COMFORTING POTATO SOUP

Remember life before smartphones?

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Like the folks in these vintage photos that I found on ebay, I spent the better part of the last couple of weeks laying around.  We had plans to go out for my husband’s birthday in the middle of April, but earlier in the day I experienced sudden, severe abdominal pain, that lasted for the next few days, and had me confined to my bed.  It let up for a few days, but after a week, it seemed to only be getting worse, and so on my birthday (which is a week after my husband’s), I spent the day in urgent care, where I discovered I had diverticulitis with complications.  I was sent to the hospital via ambulance, where I spent 6 miserable days.  Worst birthday ever.

I am surprised at how long it has taken me to get back to my old self.  The first week back at home I barely moved off the sofa.  Apart from the fact that I was still recovering, I had no energy.  The antibiotics — for which I am grateful — wreaked their own special kind of havoc.

For about 3 weeks, I either had no appetite, or was so overwhelmed by nausea that I couldn’t eat.  Even the smell of food made me sick.  When I did start feeling well enough to eat, I craved bland, comfort foods — things like macaroni and cheese, baked potatoes with butter, pasta with butter, anything with butter.  I’m back to eating normally, but I might have to have just one more bowl of pasta with butter (don’t judge).

On one of my son’s visits to me in the hospital, he hugged me as he was leaving and whispered in my ear, “I need you to come home, Mom.”  So touching.  “Why?” I asked.  He whispered, “I need you to go to the grocery store and to cook.”  Oh well, at least he missed me — have to count your blessings where you find them.

Inspired by the photos of the couch potatoes, when I finally felt sort of well enough to venture back into the kitchen, I made a big pot of potato soup, which my son requested and which sounded pretty good to me.  Making the soup in my debilitated state, however, about killed me.  My mise en place was more like mise en plotz.  I fried up the chopped bacon, then had to go sit down for 10 minutes.  Chopped the carrots and celery, and had to lay down for 15 minutes.  Peeling and dicing the potatoes was almost a deal-breaker, but a cold soda and a half-hour of laying on the couch and watching TV recharged me.  Eventually I was able to finish the soup.  It was comforting and delicious, and marked the beginning of a return to normalcy, for which I am very thankful.

You should find the soup considerably easier to make.  Have everything chopped in advance, and it will come together in no time.  It’s slightly adapted from the Pioneer Woman’s recipe for Perfect Potato Soup.  My whole family loves it, and I have no doubt yours will too.

COMFORTING POTATO SOUP
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Author:
Ingredients
  • 4 slices bacon, cut into ½" pieces
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled and diced
  • 3 stalks celery, diced
  • 3 large russet potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 8 cups chicken broth
  • ¼ teaspoon onion powder
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup milk (low-fat is OK)
  • ½ cup half and half
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Grated cheddar, optional topping
  • Chopped chives or green onions, optional topping
Instructions
  1. Place bacon in a large stockpot over medium-high heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until bacon is crisp. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon to a plate lined with a paper towel, and reserve for sprinkling on top of soup. Pour off all but approximately 1 tablespoon of the bacon fat.
  2. Add the carrots and the celery to the pot, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3-4 minutes, then add the potatoes. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, for 5-6 minutes. Add the broth and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are very tender, approximately 15 minutes. In a small bowl, whisk together milk and flour, and add to soup. Simmer for another 5 minutes, then add onion powder and garlic powder, and season to taste with salt and pepper.
  3. Puree the soup using an immersion (stick) blender (preferred) or blender. (If using a blender, puree soup in batches, filling blender no more than half full, to avoid having hot soup explode out of the blender.)
  4. Return pureed soup to pot. Stir in half and half. Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve hot garnished with bacon pieces, grated cheddar, and chives or green onions, as desired.

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Potato soup — it’s good for what ails you

potato heart

I <3 potatoes

BEEF AND BARLEY SOUP


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I found this boomerang at an estate sale.  This is not just any boomerang, it is a piece of hand-painted aboriginal art:

One definition of boomerang offered by Urban Dictionary is a “frisbee for a kid with no friends.”  I had a boomerang once, but forgot how to throw it — then it came back to me (groan).  Fortunately, this boomerang came with directions:

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Too much math for me

The boomerang is loosely based on the concept that what goes around comes around (no kidding, right?).  This is also the concept on which leftovers are based, and which has inspired this recipe for Beef and Barley Soup.

Recently, the New York Times ran an article about a dish known as Mississippi Roast “one of the most popular recipes on the web.”  The recipe calls for a packet of Hidden Valley Ranch Mix and a packet of McCormick Au Jus Gravy Mix, which you sprinkle over the chuck roast you have placed in your slow cooker, and top with a stick of butter and a few peperoncini.

Roast 1

Cook on low for 8 hours, and voila:

roast 2

The roast was just fine, and could not have been easier, but the packets are a deal-breaker for a lot of folks — you know, chemicals, sodium, etc. — the whole “factory-to-table” thing.  I’d have to admit that I prefer my own recipe for pot roast, with seared meat, tomato paste, red wine, herbs, and veggies.  Anyway, we had a lot of leftovers, and there’s only so many nights in a row you can eat the same meal (our limit being two), so I had to repurpose the leftover roast.  Beef and Barley Soup has become one of our favorite hearty soups.  Whenever we have a roast or steak, we always make sure to save a piece in order to make the soup, so having leftover Mississippi Roast was actually something we were quite happy about.

BEEF AND BARLEY SOUP
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Recipe type: Soup
Author:
Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 1 cup chopped leftover beef (roast beef, pot roast, etc.)
  • ½ cup pearled barley
  • 4 cups beef broth
  • 1 cup water
  • 8 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced or quartered
  • Pinch of dried thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
Instructions
  1. Heat oil in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic, carrots, and celery, and saute until vegetables are tender and onion is translucent. Add beef, barley, broth, water, mushrooms, thyme, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, for approximately 1 hour, until barley is tender. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  2. If necessary, thin soup with additional beef broth.

 

Soup’s on!

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