LAKE CITY – A savory, satisfying, nutritious bowl of soup can do more than just accompany a meal; it can be the meal. Jim Bruce, of Lake City, enjoys preparing big batches of this ultimate comfort food while stretching his grocery dollars as far as possible.
“I’ve always enjoyed cooking, and I like finding ways to make meals more affordable,” said Bruce, 76, a retired English and speech teacher who also worked in association management and medical administration during his career. “Dishes like chicken and noodles, and chicken noodle soup, are filling and are some of the cheapest meals to prepare, too.”
After this Lake City native moved backed to his hometown in 2007, he began volunteering at the Woodlawn Christian Church’s fall and winter soup suppers in Lake City.
He said he’s prepared countless batches of homemade noodles, which are used to make chicken noodle soup.
“The soup suppers started years ago as a fundraiser,” Bruce said, “but they’ve evolved into an outreach that allows us to work together as a church family and help familiarize people with our church.”
Bruce said he enjoys preparing meals (including casseroles, soup and salad) for his friends who gather for Sunday evening Bible study at the church.
With all his cooking, Bruce looks for ways to streamline the process. It’s a natural outgrowth of his early jobs, which included working at a cafe in Lake City during his high school years and working as a fry cook at Buena Vista’s snack bar during his college years.
He relies on pantry staples, including pasta, rice, cream of celery soup, cream of chicken soup, frozen vegetables, garlic, onions, celery, onion salt or onion powder and other spices.
“When you have these items on hand, it’s simple to prepare fast, easy meals,” said Bruce, who serves on the board of Central School Preservation in Lake City
“If you want to make a casserole, for example, just add some tuna or chicken to the noodles, cream soup, onions and spices.”
Magazines such as Taste of Home, favorite cookbooks and online recipe searches offer new inspiration for Bruce’s culinary creativity.
“When I find two or three similar recipes, I take the elements I like and create my own recipes.”
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups to 2 cups flour
Beat eggs with 1 teaspoon of salt. Add flour to make a stiff dough. Let dough rest for 10 to 15 minutes. (This will make the dough easier to roll out.)
Roll out dough so it’s thin. (It should make a circle about 12 to 18 inches in diameter.)
If dough sticks to the counter or the rolling pin, add more flour below and on top of the dough.
You should be able to flip the dough on the counter while rolling it.
Allow noodles to dry on the counter for an hour or two, turning the dough over a couple of times.
Cut dough into noodles. Remember that noodles will swell to almost twice their cut size during cooking.
Cut into 1-inch lengths about 1/8 inch or less wide.
Toss (sprinkle with a little flour, if necessary) and allow to dry for another hour or two. Noodles can be frozen until you’re ready to use them.
Chicken noodle soup
(This recipe offers a large quantity for an 18-quart
Noodles (see recipe above)
2 whole chickens
1 bunch celery
2 pounds carrots
2 pounds onions
1/2 head of garlic
1/4 cup parsley
1/2 jar chicken base
Boil chickens. Remove bones and dice the meat. Cook vegetables in broth.
Add noodles two hours before serving.
Add chicken about
an hour before serving. Make broth with chicken base to fill roaster.
Additional broth may be added in case soup gets thick while serving.
(For extra flavor, cooks can add diced celery, to taste, and a bay leaf that is removed defore serving this stew, Bruce said.)
2 pounds stew meat, cut into small cubes (arm roasts and rump roasts work well)
1 small onion, chopped
4 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
1 teaspoon salt
1 pound carrots, chopped
46 ounces tomato juice
3 tablespoons quick tapioca
2 tablespoons brown sugar
Combine all ingredients in a roaster or large baking dish.
Cover and bake for 6 hours at 250 degrees (this works best with cheaper, tougher cuts of meat), or 3 hours at 350 degrees.
Barbecue pork sandwiches
1 pork shoulder roast
2 liters root beer
Put meat in slow cooker, and cover meat halfway with root beer.
Cook on low for 6 to 7 hours.
Shred meat and serve with a favorite barbecue sauce.