Today’s post serves to address lots of issues. I’ve been lazy for the last several months, and everything has suffered: cooking, cleaning, blogging, photography, sewing – oh, the list goes on. I’m venting.
- To rekindle my enthusiasm, I bought a new lens for my DSLR – a nifty AFS Nikkor 50mm 1:1.8. I’ve had my eye on one since my sweetheart bought a lovely camera for me. Lots of reading and research led me to understand this lens is a must for food photography. It’s a great improvement over the lenses that came with the kit, but I’m still learning how to use it.
- The late winter weather here in the Midwest has been awful. A storm dropped 9″ of snow on Sunday. We woke Tuesday to freezing rain and sleet. Tomorrow we could see another
3-5″ of snow, and then it gets cold. One of my BFF’s abandoned me for Florida, of all places, and the other is recovering from shoulder surgery.
At least my grandsons were having fun! The older boys kept busy stockpiling their backyard fort with snowballs to pelt unsuspecting troublemakers, like their parents.
- I’m in midst of planning a quilt for our master bedroom. And I’m having a devil of a time figuring out the pattern, adapting the block sizes from one I saw on Pinterest. (More on that project soon!) Should be pretty straightforward – what’s my problem? I’ve spent hours looking for software to help me, only to become frustrated because then I have to learn to use it, and I’m running out of patience.
OK – yes – I’m in a wintry mix funk.
Cold and feeling shut in, I decided to drag my butt over to the freezer and pantry. Wow – there’s chicken, bacon, frozen onion peels (I save onion peels), Velveeta, a snappy sharp cheddar from Trader Joe’s, milk, heavy cream, parsnips, potatoes, broccoli, carrots, celery – I had to make soup. Baked chicken, creamy potato cheese soup, and broccoli – a fabulous, satisfying dinner to brighten anyone’s spirits, specifically mine, and hopefully my family’s if I could ever get the car out of the garage.
With lots of time on my hands, I decided to make my own chicken stock. I broke down two whole chickens saving the backs, necks, and giblets. The chicken pieces went onto a baking sheet lined with paper towels to dry off before being seasoned and baked in butter. In a large stockpot, I warmed butter and olive oil, and in went the chicken necks, backs, giblets to brown.
- four medium scrubbed and unpeeled carrots,
- four celery stalks cut in half,
- a medium onion including the peel, quartered,
- my treasure trove of frozen onion peels,
- a head of garlic cut in half along the diameter,
- two whole parsnips scrubbed and unpeeled,
- two teaspoons of whole cloves,
- 1/2 palmful of whole peppercorns,
- a couple of bay leaves,
- a tablespoonful of powdered chicken bullion,
- and enough water to cover it all.
Brought to a boil, reduced to a gentle simmer, and I left the stockpot uncovered to reduce the stock and intensify the flavors for a couple of hours.
Look what I ended up with:
Isn’t that just beautiful? OK – I know the photo is leaning, but look at that color. Many cooks freeze onion peels for just this reason. Browning the chicken parts certainly helps, but I’m convinced it’s the leeched color from the brown and red onion peels that develop such a rich color.
And this particular batch made a lot of stock. Enough for the soup, a quart for my daughter, and three quarts to freeze.
To be sure nothing was wasted, I picked the meat off the bones, mixed it with some cooked brown rice, and my Auggie Doggie enjoyed a tasty treat, too.
Things are looking up! My cheeks have a rosy glow. What’s that I see in the mirror? Is that a SMILE??
Creamy Potato Cheese Soup
From here on, the soup recipe is pretty straight forward. It comes together in a jiffy.
In a heavy, 5-quart dutch oven, brown diced bacon along with olive oil and butter. Removed the crispy bacon to a paper towel to drain. Add diced onion, celery, and carrots, and cook over medium-high heat for 3-4 minutes. (After I peeled and diced the potatoes, I put them in a bowl of cold water to keep them from turning color and to take away some of the starch.)
Drain the potatoes and parsnips, and add them to the soup pot. Stir everything together and let the vegetables saute another 5 minutes. Add 4 cups of liquid gold chicken stock, and 4 cups of water, or use 8 cups of chicken stock. (Any combination of chicken stock/water would work, too, including canned or boxed stock.) Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook until the vegetables are tender, about 10-15 minutes.
Put one-half of the soup in a blender, and blend until smooth. Return to the soup pot. You can skip this step, if you like your soup chunky. A word to the wise – Be careful – put a towel over the blender lid before your start it up, and start on a slow setting. The soup mix is hot. If you’re not careful, the blender lid might blow off and you have hot soup all over you and your kitchen.
At this point, you could let the soup cool, put it in the refrigerator for a day or two, and finish it later.
Let’s get this show on the road. To one cup of whole milk, add 3 tablespoonsful of all-purpose flour. Whisk with a fork until the flour is dissolved. Add this to the soup, and stir until slightly thickened. Remove from the heat and begin to add Velveeta and cheddar cheese in batches, stirring between additions to make sure the cheese melts before adding another handful.
Add salt and pepper to taste. Return the soup pot to the stove, and keep warm. If it’s a while before serving, you’ll want to give the pot a stir to keep the cheese and vegetables from sticking to the bottom. Stir in the crispy bacon or save it for a garnish.
Everyone loved this stuff. And there are so many options. One grandson put his cut up chicken and broccoli in his bowl along with oyster crackers. Goldfish would be another good choice, especially for kids. And/or shredded cheese, crispy bacon, and fresh chopped parsley for garnishes. (I know, I have dried parsley on mine – egads – but that’s what I had in the larder.) Creamy Potato Cheese Soup would also be delicious served in bread bowls.
Here’s the soup recipe! Stay warm!!
- 4-6 slices of bacon, cut into pieces
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced or put through garlic press
- 4 medium carrots, peeled and diced
- 2 parsnips, peeled and diced
- 3 stalks celery, diced
- 4 large baking potatoes, peeled and diced
- 8 cups chicken broth, homemade or canned
- ½ teaspoon dried thyme
- 1-2 bay leaves
- 1 cup whole milk, room temperature
- 3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
- ½ cup heavy cream
- 4 oz Velveeta, cut into cubes
- 8 oz cheddar cheese, yellow or white, grated
- Salt & Pepper to taste
- Fresh chopped parsley, grated cheese, croutons, goldfish, oyster crackers, bacon for garnish - your choice.
- In a large heavy dutch oven or soup pot, brown bacon in 1 Tablespoon olive oil. When browned and crispy, remove to paper towel lined plate to drain.
- Add onion, celery and carrot to the bacon fat. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Stir and saute for 3-4 minutes. Add garlic. Stir and once you can smell it, immediately add potatoes and parsnips. Sprinkle with pinch of salt and black pepper. Stir and saute for 3-4 minutes.
- Pour in the chicken stock. Add thyme and bay leaves. Bring to boil. Reduce to gentle simmer, Cook 10-15 minutes, until vegetables are tender.
- Whisk flour into milk. Add to the soup. Stir.
- Add heavy cream. Stir.
- When the soup comes back to temperature, remove the pot from heat. Begin to add cheeses a handful at a time, stirring after each addition, making sure each addition is melted before adding the next.
- Return to heat. Check seasonings and add salt and pepper to your taste. Stir in crispy bacon, or save for garnish.
To facilitate, prepare all ingredients before you begin the actual cooking. I put the potatoes and parsnips in a bowl of cold water to keep them from turning color as I prepare the first ingredients.