Home » Holidays » The Twelve Days of Christmas

The Twelve Days of Christmas

By TOS Staff Members

The sights and sounds of Christmas can create memories that endure for many years or even decades. The activities you enjoy with your family this Christmas could be the memories your children recall when they have families of their own.

Some of the best memories revolve around the traditional foods of Christmas. These vary by family and by geographical areas within our own vast country and beyond. We asked twelve staff members to share their favorite holiday bread and soup recipes, and we are so pleased to share those with you. You just might find a new holiday tradition for your own family in the following pages, and the aroma of your new tradition just might be the trigger of delightful holiday memories for generations to come. Welcome to The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine’s annual “Twelve Days of Christmas”!

New England Clam Chowder & Orange-Cranberry Bread
By Andrea Newitt, Editorial Manager

My husband brought into our marriage a tradition of eating clam chowder and biscuits on Christmas Eve. Because biscuits sounded a bit too heavy to accompany creamy clam chowder, I’ve tried a number of breads over the years, both homemade and store-bought. Last year, I settled on cranberry bread, and I think we might have finally found a new tradition.

New England Clam Chowder

2 10-oz. cans baby clams
3 bottles clam juice
4 oz. bacon, chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
¼ cup whole wheat pastry flour
5 medium red potatoes, cut into ¾” cubes
2 bay leaves
¼ teaspoon dried thyme
1 cup milk
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Drain the clams and reserve the liquid; add the bottled clam juice, reserved liquid, and enough water to make 5 cups.

Cook the bacon in a large pot over medium heat until it just begins to get crispy, about 5 minutes; add the onions and cook about 5 minutes more, until the onion is soft and the bacon is crisp.

Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, 15–30 seconds; stir in the flour; gradually whisk in the 5 cups of clam liquid; stir in the potatoes, bay leaves, and thyme. Bring to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes. Stir in the clams and milk; briefly return to a simmer; remove from the heat.
Discard the bay leaves and season with salt and pepper.

Orange-Cranberry Bread

1 cup fresh cranberries, chopped (or substitute 1 cup whole, dried cranberries)
1 tablespoon orange zest
½ cup fresh orange juice
2 tablespoons butter, melted
Hot water
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
1½ teaspoons aluminum-free baking powder
½ teaspoons sea salt
½ cup brown sugar
1 egg

Adjust the oven rack to the middle position; preheat the oven to 325 degrees; grease a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan.

Coarsely chop the cranberries in a food processor.

Combine the orange juice, melted butter, and enough hot water to make ¾ cup; mix in the egg.

Whisk the flour, soda, powder, salt, and brown sugar together in a separate bowl; add the cranberries and orange zest.

Gently stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until just moistened; do not overmix. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 1 hour. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes; then place the bread on a wire rack to cool, preferably for 1 hour.

Andrea is the Editorial Manager for TOS. She has been homeschooling her three children since 1999 with the encouragement and support of her husband Mark. Their two oldest children have graduated high school and are on their way to college! In addition to working with her TOS “office mates,” Andrea enjoys reading, swimming, and bicycling. Visit LighthouseAcademy.blogtownhall.com for more information on the resources she has used over the years as a classical homeschooler with a Charlotte Mason style.


Cheddar-Broccoli Soup & Apple Bread
By Betsy Chastain, Assistant to the Director of Marketing

I was given this recipe at the Smoky Mountain Christian Women’s Getaway, a gathering of various local churches at Smoky Mountain Christian Camp in Coker Creek, Tennessee. The Getaway is an annual fall event and it’s such a great time to get to know some of your sisters in Christ from other congregations. The weekend is always peaceful, relaxing, and full of good food and great fellowship.

This recipe is one of my family’s absolute favorites. It’s so easy to make and is totally delicious.

Cheddar-Broccoli Soup

8 cups of water
8 cubes of chicken bouillon
4 cans (10¾ oz.) cream of chicken soup
1-lb. package frozen, shredded hash browns

2-lb. package frozen broccoli
2-lb package Velveeta cheese, cubed

Boil water and bouillon in large pot. Turn heat to medium and add soup, broccoli, and hash browns. Heat until warm.

Turn heat down to simmer and add cubed cheese. Cook slowly until the cheese melts and stir often, as the melting cheese tends to stick to the bottom of the pan. Makes about 12 servings.

