask somebody up there. He came back to tell me about some mixes that you just had to mix together to make bread, but I had just spotted the frozen bread dough, and I was sure that this was my solution.

So I thanked him and pulled the dough out of the freezer and stuck it in my cart. I headed back to find my kids. I thought they would return to the meat department where they had left me, but there was no sign of them. My meat cutter was there, and as I started to walk away, I heard him say something about stew packets. I turned to him, and he said that there are some packets that give you instructions for how to make beef stew. So he led me to the aisle that has the packets for stew seasonings and picked up one called Beef Stew and showed me the instructions for making beef stew. It looked pretty much like what I had in mind, and I knew that the kids like seasoning in their food, so I threw the seasoning packet in our cart. (I pretty much only like salt as far as seasonings go).

Well, the kids found me then, and they had fresh asparagus. I asked them if I was supposed to cut them up, if the whole thing was edible or what, and they were unsure, but we decided we’d figure that out at home.

Anna was talking to Daddy on the phone the whole time, so she didn’t get to contribute much to our stew decisions.

The boys and I decided that we had all the ingredients we needed (I planned to put some corn and green beans in, but we already had some at home in our freezer), so we went to pay for our stuff.

When we got home, Shawn helped me cut up the vegetables. I browned the beef and put some broth in it and added the can of V8 and half of the seasoning packet. Shawn boiled the Penne pasta. I read the directions on the beef package, and it told me just what to do. Cook the beef for an hour, then add vegetables and cook 45 minutes more. I put the bread in the warm oven to defrost, and the timing for the bread and the stew to be done turned out to be at the exact same time!

We had put all the vegetables together in the colander and washed them, so they looked really colorful and healthy. When the beef was done, I added all those pretty vegetables to the stew and the liquid rose to the top. I was glad I hadn’t put any more broth in than I did. Kelsey helped me stir all the vegetables in. We cooked it for 45 minutes, and I baked the bread. When the timer went off, I added the Penne pasta.

Then we called everybody to the table. Shawn tasted the soup and was enraptured. He kept talking about how perfect it was, and it couldn’t be better. Katie came to the kitchen. She must have heard some of the story about how we made the stew. She said, “What’s this? Stone Soup?” Right then, Shawn and I knew. We had finally made Stone Soup. Ever since he heard that story as a little boy he wanted to make Stone Soup. His wish had finally come true. And he was happy.

I was in Mama Heaven. Every one of the kids loved the stew, even the pickiest ones. They were all talking about how it was the best stew they ever tasted, and how happy they were to be eating such healthy food. They talked about preservatives and how much better fresh food is. They made me feel like the best chef ever and the best mama.

Kelsey didn’t say much about the stew. She kept looking out the window seeing if the rain had turned to snow yet. The rather blustery day had turned into a rather blustery night.

But we were warm inside, and we ended the night in front of the Christmas tree reading adventure stories. I won’t tell you what time it was when we got done. 😉

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