Hot soup for a chilly day

Dear Heloise: There’s nothing I like more than a hearty, warm bowl of soup in chilly weather. Have you got any tasty recipes I can make for my family? — Rose H., Springfield, Ore.

Rose, I have one from a friend of mine that I think you’ll really like. It’s called Marilyn’s Garden Cheddar Soup, and it’s terrific in chilly weather.

Marilyn’s Garden Cheddar Soup

2 carrots, peeled and sliced

2 small zucchini, halved and sliced

2 tomatoes, peeled and cut into wedges

1 celery stalk, sliced

1 cup portobello mushrooms, sliced

1 onion, halved and sliced

2 garlic cloves, minced

4 1/2 cups beef broth

1 1/2 cups tomato juice

1 tablespoon fresh basil, minced

1/2 cup dry red wine

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground pepper

2 tablespoons fresh parsley

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

In a stockpot, add first nine ingredients and heat to boiling. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Stir in basil, wine, salt, pepper and parsley. Sprinkle top of each serving with cheddar cheese. — Heloise

Dear Heloise: I recently read a column about brown sugar and thought I’d mention maple sugar as a yummy substitute. It can be used in everything that may call for brown sugar, although you’d need to use a little less. I find it tastier. I also use maple syrup on occasion. — Jean L., via e-mail

Dear Heloise: When I buy a pound of bacon, I divide the package into three- or four-strip packages since I won’t be using it all at once. I wrap each group of strips in clear food wrap and place them in a long, narrow box. They take up so little space in the freezer and are nice and straight when I want to cook them. — J.P., Bedford, N.H.

Dear Heloise: I’ve always been told not to refreeze meat that has been frozen and thawed out. Why can’t I refreeze meat that’s been thawed? Is it dangerous? — Clint W., Auburn, Wash.

Clint, according to the University of Nebraska’s Institute of Agriculture, if food is thawed in a refrigerator, it is safe to refreeze it without cooking it. However, the quality of the meat will change due to moisture lost in the thawing process. The institute recommends not refreezing meat left outside of a refrigerator for two hours or more. — Heloise

Dear Heloise: Please tell people not to give leftover chips at the bottom of the bag to birds. It may seem like a good idea, but the salt is not good for them. — Sheila M., via email

Shelia, I checked on this, and you’re right. Garden birds are unable to metabolize salt. In large quantities, it’s toxic for birds. Never add salt to bird food, and don’t put salt in a birdbath to keep it from freezing in winter.