Apple Bread

This recipe was originally given to me by my very good friend, Lori, whom I’ve known since our children went to co-op together as preschoolers—over twenty-five years ago. I’ve tweaked it here and there to suit our family’s tastes. Although we’ve used this recipe for many years, it holds very special meaning to my family and me from our time spent as missionaries in Honduras. During that time, we lived about 45 km outside of the city where we went to church on Sundays. If we could find apples (an import in a tropical country!), then we would make this delicious Apple Bread to eat as our breakfast on the long drive into town on Sunday mornings. What a delightful way to start the day!

3 eggs
12/3 cup sugar
¾ cup oil
2 cups diced apples
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly grease two loaf pans. Beat eggs. Stir in sugar and oil.

Add diced apples* and vanilla. Gradually add flour, baking soda, and salt.

Bake for 50 minutes. Immediately remove from pans and let cool.

*I microwave the diced apples for 5 minutes and mash them like applesauce before using. It makes the bread have more apple flavor throughout.

Betsy, and her husband Tyson have been blessed with the task of raising three gentlemen for the army of the Lord: Drew (28), Skyler (17), and Briscoe (14). They, and the two young men still at home, live at Johnson Bible College in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains and have been homeschooling since 1995. Visit Betsy’s personal blog at HomeschoolerBlogger.com/SweetHomeTennessee. She also keeps up a blog for those homeschooling in Tennessee at HomeschoolBlogger.com/Tennessee/105764/.


Vegetable Cheese Chowder & Bread Bowls
By Brenda Emmett, Special Projects Marketing Assistant

Each holiday season, our extended family gathers to go and see the Christmas lights together. We enjoy seeing the sights of the season, as well as the time we get to spend together. It is a tradition we have grown to love. Of course, no family gathering would be complete without a special meal. It is our tradition to make this Vegetable Cheese Chowder and serve it in bread bowls before we go out into the chilly air on our adventure. It helps to keep our tummies toasty warm and full.

Vegetable Cheese Chowder

3 cups chicken Broth
1 cup chopped potato
½ cup chopped celery
½ cup chopped carrot
½ cup chopped onion
½ cup chopped green pepper
¼ cup butter
2 cups milk
½ cup flour
12 oz. shredded cheese or a jar of Cheez Whiz
Salt to taste
Black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon chopped parsley

Heat broth. Add vegetables. Cover and cook in crock-pot or slow cooker for 1½ hours on high heat.

In small bowl, combine milk and flour. Add cheese and remaining ingredients. Stir until thickened. Hold at lower temperature until serving time.

Bread Bowls
2 tablespoons dry yeast
2 tablespoons sugar
3 cups warm water
1½ tablespoons olive oil
3 teaspoons sea salt
8 cups sifted flour
1 egg white, beaten

Sprinkle yeast in warm water with sugar. Let stand a few minutes and then add the sea salt and the olive oil.
Mix in flour. Beat in bread mixer (for 3 or 4 minutes). You can knead by hand, but you will need to do this for about 15 minutes or so. The dough should be firm but not stiff. Add a little more flour if necessary.
Divide dough into 6–8 equal sections. Shape into round loaves. Place on greased cookie sheets.
Let rise for 20 minutes.
Brush with beaten egg whites. Let rise for 10–15 minutes longer.
Bake at 350° or 375° for 30 minutes.
Let cool slightly. Cut off tops and scoop out middles to form bowl. Fill with desired soup. Enjoy!

Brenda Emmett lives with her husband, Gary, and their son, Chandler, in northwest Wyoming. When she isn’t busy working with the Homeschool Crew, she is busy homeschooling her son. You can find Brenda blogging about homeschooling and family life at her blog, Garden of Learning (MyHomeschoolGarden.com).


Chicken Tortilla Soup
By Cheryl Duran, Marketing Assistant

I slowly developed this recipe after a few visits to our favorite local Mexican restaurant. Each time we’d eat there, I would order the chicken tortilla soup and examine the contents carefully. After a few tries, I finally got it right. I keep gluten out of my diet so this is a gluten-free recipe as long as you use a gluten-free chicken broth. I also make a vegetarian version by leaving the chicken out and replacing the chicken broth with vegetable broth.

