Soup's On! Host a Party to Help the Hungry
Looking for a new way to celebrate the holiday season of bounty? Beat your friends to the punch bowl by hosting a simple Soup’s On party that also serves your community. Not only is it an easy way to fellowship with people you love, but it also provides a fun, festive opportunity to help others through a food drive.
The theme of the party is, of course, soup. Cook several kettles of your favorite soups and invite friends and family to join you for a cozy supper with the stipulation that each guest brings at least one can of soup to donate to a local food pantry. A menu item that easily crosses cultural lines (think gazpacho, borscht, chowder, consommé), soup is simple to prepare in advance and doesn’t need a lot of fuss at serving time. It is the perfect help-yourself-to-seconds dish. Likewise, as a food pantry donation item, the canned variety proves to be a meal in itself and doesn’t require much kitchen equipment for preparation. Here are a few simple tips for a successful soup party:
Make it festive. Spend an evening with your family creating a guest list and making creative invitations. Simple paper cutouts are easy to assemble. Consider a soup bowl shape with alphabet “noodles” spelling out the details of your party. Mimic Andy Warhol and make your own reproduction of the Campbell’s soup can. Use your imaginations to brainstorm some fun ideas. Be sure to include on your invitation the particulars of the party as well as an explanation of the food drive aspect.
Decorate the house. Twinkling lights, fragrant candles and soft music warm up a cool, dark night. Consider crafting paper bag luminaries to line the walkway to your home.
Prepare for donations. Contact your local food pantry to determine its requirements; many prefer not to receive glass containers. Gather sturdy cardboard boxes to place near your front door on the night of the party. Some food banks will even provide cartons for this purpose. Find out ahead of time where you can deliver your donation the day after your party.
Gather your party goods. Whether china or sturdy disposable, make sure you have enough bowls, cups, spoons and napkins for your crowd. Consider having extras, especially if you will be serving more than one kind of soup. The goal of this party is good food, great fellowship and generosity, so don’t get too distracted by elaborate details. Disposable serving ware will add to your sense of peace, lighten your work load, and help you enjoy your party.
Plan your menu. Select two or three of your favorite soups, varying the styles to accommodate the differing tastes of your guests. Consider stews, chilis, chowders, minestrone, cream, noodle or vegetarian soups. Don’t forget to include a simple beverage bar, good bread and butter as an accompaniment, and a supply of cookies for an easy dessert.
Make it fun. Consider setting up a craft table for the kids. Pull out a stack of games so groups can form to play and visit as dinner winds down.
Follow up. After the party, work with your kids to prepare thank-you notes for your friends, expressing gratitude for their partnering with you in this act of service. Include a count of how much food was collected and where it was delivered.
Include your kids. The more your children are involved in this project, the more likely they are to cultivate appreciation for what they have and compassion towards those who have less. Your cheerfulness and enjoyment of the experience will send the message that serving others is a good thing, not a chore. Not only will you bless those who are less fortunate, but your own family also will benefit from this project, which just might become an annual event.
Jessica Fisher is a busy mother of six children who lives in a suburb of Kansas City.
The Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina (www.foodbankcenc.org) provides food to people at risk of hunger in 34 counties, including those in the Triangle. The primary facility is at 3808 Tarheel Dr., Raleigh; 919-875-0707. The Durham branch, which includes service to Chatham, Durham and Orange counties, is at 708 Gilbert St., Durham; 919-956-2513.
To take donations from your soup drive to a Food Bank partner agency, such as a food pantry, soup kitchen or rescue mission, go to http://content.foodbank. cenc.org/about/zip.asp to find a location near you.
1 pound ground beef or turkey, browned and drained
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 can hominy, drained
1 can kidney beans, drained
1 can pinto beans, drained
2 cans black beans, drained
1 cup red enchilada sauce
1 to 2 cups water (depending on how thick you like your soup)
1 tablespoon oregano
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1 teaspoon garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste
Toppings: salsa, grated cheese, sour cream, tortilla chips
Combine all ingredients in a slow cooker. Cook for at least four hours on high. Serve with toppings.
Cheddar Cheese Soup
1 cup butter, divided usage
2 1/4 cups finely chopped vegetables (choose at least three of the following: celery, onion,carrot, potatoes, broccoli, red bell pepper, zucchini)
3 cups chicken broth
1 cup flour
6 cups milk
1 pound cheddar cheese, shredded
In a large soup pot, melt 1/2 cup butter over medium heat. Stir in vegetables and cook until tender. Add chicken broth and heat to boiling. Cover and simmer on low heat for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, in a separate pot, melt remaining 1/2 cup butter. When the butter bubbles, whisk in flour and cook until bubbly. Remove from heat. Gradually whisk in milk until well blended. Return to stove and cook over medium heat, stirring often, until thickened. Do not boil. Stir in cheese until it is fully incorporated. Stir cheese mixture into chicken broth-vegetable mixture until well blended.