Mr. Putter & Tabby and Henry & Mudge: Chicken Soup

Books: 
Mr. Putter & Tabby Catch the Cold  by Cynthia Rylant; illustrated by Arthur Howard
2002, Harcourt, Inc.
Henry and Mudge get the Cold Shivers by Cynthia Rylant; illustrated by Suçie Stevenson
1989, The Trumpet Club

We're back!
We’re back!

Well, here we are again!  I’m very sorry for the big gap in posts.  I was so busy and tired that I just couldn’t keep up.  However, I’ve since changed jobs and have much more time and energy.  And I have a lot to catch up on!
Being so tired and stressed took a big toll on me, and I spent a long time being pretty sick.  But this time of year many of us suffer from that one cold that goes around and gets everyone (especially if you have/work with kids).  So I thought we’d start with a couple of books by Cynthia Rylant for sick days.
Mr. Putter & Tabby Catch the Cold is part of the Mr. Putter & Tabby series.  Mr Putter is an older gentleman who lives with his cat, Tabby.  It would be suitable for kids of any age, but it would be good for those who are just starting to read chapter books, as it has four short, easy chapters and fairly simple text.
mptccIt takes place during Winter.  Mr Putter and Tabby love the snow and they love being cozy.  They really know what to do on a snowy day: make tea and muffins, light the fire and watch the snow fall.  Perfect!
mptcc2But then Mr Putter catches a cold by going out to get the newspaper funnies without a hat.
mptcc3When Mr Putter was a child, colds were fun.  His mother brought him soup and tea and adventure books.  But the plight of a grownup with a cold is different.  You have nobody to look after you (and usually you have to take a lot of cold medicine and go to work…yuck).  You can’t lie in bed with toys, soup, tea, and The Call of the Wild.
The rest of the story is about how Mr Putter’s neighbor, Mrs Teaberry, and her dog Zeke, help Mr Putter to get his soup, tea, and adventure book.  Zeke brings Mr Putter a Thermos of chicken soup, and another with peppermint tea and honey sticks.


Mr Putter ends up having a great day, and goes to sleep “full of soup and tea and adventure”.
This book is a good read for a wintry day.  The illustrations are fluid and charming.  Sadly, we have not got a single flake of snow here this year, and I enjoyed looking at the pictures of the snow.  If you are lucky enough to have snow, and have some time off, then light the fire, make some soup, muffins, and tea, get cozy, and watch the flakes fall.  Still, even if we can’t spend the day in bed, minty tea and adventure books are something almost any of us can enjoy, at home or even during lunch at work.
mptcc5Another book by the same author on a similar theme is Henry and Mudge get the Cold Shivers: The Seventh Book of Their Adventures.  Instead of a man and his cat, this series is about a boy and his dog.  It has three short chapters and is similar in style and tone.
hmcsHenry’s big dog Mudge likes it when Henry has a sick day and gets to stay home in bed.  Nobody thinks Mudge can get sick, but one day he does, and he has to go to the vet.  Henry is worried about Mudge, and the pages where he is sitting in the waiting room are actually quite sad.


It turns out that Mudge just has a cold, and the previous description of Henry’s sick days (Popsicles, comic books, and crackers) are contrasted with Mudge’s (ice cubes, a rubber hamburger, and crackers).  Of course Mudge gets well and there is a happy ending.
hmcs4This is a fun book which actually does address how scared kids can be when their pet is ill.  Having read this to a bunch of six year olds, they really liked it, particularly Mudge himself.  The only food in the book is the Popsicles and crackers.  I never had Popsicles when sick as a child, but I did have crackers in my soup.  So here is my family’s recipe for classic chicken soup.
chickensoup1
Chicken Soup

Ingredients
1 chicken (preferably free-range or pastured), giblets removed
2 stalks celery
3 carrots
Method
Put a big pot of water on the stove on high heat.  You could cut up the chicken here, but I never bother.  A 3 lb/1kg-ish chicken fits right in my big pot.  The water does not need to fill the pot, it just needs to cover the chicken.   Bring to boil and then reduce heat to simmer. As the chicken simmers, ‘scum’ will rise to the top. Get a big spoon and skim it off.  This is mostly cosmetic, so I often don’t bother with this either.  If you want a clear broth, you can always strain it later.  Cut up carrots and celery into vaguely 1 inch pieces and add them to the pot.  Cook, simmering, for about 1 to 2 hours, covered, or mostly covered. When the soup is done cooking, take the chicken out of the soup, cool chicken on a plate, then separate chicken meat from bones and skin. Put meat back into soup. Season to taste with salt.  You can re-use the chicken bones by putting them in a crockpot with more water to make bone broth.
This soup should be a mild broth.  It’s full of goodness and vitamins and will definitely make you feel better!  You could add cooked rice or noodles, or have it with crackers.