4 whole, boneless, skinless chicken breasts
8 cups chicken broth
4 cups water
4 tablespoons olive oil
1½ teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons chili powder
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon salt
2 cups diced onions
2 cups diced bell pepper
2 cups carrots, sliced
2 cups celery, sliced
4 zucchinis, sliced thick
1 10–oz. can Rotel mild, diced tomatoes and green chilies
10 corn tortillas, cut into 2-inch strips
1 cup cilantro leaves, taken off of stems
2 cups Monterey Jack cheese

Prepare tortilla strips ahead of time by slicing them up and spreading them out onto a cookie sheet covered with olive oil. Brush olive oil on top and sprinkle with salt to taste.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place chicken breasts in olive oil-coated roasting pan. Brush olive oil over chicken.

Sprinkle ½ teaspoon cumin, 1 teaspoon chili powder, and 1 teaspoon salt over the chicken. Roast for 30 minutes.

In a large saucepan, heat up 2 tablespoons olive oil with. Sauté diced onions, bell peppers, sliced zucchini, carrots, celery, along with minced garlic and 1 teaspoon salt, until carrots are half-cooked.

Take chicken out of the oven and cut it up into large, bite-sized pieces. Place tortilla strips (on cookie sheet) in oven for 20 minutes.

In a large soup pan, heat up the chicken broth, water, Rotel tomatoes, green chilies, 2 teaspoons salt, 1 teaspoon cumin, and 1 teaspoon chili powder. Once it starts to boil, add the chicken and vegetable ingredients from saucepan. Simmer for 20–30 minutes, or until carrots are cooked but not too soft. Add salt to taste.

Serve soup in bowl and sprinkle with a pinch of cilantro, tortilla strips, and Monterey Jack cheese.

Cheryl is a marketing assistant for TOS. She and her husband Gil live in southern California and have five children, aged 8–25. The whole family loves to gather in the kitchen to cook large meals together all year long.


Tomato Basil Bisque & Quick Sweet Basil Dinner Rolls
By Christi Gifford, Senior Marketing Graphics Designer

After going to Robert Irvine’s EAT! in Hilton Head, South Carolina and eating his tomato bisque, I was ruined! I would never be able to consume a canned tomato soup again. Our oldest son, Morgan, who wants to go to culinary school, was suddenly tasked with putting together a recipe for Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese Night. Morgan’s recipe is so quick and easy to make that it isn’t much more work than making the canned stuff, and it is way tastier!!

Tomato Basil Bisque

2 (28-oz.) tomato puree
1 (14.5-oz.) can chicken broth
Handful of fresh basil leaves, minced (approximately 20)
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup whipping cream
½ cup butter or margarine

In a Dutch oven, bring the tomato puree and broth to a boil. Reduce to low and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes.

Add basil and sugar. Stir in whipping cream and butter and continue to cook until the butter melts.

Quick Sweet Basil Dinner Rolls

Our dinner roll recipe is a quick and easy recipe that is most delicious! I’ve never been a fan of all the preparation that went into bread making. These little biscuit/muffin-like dinner rolls are wonderful by themselves or dipped in the tomato bisque, but our favorite way to eat them is dipped in the bisque!

2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon dried basil
6 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 cup milk
Butter (optional)

Preheat the oven to 450˚F. Grease muffin tin.

Mix flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Crush dried basil in the palm of the hand to bring out the flavor, and add to the flour mixture.

Whisk together milk and mayonnaise, and add to the dry mix. Mix together just until incorporated.

Fill muffin cups ½ full. Bake at 450˚F for 10 minutes or until golden.

Optional: Melt butter to brush over the top of rolls immediately after removing them from the oven.

Happily married to her husband, Lucky, for seventeen years, Christi Gifford makes her home in South Carolina. Together they have four beautiful children—Morgan, Codi, Jacob, and Emma. Christi is the Senior Graphic Designer for The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine; runs her graphic design business, Art Designs by Christi, and is co-owner of Egghead Academics, LLC.


Lentil Soup & Oatmeal-Potato Bread
By Heather Schwarzen, Contributing Author, The Curiosity Files™

This lentil soup came into Schwarzen family rotation during a period of very lean times. My husband and I were committed to my staying home with our children, but living on a single income of under $15,000 a year was requiring far more creativity than I’d been raised to expect on the homemaker front! In desperation, I branched out and started buying dried beans and rice. One day I happened to pick up a bag of lentils. I was unsure of what they were or what to do with them, but the 69 cents per pound price tag fit perfectly with our budget! I brought them home and looked long and hard for a recipe. A scaled-down version of the one below was the initial starting point—without the meat, mind you! It was such a hit that lentil soup became a mainstay on our menu. Now, thirteen years later, it’s still a recipe that I can count on to please the entire family . . . for pennies!

