Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Pimiento Cheese Potato Soup with Pimiento Cheese Sour Cream (Extra Thick Slow Cooker Version)

This soup happened because we ran out of gas on the morning of the single coldest day in Mississippi this year.  Maybe even in like 20 years or something.

I knew a couple of days prior that snow and ice were coming, and I cannot even tell you how much I prepared.  Grocery shopping.  Meal planning.  Wash done.  House cleaned.  Cute snow boots pulled out of closet.  Camera batteries charged and ready.  

Cookies were made.

But the one, tiny little detail that we forgot to check on was how much gas we had in our propane tank.

Not nearly enough, turned out.

This is the gas that heats are entire house, and makes the flames come on in my gas stove.  The flames that I use to cook food over so we don't starve.  [Inserted tiny bit of drama there, true.]

So, at 3:30 AM on the coldest day of the year [and that is not a dramatic statement, it really was], the day when the ice and snow would hit and we would be trapped in our homes and all there would be to do is to eat and look at the (gas) fireplace and try to stay warm, our pilot light goes out and we have nothing.

But that's not the bad part.

The bad part is that just the night before, my husband was talking to our son-in-law who just so happens to be our GAS man and is working extremely long hours this time of year, about how BAD it is that PEOPLE DO NOT PLAN AHEAD and PREPARE FOR COLD WEATHER, but instead WAIT TO THE LAST MINUTE TO CALL THEIR GAS MAN TO COME OUT IN THE DANGEROUS WEATHER AND FILL THEIR GAS TANKS!!!


You do NOT know how much I did not want to call my son-in-law to come fill our completely empty gas tank.  

I made my husband do it after I forbid him to do it, but realized we might freeze to death by 9:15 AM if we didn't get heat.


(In our defense, we JUST got gas a few weeks ago and it has been so cold here that I guess we just used it up much faster than we are used to.)

Anyway, there was a happy ending.  In the early hours of the frigid morning, before we got the guts up to call our gas man to stop by, and because I was totally obsessed with getting it all done so I could play in the wonderful, fluffy snow the second it started, I improvised my recipe and made it in my slow cooker and it turned out to be the best potato soup I have ever made.

This soup is super thick, which I love, but still has some potato lumps, which I also love.  Read my notes below and I am going to tell you how I did it (mostly) without measuring.

My notes:

--I did not measure the potatoes but I used enough to fill my slow cooker a little over 3/4 full.  Then, I just poured enough water to cover them, then added in about 2 tablespoons of chicken base to flavor.  I just eyeballed it.  You could use chicken broth or stock.

--By the time I stirred in my heavy cream, bacon, and cheese, it was almost to the top.  I have a 5 quart slow cooker, by the way.

--I loved the sour cream topping on it.  Pimiento cheese spread inspired, of course.

--You could definitely make this on the stove top.

--This is super thick, so be aware of that.  If you wanted it thinner, you could put less potatoes and more liquid.  You could also just use the potato masher and not the blender, but I really liked blending part of the soup for the consistency.  It was key to me.

Pimiento Cheese Potato Soup with Pimiento Cheese Sour Cream (Extra Thick Slow Cooker Version)

6 slices bacon
1 whole medium onion, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
2-3 pounds (approximately) russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
6-8 cups (approximately) chicken stock or broth (or equal part water plus chicken bouillon cubes or chicken base)
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup all purpose flour
3 1/2 cups  shredded medium cheddar cheese, divided
2 (4-ounce) jars chopped pimiento peppers, drained and divided
Kosher salt and coarsely ground black pepper to taste 
1 1/2 cups sour cream

  1. Fry bacon or cook in microwave until crisp and done.  Crumble and set aside
  2. Place the onion, celery, and enough peeled and chopped potatoes in a 5 quart slow cooker to fill to about 3/4 full (mine was just a little bit fuller than 3/4).  Pour in chicken broth to just cover vegetables.  Cook on high until soup is simmering gently all over the surface.
  3. Stir in 1 cup heavy cream and continue to cook until potatoes are very tender.  Using a potato masher, mash some of the potatoes so they break down and become thick.
  4. Place about 4 cups of the potatoes and soup in a blender and process until smooth.  Stir back into the soup in the crockpot.
  5. Toss 2 1/2 cups of the cheese with the flour in a small bowl until cheese is coated.  Gently stir into the soup until melted.  Stir in the crumbled bacon and 1 1/2 jars of the drained pimientos, and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Cook for about 30 more minutes.
  6. In a small bowl, stir together the sour cream, remaining cheese, and remaining pimientos (chop if they are in long strips). 
  7. To serve, ladle hot soup into bowls, then place a dollop of the pimiento cheese sour cream in the center.  
Here are some scenes from Wayne County from the great snow and ice storm of 2014.

Pin It!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Chicken and Broccoli Alfredo Pot Pies with Quinoa

I'm trying to get a grip on healthier and 'cleaner' (mostly cleaner) eating (it's January, hello!), and although I hardly ever buy prepackaged foods at the grocery store and we've been eating brown rice for, like, twelve years or something, I know I need to change a lot of things about my diet.