Of course, if you are sick, and like Mr Putter have nobody to cook for you, soup from scratch might be too much work:

Lazy Chicken Soup
Method
Prepare chicken and vegetables as above, put them in a crockpot with a little water, set to low, and go back to it in eight hours!  Dilute the broth with water and serve as above.

Extra Lazy Chicken Soup
Method
Use bought chicken broth and chicken.  Whatever, you’re not feeling well!

chickensoup

Put on your flannel pajamas, crawl into bed with some comic books, and get some rest!

Advertisements

Squashed Part 1: Spiced Maple Apple Cider

Books:
Squashed by Joan Bauer
1996, Orion Children’s Books
A Time to Keep by Tasha Tudor
1977, Rand McNally & Company

autumnleavesHappy Autumn!   I’m sorry it’s been such a long time since my last post!  I recently got a new job which is keeping me terribly busy and tired.  Too tired to really enjoy many of the delights of my favorite time of year.  But just because I can’t do everything I want to this Fall, it doesn’t mean I can’t do the most important things.

apple tree 2squashedUndoubtably my most reread book of all time is Squashed by Joan Bauer.  I read it every October.   This is obviously a book for somewhat older children and teens.  It deals with a lot of the issues of young adulthood, but in a very lighthearted and humorous way.  The protagonist is Ellie Morgan, a 16-year-old girl in a small town in Iowa, whose dream is to grow a giant pumpkin big enough to win first prize at her local fair.  Along the way she has to deal with a father who doesn’t understand her ambition, her struggle with her weight, the death of her mother, pumpkin thieves, and competition with her rival giant pumpkin grower, the “deeply despicable” Cyril Pool.  It’s nice to have a well-written female protagonist with such a specific and unusual passion as pumpkin growing.

sqashed2

The novel begins in August, with forty-six days to go until the annual Rock River Pumpkin Weigh-In and Harvest Fair.  I’m not sure how accurate the descriptions of giant pumpkin growing are (do people really feed their squash buttermilk?), but the writing is incredibly engaging and funny, particularly when Ellie is talking about her pumpkin, Max:

Noble Max, whose ancestors sustained the Pilgrims through their first winter in America.
That first winter must have been a bust, and you can bet the pumpkins weren’t appreciated right off.  Vegetables never are.  The Pilgrim children were probably crabbing by December (‘Oh no, pumpkin again!’), never realizing a pumpkin had all those disease-fighting nutrients and was a key dietary staple since it was too big to be lugged off the settlement by wild, rabid bears.  It just goes to show you that even ancient people couldn’t appreciate something right under their noses, which is probably why the Pilgrims went extinct.  There’s a lesson here for all of us, especially my father.
(p.15)

Ellie is also a great cook, and there are lots of descriptions of food to choose from: Irish soda bread slathered in plum preserves, butter pecan seven-layer cake, baking powder cheese biscuits, split pea soup with sausage, and sautéed cinnamon apples.

However, since this last weekend was our local Apple Day,  I’ve got a big thermos full of fresh apple cider to use up: the ultimate October treat.  Cider is always a sensitive subject for me, since here in the UK you cannot find cider in the American sense.  “Cider” is alcoholic cider.  They have imported the Pumpkin Spice Latte, but not the Caramel Apple Spice…and I don’t like coffee!  Misery!

ciderThe good news is that if you can get yourself to an Apple Day there will no doubt be someone with an apple press squeezing out delicious, unpasteurized, unfiltered apple cider.  I usually wait a day for it to ferment just a little, and then it’s time to enjoy it — hot, cold, mulled.

apple day

spices
Spiced Maple Apple Cider

Ingredients
Spices to taste: cloves, nutmeg, allspice, star anise, ginger, cardamom
Cinnamon stick
1/2 cup extra-thick or whipped cream (optional)
2 pints fresh apple cider (or cloudy apple juice if you can’t find it)
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup maple syrup

Method
Pour the syrup into a medium hot pan with a dash of water.  Add the vanilla.  If your spices are whole, crush them slightly with a pestle or something heavy.  You can add them to the pan as they are, or put them in a tea ball and then add.  Finally, pour in the cider and bring to a simmer.  Strain into a jar.  If your spices are in a tea ball you can continue to steep them.  When cool enough to drink, top with whipped cream if desired.

DSCF2051Enjoy hot in the most cozy fashion you can manage! 
shopping apples
This October, see if you can find an Apple Day, visit an orchard or a PYO farm, or go scrumping for wild apples!

A Time to Keep‘s October section shows how little the wholesome activity of cider-making has changed:

ttkmaking cider

apple treeTo add to the coziness, my husband made a split pea soup.  Not with sausage, like Ellie’s, but still warming and hearty.  He used this recipe, from a book we got last Christmas:

ttkapplebobbing
Looking forward to Hallowe’en! Who has a costume picked out?