1 14-oz. bag dried lentils
¼ cup red onion, diced
1 16-oz. package of Hillshire Farm Smoked Sausage
4 teaspoons chicken buillion granules
3 large carrots
½ teaspoon garlic powder

Rinse and sort lentils. Fill large pot with 8–10 cups of water. Add bouillon and lentils; bring to a boil.

Add onion and garlic powder. Reduce heat and simmer for approximately 40 minutes.

Slice smoked sausages into quartered rounds and add. Dice carrots and add. Continue to simmer soup at least 30 additional minutes.

This is a soup that can be tinkered with and tailored to individual tastes. Try adding other vegetables or substituting veggie broth or even beef buillon . . . you really can’t go wrong!

Oatmeal-Potato Bread

1 medium russet potato, scrubbed and cut into chunks
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
1½ cups warm milk
1 tablespoon salt
1½ cups oats
5½–6 cups bread flour

Cover potato chunks with water in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cook until tender. Drain, reserving ½ cup of the liquid. Let the potato water cool. Meanwhile, peel the potato chunks and mash it and the butter until smooth—a blender or food processor works well. You’ll have about ¾–1 cup of puree.

Put the potato water in a small bowl. Sprinkle with yeast and a tiny pinch of sugar. Stir to dissolve and let stand until foamy.

In a large mixing bowl, using a whisk, combine the potato mash, yeast mixture, the remaining sugar, the warm milk, salt, oats, and 2 cups of flour. Beat hard to combine, about 1 minute. Add the remaining flour, ½ cup at a time, until the dough is “shaggy.”

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead until smooth.

Place in a greased, deep container. Turn to coat the top and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise about 1½ hours or until doubled in bulk.

Deflate the dough. Turn out onto a floured surface. Grease the loaf pans. Divide dough into two equal portions. Form into loaves, and put dough into pans. Cover and let rise for about 40 minutes.

About 20 minutes before baking, preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place loaf pans in oven and bake for ten minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees and continue baking for 35–40 minutes or until the loaves are browned and sound hollow when tapped. Cool completely before slicing. Makes two 9 x 5 loaves.

I am a 36-year-old, Christ-following, homeschooling wife who doesn’t fit under a single denominational umbrella. I’ve partnered with my husband in running a nonprofit missions organization that equips national pastors, as well as in raising our fabulous children. Some of our children have come to us through the blessing of birth and others through the blessing of adoption. Mary Hannah, Mathaus, Jack, Phineas, John Mark, and Phoebe Elisabeth are our homeschooled brood. We’re also adding to our family Babita Faith—a beautiful, 14-year-old Nepali girl who stole my husband’s heart. That makes seven kids and two very blessed parents. I blog under the pseudonym Mary Grace at BooksandBairns.blogspot.com.


Stuffed Pepper Soup & Skillet Cornbread
By Heidi Strawser, Special Projects Manager

Stuffed Pepper Soup

I grew up thinking that I hated soup. I’ve since discovered that all soup is not created equal; and what I really didn’t like was runny soup. Give me a bowl of nice, warm, thick soup on a cold day and I’m a happy girl!

I first ate Stuffed Pepper Soup at a local restaurant chain called Hoss’s Steak and Sea House. I fell in love! So, I was pleasantly surprised when an issue of Taste of Home magazine arrived in my mailbox just a few months later, and someone had written in requesting the recipe. I’ve been making this soup and sharing the recipe ever since.

2 (28-oz.) cans tomato sauce
1 (28-oz.) can diced tomatoes, undrained
2 cups cooked converted rice
2 cups chopped green pepper (or whatever color you have on hand—I use an assortment)
2 beef bouillon cubes
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
½ cup brown sugar (or more—I always use at least 1 full cup)
2 lbs. ground beef

In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, brown beef; drain. Add remaining ingredients; bring to a boil.

Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 30–40 minutes or until peppers are tender. (I’ve also made this in the crock-pot, cooking on high for 3–5 hours, and it works great.)

Skillet Cornbread

When I’m in a hurry or just have a craving for some cornbread, I often reach for a Betty Crocker mix. They’re yummy, and when I make it in a cast-iron skillet, I can imagine it’s “the real thing.” However, if I’m cooking to impress, I use this recipe (below) from my cousin. I think the skillet is the most important thing!

