Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Chicken Soup for the Bowl

Our LIFE class this week got a special treat; chicken soup! World renowned for its healing properties, chicken soup is a good remedy for many upper respiratory tract illnesses. Librarians Elise Sheppard and Jill Vu joined us to give us the Jewish and Vietnamese takes on this classic fare. Recipes below. Also below is a link explaining why chicken soup is so good for you. Our LIFE class left feeling fuller in wisdom and healthy goodness. Feel free to try one of these recipes at home with your family the next time cold and flu season comes around, or any day the week for a hearty and healthy meal.

Jewish Chicken Soup - AKA Jewish Penicillin
Rosely Himmelstein's winning recipe from Shabbat Across America's Chicken Soup Challenge
(Serves about 6)

•2 quarts of chicken broth (the recipe follows)
•1 chicken (about 3-4 lbs), quartered (I prefer a regular chicken to a fowl); rinsed
•1 large carrot, peeled and cup up
•1 large onion, peeled and cup up
•1 stalk celery
•1 leek, white and light green parts only; washed well
•1 parsnip, peeled and cut up
•1 parsley root, with greens attached
•1 sweet potato, peeled
•a handful of dill (about 3-4 stems)
•1 small rutabaga, peeled and cut up
•a few sprigs of cilantro (optional)
•Salt and pepper to taste

•Put chicken broth in pot; bring to boil.
•Add chicken. Return to boil; lower heat.
•Gently simmer uncovered for 1 hour.
•Add the rest of the ingredients. Simmer for one-half hour more; stir occasionally.
•Skim fat from top.
•Pour into bowls; into each add a slice of carrot and a sprig of cilantro.
•If storing, let soup cool before refrigerating. When cold, remove the fat that rises to the surface. Use soup within 2-3 days, or store in freezer.

Vietnamese Chicken Soup

•2 tbsp tamarind powder (optional)
•1/4 cup thinly sliced shallots
•1 tbsp oil
•1/2 tsp minced garlic
•1/2 tsp Asian chili paste or hot chili flakes
•5 cups fat-skimmed chicken broth
•1 lb chicken (or fish/shrimp)
•1 cup pineapple chunks
•2 tbsp Asian fish saucs (nuoc mam)
•3 tbsp sugar
•1/4 cup lime juice (6 tbsp if you don't use tamarind powder)
•2 tomatoes (6 oz. total) rinsed and cut into 1/2 inch wedges
•2 celery stalks or taro steam (sliced)
•2 cups (6 oz.) bean sprouts, rinsed and drained
•2 tbsp chopped fresh basil leaves
•2 tbsp chopped rice-paddy herb (ngo om) or fresh cilantro
•2 tsp finely chopped fresh chilies or chili garlic sauce

•In a 5 to 6 quart pan over medium heat, stir shallots with oil until golden brown and crisp.
•Add garlic, chicken, and fish sauce to pan and stir until garlic is fragrant.
•Add broth, tamarind powder, sugar and bring to a boil over high heat.
•Add pineapple, tomatoes, and celery or taro steam.
•Cook uncovered just until chicken is cooked and simmered, 5-6 minutes.
•Add bean sprouts into hot broth.
•Ladle soup mixture into bowls and sprinkle with fried shallots, cilantro, basil, rice-paddy herb (ngo om) and chopped green onions. Add chilies to taste.

For more information on the therapeutic properties of chicken soup, go to

Check out this SlideShare Presentation:

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

A Sentimental Journey

"Hats off! Here they come, those beautiful girls. That's what you've been waiting for. Nature never fashioned a flower so fair. No rose can compare; nothing respectable, half so delectable. Cheer them in their glory, diamonds and pearls, dazzling jewels by the score. This is what beauty can be. Beauty celestial, the best, you'll agree: all for you, these beautiful girls!"

So begins Follies, a musical by Stephen Sondheim about showgirls and their families visiting the theater they used to perform in one more time before it is demolished. Sondheim is considered one of the best song writers/composers in the business, and this was the first time he had written both the lyrics and music for a show (having written the lyrics for West Side Story and Gypsy, among others). Over the years Follies has left critics divided, the harsher critics saying the piece is a large spectacle of songs over a non-existent plot, while more favorable critics point out that Follies is more a retrospective on the history of musical theater itself. Either way, Follies has enjoyed several revivals since its 1971 Broadway debut, and has many songs that are now standards including "Broadway Baby", "I'm Still Here, and "Loosing My Mind".

This week, our LIFE class got to enjoy a trimmed-down performance of Follies given by our Academy of Lifelong Learning: Acting for Seniors troupe. Professor Ron Jones directed these burgeoning thespians though brief but bright performances of the shows main musical numbers. The house was packed for both performances, and after the applause, we can only say "Bravo!"

And what are we to think as we go home? What is the takeaway from the night's performance? The meaning of the story is always up to the viewer, and critics are perpetually torn on the issue. I like to think we should all "Learn how to laugh. Learn how to love. Learn how to live." That's my tip. Good night folks!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Gifts In A Jar

Seasons Greetings LIFEers! Just in time for the holidays, Librarian Patsy Brautigam joined us to share her ideas for gifts in a jar. Easy, fun, inexpensive and homemade; these gifts in a jar make great gift ideas for any time of year. This project does require an investment of time to assemble the jars, so it is best to make several jars at a time.

Jars: you can go to any craft store and buy mason jars and lids, or you can use leftover (and washed) spaghetti sauce jars. Be mindful: the recipes in this blog call for 1 quart jars, and sauce jars are usually larger. You'll need to do your math to convert the recipes.

Decorating Jars: you can let the beautiful filling be the decoration, or you can paint your jars. If you paint the jars, be sure to use latex paint. Paint only the outside, especially if the contents are for consumption. You can cut decorative cloth circles to fit between the parts of the lid, and tie it off with ribbon or raffia. You can also cut out little notes to attach to the jar with the cooking instructions, if the contents are food.

Filling Jars: make sure your jar is packed tight. Once the jars are filled, tap jar on a counter top several times to settle the contents. Then fill any extra space with wadded wax paper. The lid fabric will hide the paper.

Fun Stuff: get creative! Instead of a jar, use a tulip-style ice-cream sundae glass for bath beads or bath salts, top off with a loofah and a red bath bead to look like an ice-cream sundae. See photo below.

Jar Contents/Recipes: see the slide show below for the recipes we discussed in class!