Some Chicken Soup for the Soul

Sometimes we all need a little “Chicken Soup”, so to speak.  The last few months have been very difficult and thing are going to become increasingly complicated in the coming days.  But navigating all the bumps and curves in the road is something doable.  With the slower pace realized by camping and living in my van, challenges no longer seem impossible.  Actually, one situation has gotten better.

Yesterday I received a job offer.  The position will be working in the deli section at a big box retailer.  Imagine that… me working with food?  *chuckle*   A friend already told me not to eat everything there.  No surprise, right?  That comment was predictable and was to be expected from the morning coffee drinkers at the favorite McDonald’s hangout.
I have high hopes that things will work out even though this will be a seasonal job.  With the weight down, good orthotics in the shoes, and much of the diabetic neuropathy damage gone from the legs, now is a perfect time to try working again.  In a few days (after the tinkle test and background checks are complete), I will receive the official “go ahead” and will be working in a week or two.

That was the good news.  The rest of the news is not so cheery.  The situation with my Dad’s health is difficult and is continuing to be challenging.  As a person ages, things just don’t get any easier most of the time.  I’m there to help as much as possible but am getting worn down in the process.

At times,  a person needs to draw some boundaries and take off for a bit, relax, and enjoy a little chicken soup for the soul – kind of like the popular book series.

Yesterday seemed like a terrific opportunity to do just that… I had some errands to run in Iowa City so it was a perfect chance to visit the favorite retreat – The Hills Access campground.

Once there, I made a wonderful pan of soup using mostly salad bar ingredients.  Pan?  Yep, it was cooked in a saucepan over the Stansport propane burner.  (I felt too lazy to bring the dutch oven) The little Stansport is compact but has been a huge help in preparing home cooked meals.  Though a bit tall (since it sits on a 1# propane tank), the fold-out feet make the device very stable.

The soup took very little time to prepare but tasted pretty darn good!  I had read through a number of recipes and decided to try and put one together with minimum prep required.  It turned out that this light little soup was so tasty that the leftovers became breakfast. This recipe makes about three servings.

Camper’s Chicken Tortellini Soup

1 tablespoon olive oil (I used garlic flavored)

2 shallots, minced
2t Italian seasoning
1/2 cup chopped onions *
1/2 cup chopped mushrooms *
1/4 cup shredded or julienne carrots  *
4 cups chicken broth (32 ounce carton)
1 + 1/2 cup of precooked chicken strips *
2 cups frozen small cheese-filled tortellini
2 cups loosely packed fresh spinach *
*  denotes items purchased from a grocery store salad bar.  No prep was needed!

In a sauce pan, heat oil and cook onions, shallots, carrots, and mushrooms a few minutes to soften.  The onions and shallots will start to turn translucent.  Add broth, chicken, and Italian seasoning.  Heat until lightly boiling.  Add the tortellini.  Cook for 3 or 4 minutes.  Stir in the spinach leaves and cook several more minutes.  Season with salt and pepper as needed.  This makes a light, delicious soup.  You can use low sodium broth but I ended up having to add salt back in. 


With some warm soup in the belly, it was time to settle back and watch a flick from 1989.  Since the “Field of Dreams” movie site was visited  recently, I had become interested and purchased a Blu-Ray copy.  I thought it was a cool movie and had a pretty good story.

When at the filming site in Dyersville, Iowa, I could sense something kind of amazing which is hard to put into words… It was sort of like a feeling of pride, love, and happiness.  Do you ever get a feeling when you’ve been a place where something terrible has happened?  I do, but I also can sense when something wonderful and happy has transpired.  Visiting the “Field of Dreams” can give you such a sensation that there is tremendous positive energy there.  It was exciting to see the bleachers in the movie.  I had sat on the same bleachers a couple of weeks ago even though last night was the first time actually watching the video!

After the DVD movie and a good dinner, it was time for a relaxing night’s sleep.  Under the circumstances, I slept reasonably well. 
At the moment, I’m poking around in Iowa City and planning to stop at a few favorite places before heading back to Cedar Rapids. 
It’s been a short but fun little visit to my own “field of dreams” even though there are no baseballs or referees – just picnic tables and pit toilets.  But  a peaceful escape is a good thing in any case.
The movie asked… “So is this heaven?” and the response was “No, it’s Iowa.”  There is only one more thing I would add and that would be… “But it’s the next best thing.”
Thanks for stopping by today.  Take care of yourself!  Make it a good one!
Brad aka “V.T.”

About VanTrekker

I am a former vandweller in Eastern Iowa who, for several years (off and on), lived in a 2007 Chevy cargo van. I still travel around Iowa with my tortoise shell cat, Jennifer Stefanie. Our favorite place to explore is the Country Heritage Community, the four far northeastern counties of Iowa (Clayton, Winneshiek, Allamakee, and Fayette). Ride along as we fish in pristine trout streams, enjoy fine home cooked camping meals, and meet new people. It's all possible on a shoestring budget. Happy travels always! --- Brad, the "Van Trekker"
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