2 boxes Jiffy cornbread mix
1 container vanilla yogurt (6 or 8 oz.)
1 cup milk
2 eggs
1 stick butter

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In skillet (or 13 x 9-inch pan), melt butter (be careful not to burn!). Mix other ingredients by hand. Pour in pan and bake 15 to 20 minutes. Check toward end of baking.

Be sure not to undercook (it will be runny) or overcook (it will be dry). You don’t even need butter with this—it’s already buttered!

Heidi Strawser lives with her husband Brian and their three children in central Pennsylvania. During the winter months, when they aren’t busy homeschooling, Heidi’s family enjoys spending time together watching movies, playing games, and eating nice warm soup and bread. For Christmas dinner, though, they always eat Stromboli!


Chicken and Egg Noodle Soup & Banana-Pecan Nut Bread
By Jodi Holstead, TOS Special Projects Assistant and TOS Homeschool Crew Member

My family enjoys this soup on cool fall evenings or when one of us is not feeling well. The power of Chicken Noodle Soup has a good effect on all of us. I like to use boneless breasts in this recipe to save time, and yolk-free egg noodles make a healthier choice over the regular noodles. I also occasionally add in some canned or frozen veggies to add a little bit more vitamins and fiber to this soup. This soup recipe freezes well and makes enough to have plenty for leftovers. It goes well with crackers or a sandwich such as grilled cheese, on the side. This is a simple and easy recipe for those busy fall and winter evenings or to help make an ill child or spouse feel just a little bit better!

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
8 cups water
8 chicken bouillon cubes
4 cups yolk-free egg noodles
2 cups canned or frozen mixed vegetables

In a large stock pot, boil 8 cups of water. Add chicken breasts and simmer until fully cooked.

Once fully cooked, remove chicken from the pot, and allow it to cool. Using kitchen shears or a knife, slice the chicken breasts into smaller, bite-sized pieces.

Return chicken to pot and return to boil. Add 8 chicken bouillon cubes until dissolved. Add in vegetables and egg noodles. Cook until noodles are slightly tender, or desired consistency. Serve with crackers or sandwiches.

Serves 8–10.

Banana-Pecan Nut Bread

Baking with my children is one of my favorite activities, especially in the fall and winter. Something baking in the oven, filling up the house with sweet aromas, makes our home feel all warm and cozy, especially during the holidays. A favorite bread we enjoy baking and eating together is banana nut bread. We especially enjoy this bread with pecans mixed in. My husband is a Southerner, and pecans have become a staple in our home, especially around the holidays, which is when we do most of our baking during the year.

This is a simple and easy recipe for adults and children to make, using a one-bowl method. This recipe is simple enough for children to make on their own, with supervision.

3 ripe bananas
¾ cup sugar
51/3 tablespoons butter or margarine
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/8 tsp salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1½ cups all-purpose flour
1¼ cup chopped pecans (walnuts can be substituted in this recipe)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously grease bottom and sides of a loaf pan or 8 x 8 cake pan.

Mash bananas with a fork and set aside.

Place butter in a bowl and microwave for 30–60 seconds until completely melted. Pour melted butter into the banana mixture. Combine using a wooden spoon.

Add sugar, egg, and vanilla to the mixing bowl until well combined. Sprinkle the salt and baking soda over the mixture and mix well. Fold in one cup of nuts (reserving the ¼ cup for later) to the mixing bowl and combine well.

Pour batter into a greased loaf or cake pan, and sprinkle ¼ cup of remaining nuts on top. Bake for 1 hour, until knife inserted into the center comes clean.

Allow bread to cool completely. Invert pan over a plate, allowing bread to fall out, slice, and enjoy! Makes one loaf.

Jodi Holstead, TOS Special Projects Assistant and TOS Homeschool Crew Member, lives in New Jersey with her husband David and their three children: Miranda, David, and Marissa. She works on the production of The Schoolhouse Planners and the Curiosity Filesand is serving for a third year on the TOS Homeschool Crew. Jodi blogs at The Homeschool Desk (TheHomeschoolDesk.com). Her family has been homeschooling since 2005, and they enjoy spending the holidays together, baking cookies and treats to share with friends and family.


Roast Chicken & Garlic Chicken White Bean Pesto Soup
By Kate Kessler, Product Reviews Manager

I like meals that work for more than one day but aren’t the same meal two days in a row. This recipe certainly does that, has fantastic flavor, and is one of our family favorites.

