FOWLER - No need to measure. Or have a recipe, for that matter.
When Mary Frances Sohayda got a call from the Tribune about her submitted recipe, she realized she didn't even have it. She gave the only copy to us, written on the Trumbull Cooks submission form.
When she first made Kielbasa Barley Soup, it was truly original.
Mary Frances Sohayda of Fowler dishes out her Kielbasa Barley Soup. Sohayda came up with this recipe from ingredients she had on hand in her kitchen.
"I made it up," she said. "I looked at the ingredients I had and said, 'OK, this is what we're gonna do.'"
That day was very cold outside, she said, so this hearty, savory soup was just right.
Sohayda recently served her soup, successfully recreated, with a freshly-baked potato bread. She's been baking for as long as she can remember.
Kielbasa Barley Soup Submitted by Mary Frances Sohayda
1 pound kielbasa
1 10-ounce package frozen spinach
1 cup barley
6 cups chicken broth
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
1/2 cup chopped carrots
2 tablespoons butter
Salt and pepper to taste
Saute onion and garlic in butter for three minutes.
Add broth. When it comes to a boil, add all other ingredients.
Simmer for 30-45 minutes.
"My mother had me doing that since I was a little girl standing on a chair," she said.
Her other specialties are spaghetti sauce and pepperoni rolls, for which she makes the dough from scratch and uses five different cheeses.
Her husband, David, also enjoys her stuffed cabbage.
The couple laughed together as they explained that they both love cooking, but not necessarily at the same time.
"We're not good in the kitchen together, because it's two chiefs in the same spot," she said. "It's a comedy routine when we're in there."
Even so, they get a lot done in there, especially when their three backyard gardens are producing. They make tomato juice and sauce, along with pizza sauce. This year, there were more than 100 quarts, and shelves had to be added to the fruit cellar.
"I'll plant, like, 200 tomato plants and hot peppers," David Sohayda said. "Hot peppers do well way in the back."
They also can peppers.
"By the end of September I'm like, 'if you bring one more vegetable into this house '" Mary Frances Sohayda teased her husband.
The couple are growing herbs as well, and she likes to add fresh ones to hamburger mix before putting patties on the grill.
They also farm a little, raising pigs for butcher, and like to boat and fish.
Mary Frances, 54, said her soup is flexible and can be made lighter if needed with a few substitutions, such as low-sodium broth and light or turkey kielbasa. She said barley is good for you, no matter what.
Married almost 10 years, both Sohaydas work in the medical field - he as a respiratory therapist and she as a registered nurse with Hospice of the Valley. They met at a doctor's office.
Even the dog, a beautiful and friendly African Ridgeback named Delilah, is getting into the field. She's almost 2 and is training to be a therapy dog.
Mary Frances' talents extend beyond the kitchen into music, since she also plays piano and is a church organist.
On the walls of their home is a little Christmas - a favorite Santa painting hangs in the dining room, along with several Thomas Kinkade paintings. Each year, David Sohayda gets his wife a new Santa Claus, which she also leaves out all year.
Between them, they have four children and four grandchildren. When his daughter comes home for Easter, it's Easter bread and pasta fagioli. When they go to visit her, Mary Frances bakes for a day and fills the refrigerator with pepperoni rolls and ham and cheese rolls, among other things.
"When the kids are coming, she starts cooking," David Sohayda said.
But one special guy is really missing out. They have a 9-year-old grandson who eats macaroni and cheese almost exclusively. And he prefers Kraft.
All this canning, baking and cooking results in plenty of food gifts for family and friends - a reporter and photographer recently left the Sohaydas' home with a loaf of potato bread, freshly baked cinnamon rolls and two jars of preserves.
Surely no one will mind picking up the slack until the grandson's tastes mature.