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Notes from a Western Life
Ranging Far and Wide on the High Plains and Beyond
Linda M. Hasselstrom's Blog

Janet Lembke: Leaving Us Wanting More

Janet Lembke's "Soup's On!"
Published 2001 by The Lyon's Press.

When my Christmas card came back the other day, I feared the worst and found it was true: My friend Janet Lembke, the author of 20 books, a friend and chicken enthusiast, died in September. She was working on her memoir, "I Married An Arsonist"-- I was really looking forward to reading that.

Among her many books, I particularly enjoyed Because the Cat Purrs: How We Relate to Other Species and Why it Matters; Touching Earth: Reflections on the Restorative Power of Gardening; and The Quality of Life: Living Well, Dying Well.

I contributed a recipe to her collection Soup’s On: Sixty Hearty Soups You Can Stand Your Spoon In. This was one of those publishing stories: the book was published, and then because someone at the publishing house saw a competing book by a better-known author, the ENTIRE PRINTING was shredded. Janet later was able to get the book republished-- but I have one of the few copies of the original printing that she was able to get before it was destroyed. Lesson 9,999,999 in the strange world of publishing.

Besides the luscious soups, the book contains my favorite cheese bread recipe-- much better than Red Lobster’s.

Cheese Bread

2/3 Cup water
½ Cup butter, cut into pieces (not bad with Smart Balance)
2/3 Cup flour
¼ tsp salt
3 large eggs
½ Cup Swiss cheese, shredded (I use cheddar)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Bring the water and butter to a rolling boil in a medium saucepan. Remove from heat and immediately add flour and salt. Beat with a wooden spoon until blended. Return to the heat and beat vigorously until the dough balls up and leaves the sides of the pan, about 1 minute. Reduce the heat to low and cook for 5 minutes.

Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until the batter is glossy. Blend in the cheese thoroughly.

Dampen a shallow baking pan or cookie sheet with cold water. Drop dough in large dollops onto the pan to form a ring, with the sides of the dollops touching.

Bake for 30 minutes, until puffed and golden brown. Remove from the oven and loosen immediately from the pan with a spatula. The cheese bread will stick a little.

Serves 6. Or maybe only two if you can’t stop yourself.

Janet said she got this recipe from her daughter Elizabeth.

* * *

Here is my recipe used in Janet Lembke's book:

Jerry and Linda’s Lucky 13-Bean Soup Mix

My partner, Jerry Ellerman, and I developed this recipe some years ago as a Christmas gift. For each recipient, we packaged all the beans and spices in a single quart jar, and tied a tiny bottle of Tabasco sauce in the bow.

Black-eyed peas, green and yellow split peas, lentils, pearl barley, bulgur, and the following beans: black, anasazi, baby lima, red, navy, pinto, and garbanzo.

1 bay leaf
1 chopped onion (or 1 Tblsp onion flakes)
1-2 garlic cloves (or 1 tsp garlic powder)
1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp savory
1/2 tsp dry mustard
1/2 tsp dry basil
peel from 1/2 lemon, or 1/8 tsp lemon peel

To Make the Soup:
Use any combination of beans available. Dump beans into colander and wash. Cover with water and soak overnight. (Or see Options, below)

Pour one glass of your favorite wine or beer. Sip slowly as you follow these instructions.

Drain water and discard. Cover with 2 quarts water and simmer slowly until tender.

Add spices provided, and choose from the optional stuff listed below. The bay leaf will keep the beans free from crawlies for at least a year. Toss it in the pot too. But don't eat it. Bay is good luck as seasoning, very bad luck if eaten.

Simmer another 20-45 minutes. Serve with french bread, crackers, and a green salad. Sprinkle with Tabasco sauce to taste. Or shred cheese on top.

To skip soaking the beans overnight, simmer them slowly for two hours. Or, if it's too late, put beans in a large casserole with 3 cups cold water. Cover with lid or vented plastic wrap. Microwave on High 10 min., or until boiling. Stir. Microwave on high another two minutes, covered. Let stand covered for an hour.

Add red peppers, salt and pepper to taste, along with tabasco sauce.

For a thicker soup, mash or puree some of the beans and return to soup.

Add almost any meat, including sausage, hot dogs (bleah!), leftover meats, bacon, or ham. Add ham bones, or, to avoid having to remove them later, boil ham bones and scraps and add the water (stock) to beans as part of the 2 quarts, above.

Add a can of tomatoes, tomato paste or sauce, or leftover vegetables.

Add 1-2 Tablespoons of chili powder, cumin, oregano, or other spice.

Add a handful or two of pasta 10 minutes before serving. Dump in some of whatever you're drinking, unless it's milk.

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For more information:

Janet Lembke's official website

Janet Lembke's GoodReads author book list

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