Roast Chicken and Garlic Chicken White Bean Pesto Soup

Start with two whole chickens. Place them in a buttered baking dish (I use a 9 x 13 glass one), and generously sprinkle with salt and garlic powder (or granules). Place the chickens in a preheated 400-degree oven, uncovered, and bake for an hour or until done. Your home will smell heavenly!

Once the chickens are done, eat what you will for dinner, with a good salad and a veggie, and make sure you have at least 2 cups of chicken left over for tomorrow’s soup (or more—any amount over 2 cups is just fine), and make sure you keep the bones and any drippings remaining in the baking dish (for the broth you will make the next day). Place the leftover chicken in a resealable bag or other container and place in the refrigerator for tomorrow. You will not use these pieces to make the broth—it will change the flavor and texture of the chicken and make it watery. Watery chicken should be outlawed. Put the bones and drippings in a pan, cover and place in the fridge until morning.

If you are going to add beans that are not from a can to this recipe, now is the time to get them into the crock-pot or set to soaking on the cold stove overnight. I usually cook 2 to 3 cups of dried beans or 3–4 cans of well-rinsed white, navy, or other mild beans. Use the amount your family likes. We like a hearty soup with a lot of things in it, so we use more.

Day Two’s Recipe

If you have not cooked the beans overnight in the crockpot, but instead soaked them, now is the time to rinse the beans and then cook them on low on the stove until they are soft and edible. This will take anywhere from 1–2 hours, depending on your stove, the pot size, and how many beans you are cooking. If you are using canned beans, you don’t have to think about his step. I use my crock-pot overnight so that I don’t have to think about it.

Place both carcasses and all drippings inside a large pot. Cover the whole thing with water, but only about a half an inch over the top of the bones. It is very roughly 3 to 4 quarts of water. If that seems like too much in your pot, use less. I usually eyeball these things, depending on how big the bones are that I have. Salt your water with at least a teaspoon of salt, and add any cut up veggies you might like for flavor—onions and celery work well, but are not necessary. (I often just use the bones because I really like the flavor, but some people really like the veggies in it for flavor too.)

Let the bones simmer on low to medium heat for at least an hour. Taste at an hour and see if it tastes like a good chicken broth to you. Cook longer if it does not, but if it does, drain the broth from the bones (I usually have to pour them through a strainer into a large bowl), and then toss the bones into the trash. Pour the broth back into the pot and set aside. It is okay to leave this on the back of the stove until you are ready to add your veggies and beans to it.

This is the fun part. I do not ever simply toss veggies into the pot, because as good as the broth is, the broth dilutes the veggie flavor and it turns to mush. I prepare everything I am going to add to it and add it all at once about 20 minutes before we serve it. The flavors are fresh and so are the ingredients.

I like to add the following ingredients: 2 cut up onions, 20–30 cloves of garlic (or 3 bulbs) cut up, zucchini or crook-neck squash medium-sliced, and 3 tablespoons of real butter to sauté. Sauté these on medium heat until they are tender but not overcooked. Set these aside.

I make my own pesto because we grow a lot of basil, and it is always available for sale in the grocery store. You are not obligated to do the same and can buy ready-made pesto at the store if you wish. (I do recommend you make your own, because the flavor is unbeatable!) We do not make pesto with any nuts simply because that is the way I did it at first when we were young and had no money for pine nuts!

My recipe is simple: 1 large bunch of basil, 1 cup olive oil, 7–10 cloves of garlic, and 1 cup of Parmesan cheese. Blend all these well together in the food processor until smooth and delicious. Do not heat this up. This is the key ingredient to making this soup absolutely scrumptious, and if you leave it out, it will not be the same soup at all!

Once the veggies and pesto are done, I then scoop out the beans. Do not include their liquid. If you are using canned beans, make sure you rinse the beans well. Add these to the broth. Warm up both together until the broth is hot, but not boiling.

Add the sautéed veggies and the chicken, and then add the pesto. Let all these warm up together, but make sure they do not boil. You can also add spoonfuls of pesto to individual bowls directly if you don’t want to flavor the whole soup with the pesto. We have done this both ways, and both ways are great! My husband also likes to slather the pesto onto bread and dip it into the soup. The flavor combinations are incredible, and the garlic is a fantastic boost to your immune system.

We combine this with French bread or homemade whole wheat bread. I hope you enjoy it!

Kate Kessler and her delightful husband, Mark, an IT mastermind, enjoy their five splendid children. As a Classical/ Charlotte Mason homeschooler, she enjoys a varied curriculum, historical fiction, and the many discussions that come up as a result of learning together. She loves living under God’s grace and mercy through Christ. www.HomeschoolBlogger.com/UndertheSky.


