Its been quite a while since I last committed to making a recipe. Not that I haven't been cooking... quite the opposite, as a matter of fact. We're close to welcoming baby number 2 and in an effort to save money we've been eating in as much as possible. With that, my energy levels are pretty low and I typically favor things from our usual reperatiore. I've also been focusing on cooking in bulk to allow me to freeze meals. I currently have chili, mac and cheese, soup, burritos, meatballs; all types of things stocked up and waiting for me to be able to heat and serve when I'm home with the baby. 2 more weeks to go! The coolest thing thats happened in the past few weeks is that I've miraculously gotten my sense of smell back! This happened when I was pregnant with John, too, and it didn't last long after he was born so I'm trying to relish it while its here. The timing is odd because while I don't physically feel like cooking it is just SO exciting to smell what I'm making! Its been almost 10 years since my sense of smell started diminishing and about 2 years of almost no sense of smell at all. You learn to get used to it and I have learned to use memory, knowledge, and taste when cooking. But when you can suddenly smell again... cooking takes on a whole new meaning. Garlic. Onion. Apples. Chocolate. All of these amazing scents coming together in my kitchen. I made chili last night and almost cried as I added the cumin, paprika, and chili powder because I could smell the difference instead of waiting until I could taste it. Its like seeing art with glasses after gazing at the picture from far away for a long time.
I had to write about all of this.
About a week ago I decided to make some potato soup since I had most of the ingredients to work with. We've been trying to cut down on fat and sodium and I found this soup recipe in my Cook This Not That book. If you've not seen this cookbook, its pretty cool. They reference restaurant meals and offer lightened up variations keeping the portioned calories at under 350 calories. This particular recipe offers an alternative to Applebees Baked Potato Soup (not that I've ever ordered this at Applebees) reducing the calories from 420 per serving to 220. I feel the need to share that I can't stand Applebees, but I do like potato soup and liked the method so I went for it.
Money Saving Tip!!- When you need bacon for a recipe, go to the meat counter at your local supermarket and order slices of the bulk bacon instead of buying a full package in the deli section. You get good quality, thick cut bacon and its cheap because you're only buying what you need. I bought 3 slices for $0.67.
Another tip? Read your recipe from beginning to end before you cook! Thankfully, I did this about an hour before dinner and noted that I had to have baked potatoes- not raw. This allowed me enough time to bake up the 2 potatoes needed before it was time to make dinner. Once it was time to go, I sliced up the bacon and sauteed it in my soup pan until it got crispy. Bacon is truly one of the greatest smelling ingredients on the planet. Once it was ready, I put the pieces on a paper towel and drained out all but a film of the bacon grease. I chopped up 4 scallions, keeping the white pieces and setting the green aside for later. I sauteed the white parts with 2 cloves of minced garlic for a few minutes and added a tablespoon of flour, stirring around to toast it for a moment. I added 8 cups of chicken broth, slowly, while stirring quickly to mix it all together and left the heat on medium high. Next, I removed the skin from one of the potatoes, chopped it up, and added it to the broth. Using a potato masher, I smashed it up a bit to incorporate the potato into the broth. I diced up the other potato and added it to the soup, along with 1/2 cup of heavy cream and a touch of salt and pepper. Turned it all on low, and let it sit while I made up a salad and toasted up some whole grain bread.
To serve, they suggest serving the soup topped with bacon, scallions, cheddar cheese, and a touch of hot sauce. The broth was very light and didn't thicken up as much as I'd hoped. The flavor was great, though. The scallions were prominent and the bacon added a nice dimention. The toppings all settled to the bottom, which was partly due to the thinness of the broth. We ended up with a lot of broth left over after dinner was finished. I got a little creative and heated up some broccoli (not so nice smelling, by the way) and added the chopped broccoli and some frozen corn to the broth. Now I have a nice little cream of vegetable soup to add to the freezer! Woo hoo!
Overall, the flavor, calories, ease, and cost of this meal make it definitely worth trying again. I think that I'll reduce the broth to 5 or 6 cups and keep everything else the same. I'll also keep my fingers crossed that I can still smell my way through the meal.
Baked Potato Soup- Cook This Not That
3 strips bacon, sliced
4 scallions, whites and greens separated, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp flour
8 cups low sodium chicken broth (or a mix of stock and water)
2 medium russet potatoes, baked (leftover baked potatoes work great)
1/2 cup half and half
salt & pepper
Tabasco sauce to taste
Heat a large soup pot to medium heat. Add bacon and cook for about 5 minutes, until crispy. Remove with a slotted spoon and reserve.
Discard all but a thin layer of bacon fat. Add the scallion whites and garlic to the pot and cook for a minute or 2, until fragrant and the scallions are translucent. Add flour, and stir to coat the ingredients. Pour in the stock, whisking to help prevent any lumps from forming.
Remove the peel fromj one of the potatoes, chop, and add to the pot. Use a potato masher to smash the potato into the broth Cube the other potato, leaving the peel on, and add it to the soup, along with the half and half. Season with salt and pepper and simmer on low for 5-10 minutes.
When ready to serve, ladle into bowls, and garnish with bacon, scallions, cheese, and tabasco.