That doesn't mean I'm going completely crunchy, okay?

It just means I am more concerned than ever about the food I've (and my loved ones, of course) been eating and how it's been grown and processed.  (And it's not just one book I read or one show I watched…it's been coming at me from a lot of different directions for a long time.)  I'm really concerned about GMOs, and all of the food that is raised and grown with harmful chemicals, hormones, and antibiotics.  And how very, very sick our country is.  And…I hate to admit it... how bad I have felt physically for the last year.  (I have not been diagnosed with anything, by the way, and I am not on any kind of medication for anything, but I just haven't felt good.)

But I'm going to be honest, I got thoroughly disgusted at the grocery store the other day on my venture out to find healthy, organic replacements for my pantry and I wound up having a small breakdown right in front of the honey crisp apples in the produce section.  I wanted to throw my hands up in the air and scream.  (Which I did later, at my house where I scared no one but my husband.)  Eating healthy and organic is EXPENSIVE.  And I'm on a budget.

But, I'm trying to make small changes in my life.  You know, replace stuff with better stuff.  I still plan to blog some fattening goodies, so don't judge me, pretty please!  I am, however, trying new foods, products, recipes and methods.   One website I found recently that has been a great source of encouragement is The Gracious Pantry.  In particular, watch her video on how to get started with clean eating.  I felt encouraged after I watched it and not hopeless.  Start slow.  Make small changes here and there, because big drastic changes can overwhelm you and cause you to quit.  (See what I have already learned?  Go me!)

So anyway, here is a recipe that I came up with to be especially kid friendly, but with some really good things like veggies, grain, and protein.  My four year old grandson tore into this like a ravenous beast. (After a good amount of coaxing to get him to try it in the first place.) I know it's not super "clean."  I had some evil prepackaged pie crusts in my fridge left over from the holidays that I wanted to get rid of.  But there are some good things in it and the taste was really, really good.

Read my notes for some tips and tricks and other options to make it even cleaner and healthier.

My notes:

--First of all, I got my frozen broccoli at Sam's. Why do I buy frozen broccoli and not fresh?  Because inevitably, when I buy fresh broccoli with the good intentions of making something the next day, I get side tracked and wind up cleaning out a hairy, gray mass from my vegetable drawer a week later. ( I loved the short ingredient list on the back of their packages.)

--I chopped my chicken very fine and because I did this, I was able to get by using just one chicken breast.  The ones I buy, although not organic, are twice the cost of regular ones because they are hormone free, antibiotic free, etc., and I have to ration them out.  This is a super great trick for making your meat go further.

--I also chopped the broccoli up very fine so my grandson would not bite into a small tree and freak out.

--This is not traditional Alfredo, but Alfredo "inspired" and super easy because you just add everything to the skillet.  There is not enough sauce to drench the filling, but just enough to add flavor.

--The quinoa bulks it up and makes it all go further.  I use Bob's Red Mill Organic Quinoa and I love that it doesn't have to be pre-rinsed because that's one less thing I have to do.

--My ramekins held one cup.  You could use whatever size you want.

--This filling is delicious eaten straight out of the skillet and piled into a bowl.  I did that yesterday in fact.  No need to make the actual pot pie if you don't want to.

--You can add more chicken or broccoli or less or more onions and garlic and the universe probably won't explode.

--A healthy alternative to the pie crust would be to put a crumb topping of, say, whole wheat panko and maybe some chopped almonds?  Or sprinkle with a little more parmesan cheese.

Chicken and Broccoli Alfredo Pot Pies with Quinoa

Extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1-2 garlic cloves, minced (or equivalent from a jar)
1 grilled chicken breast, very finely chopped
1 (16-ounce) bag frozen broccoli, cooked and very finely chopped
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup shredded parmesan cheese
2 cups cooked quinoa
Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
1 refrigerator pie crust, left out at room temperature for 15 minutes
1/2 tablespoon heavy cream

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and coat the bottom with extra virgin olive oil.  Add the onion and cook until transparent.  Add garlic and stir and cook for 1 minute.  Add the chicken and broccoli and cook until mixture is hot.  

Place the butter in the skillet and stir as it melts.  When the butter is melted, pour in the heavy cream and continue cooking until mixture is bubbly and hot.  Turn off heat.  Stir in the cheese until melted.  Add the quinoa, and toss to coat.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  You can stop here and eat this mixture from a bowl.  Or you can proceed and make quick individual pot pies.

Fill 4-6 small ramekins or casserole dishes (or even oven safe mugs or bowls) (how many you use will depend on their size) with the chicken mixture.   Unroll the pie dough and cut out 6 rounds the same size as the top of the ramekins.  Set directly on top of the filling, then brush lightly with about 1/2 tablespoon of heavy cream.  Bake in a 400 degree preheated oven for about 20 minutes or until pie crust in golden brown on top.

Pin It!