Root Soup & Cheddar Dill Bread
By Michelle Tonnemacher, Graphic Artist

I created this recipe based on my need to introduce more vegetables into my family’s diet. It started with mixing parsnips with my mashed potatoes, then slowly adding rutabagas and turnips to the mixture. My mashed potatoes are always requested at potluck dinners. Little do they know that they’re not potatoes.

One cold winter day, I decided to use this same combination in a potato soup recipe, and it has progressed from there to what I now call Root Soup. For a complete meal, make sure you pair it with a hearty bread such as the Cheddar Dill Bread below.

Root Soup

This soup is so full of flavor that you do not need to add spices or herbs. It’s also jam-packed with nutrition. Root vegetables are rich in minerals and vitamins, low in calories, and high in fiber.

1 tablespoon butter
1 medium onion, chopped
1 leek, washed well and sliced
5 cups vegetable broth
1 rutabaga, peeled and cubed
1 turnip, peeled and cubed
1 parsnip, peeled and cubed
1 sweet potato, peeled and cubed
4 white potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 carrots, peeled and cubed
Salt and pepper to taste

In a soup pan, melt butter; add onion and leek. Cook until onion is translucent.

Pour broth into pan and add the rest of the ingredients. Bring to boil; turn down heat and simmer until vegetables are tender, about an hour. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with crackers, fresh baked bread, or topped with sour cream and cheddar cheese.


• To make the soup creamy, reduce the broth to 4 cups and add 1 cup of cream during the last 15 minutes of simmering.

• For added vegetable nutrition, clean, peel, and cube 1 fresh beet. Boil in saucepan until tender, drain, and add to soup near end of simmering time. (You can add the beet when you add the rest of the vegetables, but plan on your soup being purple.)

• If your family insists on meat, add 1 cup of cut up meat (chicken, ham, bacon, pulled pork) with the vegetables. I have often used leftover pulled pork roast, warmed up in a separate pan and then placed on top of the soup in the bowl, so that not everyone had to have meat in their soup.

Cheddar Dill Bread

1 cup Cheddar cheese
1 egg
1½ teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons butter
6 oz. lukewarm water
3¾ cup bread flour
1 teaspoon dried dill (or 2 teaspoons fresh dill)
2 tablespoons sugar
2¼ teaspoons yeast

Cream together cheese, egg, salt, butter and water. Add flour, dill, sugar, and yeast. Mix until dough is smooth and has elasticity. Let sit in warm place and let rise until double in size. Punch dough down and remove from bowl.

Place dough on floured countertop and knead several times (until your fingers feel stiff). Place in bowl and let rise until doubled. Remove from bowl and knead again. The more times you knead the bread and let it rise, the finer (smoother) the bread texture will be.

Shape dough. Place on baking stone and bake 1½ hours at 350 degrees.


• You can use a bread maker, which I do because of a lack of counter space. Make sure you put all the liquid items in the bread maker container first. Then add all the dry ingredients except the yeast. Make a hole in the top of the dry ingredients and pour the yeast in the hole.

• “Lukewarm water” is water that does not feel warmer than the temperature of your skin. If the water is too hot, it will kill the yeast. If the water is too cold, the yeast will stay in hibernation and not react.

• When making bread, you need to add some type of sugar. (The sugar interacts with the yeast.) When the yeast and sugar interact, the by-product is what makes the bread rise. Separating the liquids and sugars from the yeast keeps the yeast from responding too quickly, resulting in a flatter bread.

• Try substituting with different types of cheese or herbs.

• You can also use brown sugar, molasses, maple syrup, or honey in place of white sugar.

• Use olive oil instead of butter for a denser bread.

Michelle Tonnemacher is a Christian, wife, mother of one teen daughter, and a graphic designer. When she’s not busy doing independent graphic work on her computer, she enjoys spending time with her family camping, hiking, and fishing in northern Michigan or at their west Michigan home. Visit her site at www.LivingLifeGraphics.com.


Colorful Chili & Maple Banana Muffins
By Tristan RowLee, Schoolhouse Planner Specialist and Curiosity Files™ Contributor

When the weather begins to cool, our family looks forward to eating warm muffins, fresh from the oven. Most of our baking is done from scratch (due to an egg allergy), and recipes are perfected through trial and error. We also love soups, and this colorful chili came about one day when the older children helped to select the beans from the pantry—each wanted a different color!

