When I was growing up, my immediate and extended family always had large summer gardens. My mother spent the majority of her summers (no air conditioning!) in the kitchen, with hours spent canning and freezing the vegetables my dad had grown. I learned from an early age the extensive process of getting food to the table, beginning with helping to plant the seeds, pulling weeds, silking ears of corn, shelling peas and breaking and stringing green beans. After my mother had finished the weeks of canning dozens of quarts of the garden’s bounty, she would save enough of the various vegetables to combine as canned soup for the cold winter months ahead. Now that we’re reaching the end of our summer growing season, it’s the perfect time to make a big pot of vegetable soup. I’ve added chicken to my version. However, you can certainly omit the chicken and substitute vegetable stock if you prefer a totally vegetable soup. Chicken Vegetable Soup You can prepare the soup strictly from scratch, or you certainly can use a rotisserie chicken from the grocery and store-bought chicken stock. If you choose that method, you’ll need about 3 to 4 cups of shredded chicken and 6 cups of chicken stock. As for the vegetables, feel free to use either fresh or frozen, or a mixture of the two. • 2 pounds chicken breasts or a mixture of light and dark meat • 6 cups of water • 1 teaspoon salt • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper • 2 tablespoons butter • 2 tablespoons olive oil • 1 large yellow onion, chopped • 1 large green bell pepper, chopped • 3 medium carrots, chopped • 2 celery stalks, chopped (include some of the leafy greens) • 1 teaspoon minced garlic • 1 quart diced tomatoes with juice • 1 cup peas (my preference is Mississippi Silver Hull) • 2 cups corn kernels • 1 cup thinly sliced okra pods • 2 cup green beans, cut into 1-inch lengths • 5 potatoes, peeled and chopped • Salt • Pepper • 1 tablespoon dried thyme • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce Using a 6-quart Dutch oven, add the chicken and cover with water. Add salt, pepper and butter. Over medium-high heat, bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer for about 45 to 60 minutes. Remove the chicken and set aside to cool. Strain liquid and add back to the Dutch oven. Shred chicken into bite-sized pieces and add to the broth. Continue to simmer over low heat. Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Sauté onion, bell pepper, carrots and celery until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and let it cook for a minute. Add the tomatoes to the simmering broth along with the sautéed vegetables. Bring back to a simmer and add the remaining vegetables, salt and pepper to taste, thyme and Worcestershire. Add additional stock if needed. Simmer until potatoes are tender. Taste and adjust seasonings. Fried Cornbread There are few childhood comfort foods I like better than hot cornbread with butter. However, sometimes there’s not enough time to cook a large skillet of cornbread, or maybe you only need a few servings. Here’s a quick alternative that you can prepare while the soup has that last simmer. • 2 cups self-rising cornmeal mix • 1 1/4 cup buttermilk • 1 tablespoon bacon drippings Mix the ingredients thoroughly in a medium bowl. With a large skillet or griddle, over medium heat, spray a little non-stick spray. Ladle out batter just like you were making pancakes. When browned on one side, gently turn with a spatula. Brown on other side and remove from skillet. Spread with butter and continue cooking in batches. — Laura Tolbert, also known as Fleur de Lolly, has been sharing recipes, table decor ideas and advice for fellow foodies and novices on her blog, fleurdelolly.blogspot.com for more than eight years. She won the Duke Mayonnaise 100th Anniversary nationwide recipe contest for her Alabama White BBQ Sauce. You can contact her at facebook.com/fleurde.lolly.5, on Instagram, and fleurdelolly@yahoo.com.