Colorful Chili

36 oz. beef broth
1 15-oz. can dark red kidney beans, drained
1 15-oz. can light red kidney beans, drained
1 15-oz. can black beans, drained
1 can corn, drained
1 15-oz. can diced tomatoes
1½ teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon seasoned salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder OR 2 teaspoon fresh, minced garlic
½ teaspoon cumin
1 tablespoon dried, minced onion

Mix all ingredients in a large pot. Simmer for 5 minutes, and then turn down to low for 25 minutes. Our family likes to have some toppings available to put on our chili, including sour cream, shredded cheese, and crackers. We also serve this chili over baked potatoes for a change of pace.

Maple Banana Muffins

3½ cups whole wheat flour
1½ cups sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 bananas, peeled and mashed
1½ cups water
1 cup oil
½ teaspoon maple flavoring
½ teaspoon vanilla flavoring

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl, mix dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon).

In a blender mix wet ingredients (bananas, water, oil, flavorings).

Pour wet ingredients into dry and stir until combined.

Scoop batter into muffin pans. Bake for 25–30 minutes (ovens vary). Cool a little bit before eating. This recipe makes approximately 24 muffins.

Tristan RowLee and her husband homeschool their six children. Baby #7 will join the fun in January. Visit them at OurBusyHomeschool.blogspot.com.


Potato Soup & Tortilla Strips
By Wendy Hilton, Assistant to the Publishers, Schoolhouse Expo Teams

I got this recipe from a friend. It is delicious and is something my whole family loves! I love it because it’s fast and easy. If I’m in a hurry, I just replace the chopped onion and minced garlic with 1 teaspoon each onion powder and garlic powder. If I don’t have bacon on hand, I substitute ½ teaspoon of cumin to add a smokey flavor. Cumin is much less trouble and much less mess than frying bacon!

Another thing I love about this soup is that it’s easy to make it low-fat. Simply use fat-free or low-fat cream of chicken soup, low-fat sour cream, turkey bacon, and low-fat shredded cheese. It’s still delicious! My family doesn’t even notice the difference.

8 slices bacon
½ cup chopped onion
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 can cream of chicken soup
6 red potatoes (peeled and cubed)
1½ cups milk
1 cup sour cream
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon parsley
Shredded Cheddar cheese
1 tablespoon butter

Fry bacon until crisp and drain. Crumble bacon and set aside.

If using chopped onion and garlic, sauté them in butter until tender. Then put potatoes, onion, and garlic in a pot, cover with water, and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for 15–20 minutes or until potatoes are tender. (If you like your soup thicker, simmer with the lid off so some of the water can evaporate.)

Stir in cream of chicken soup and sour cream. Gradually stir in milk, salt, and parsley. Heat but do not boil.

Serve with shredded cheese, crumbled bacon, and tortilla strips if desired.

Tortilla Strips

I got the idea to make these tortilla strips when I wanted something crunchy to go with my soup and didn’t have croutons or crackers on hand. I sometimes like to make them for dessert by spreading the tortillas with butter and a mixture of cinnamon and sugar. Yum! When I make them this way, I cut the strips into larger pieces so they’re easier to pick up and eat.

6 flour tortillas (I use 8-inch)
2 tablespoons softened butter or margarine or vegetable cooking spray
Salt to taste

½ teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon cumin
Dash of your favorite hot sauce

Brush both sides of tortillas with softened butter or margarine, or spray each side with cooking spray. (I prefer to use softened butter rather than cooking spray—it just tastes better with butter!) Then sprinkle both sides of tortillas with salt. If you choose to use the optional spices, just mix the salt along with the spices all together and sprinkle both sides of tortillas with the mixture.

Use a sharp knife or a pizza cutter to cut the tortillas into strips. My kids like small strips, but you can make them whatever size you prefer. (You can even make this recipe with large strips and use them for snacking instead of chips.)

Place the tortilla strips on a baking sheet in a preheated 400-degree oven. They will burn quickly, so be sure to keep an eye on them! Bake them for about 5 minutes, stir or turn over, and bake for 3–5 more minutes until lightly browned and crunchy. Serve over soup or as a snack.

Wendy has been married to Scott, her high school sweetheart, for twenty years. Scott and Wendy are the parents of three children who have all been homeschooled since the beginning. Wendy would love for you to visit her blog at Wendy-HomeschoolingBlessings.blogspot.com.

Post Tag With : ,

Comments are closed.