Baked Potato Soup

fullsizeoutput_1751I have mentioned I began blogging my recipes for my children so they will not be in the same predicament I found myself in after my mother passed away; I didn’t have written recipes for the comfort foods I enjoyed growing up.

I started by creating a database which I pulled up the other day and started to browse.The earliest entry in the database is September of 2004. A lot of the recipes have made their way to this blog over the past five and a half years. I was surprised to come across this recipe for one of my favorite soups. It was entered into the database ten years ago in October of 2006. It has to have been at least six or seven years since I made it which surprises me because it is one of my favorite soups.

Here is my recipe for Baked Potato Soup. It is wonderfully creamy, cheesy, and full of bacon flavor. I know my daughter Elizabeth used to love this soup; she loves potatoes. I may need to make it vegetarian sometime by using my “facon” in place of bacon for her. “Facon” is a bacon substitute using shiitake mushrooms. I’m also experimenting with a thinly sliced Japanese eggplant for “facon.” But that’s another blog post.

Here is what I did:

Baked Potato Soup

Ingredients

3/4 cup butter
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
8 cups milk
4 to 6 large baking potatoes, baked, cooled, peeled and cubed, about 4 cups
6 green onions, thinly sliced; reserve greens from two green onions for garnish
1 pound bacon, cooked, drained, and crumbled; divided and reserving 1/4 cup for garnish
1 cup (8 ounces) sour cream
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 1/2 cups shredded mild cheddar cheese; reserving 1/2 cup for garnish

Directions

Melt the butter in a large stockpot over medium heat. Stir in flour until smooth and bubbly and takes on a nutty aroma; about 3 to 5 minutes. Gradually add milk, stirring constantly, and cook until sauce just begins to thicken; about 15 to 20 minutes. Add potatoes and onions. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until soup begins to bubble. Reduce heat to low and simmer gently for 10 minutes. Add approximately three-quarters of the bacon, sour cream, salt, and pepper. Check seasoning of soup. You may need to add additional salt and pepper depending on the saltiness of the bacon. Return to simmer and then stir in cheese and cook until cheese is melted.

Garnish with small amount of cheese, bacon and green onion tops in this order. Serve baked potato soup immediately.

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Rice Cooked in Milk

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Rice cooked in milk will have the consistency of a creamy risotto and the rice will also have the same firm al dente feel of a properly cooked risotto.

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Rice cooked in milk served with a topping of sugar and cinnamon.

My favorite foods are the comfort foods my mother cooked for me when I was a child. These were simple foods, yet the feeling of them in my tummy then and the memories of love now, make them the foods I would give anything to have prepared one more time by my mother. Some were so simple I never bothered to ask my mother how they were made. My mother passed away nearly eight years ago, and with her went many recipes I’ll never have.

I started this blog five years ago for several reasons. One, because I started getting requests from friends to share the recipes of the food I was making. Two, I wanted to use it myself as a personal cook book or as an electronic recipe box where I could have all my recipes in one place. Most importantly though, I started this for my children so they would have the recipes of all their favorite foods after I was gone.

I share this recipe on Good Friday at the end of the Lenten season; Lent ended yesterday on Holy Thursday. My mother made this simple meal often during Lent when I was a child and it was one of my favorites. She would serve the rice with hard boiled eggs. The rice was topped with sugar and cinnamon making it a sweet treat for our evening meal. Rice and eggs seems like an odd combination, but it was actually quite ingenious. Although the meal was simple, it filled you up and was packed with protein.

This recipe is so easy. It is only three ingredients, yet I could never figure out how mom made this feel-good meal. I’ve come to realize that sometimes a recipe isn’t so much what goes in it, but rather the technique used to make it. The trick with this recipe is to add the milk in stages, not all at once.

Here is what I did:

Rice Cooked in Milk

Ingredients

1 cup long grain rice
¼ tsp salt
4 cups whole milk (Approximately)

Directions

Begin by combining 1 cup of milk, rice, and salt in a large saucepan and bring to a low boil/simmer on medium heat stirring frequently. Once boiling, turn heat down to medium – low and cover. Keep a watchful eye on the rice and milk to prevent the milk cooking away and burning. As the rice absorbs the milk, keep adding milk ½ cup at a time until the rice becomes tender. Continue stirring frequently during this time until the rice is done which takes about 35 to 40 minutes. You want a very thick, creamy consistency to the rice and the rice to be tender yet still have a bit of a firm al dente bite.

Let cool a few minutes and then serve with sugar and cinnamon.

The Ultimate Comfort Food: Mac and Cheese Cheesecake

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Mac and cheese – one of the best comfort foods around. This recipe is a playful take on macaroni and cheese as well as the classic cheesecake. Although it is a savory entrée, the addition of ricotta and cream cheese add to it the creamy richness you would expect in a cheesecake.

The best part of this dish is its versatility. I made this one using canned diced tomatoes and broccoli, but you could add just about anything you wanted to the dish. I am thinking bacon would be a natural.

Here’s what I did.

Ingredients

8 ounces ricotta
8 ounces cream cheese
8 ounces cheddar
2 eggs
¼ cup milk
1 tablespoon sugar
½ pound elbow macaroni
1 can diced tomatoes, strained really well
4 ounces broccoli flowerettes
¼ cup fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
1 cup Panko bread crumbs
½ cup plain bread crumbs
4 tablespoons butter plus additional for greasing springform pan

Directions

Lightly grease a springform pan with butter and then line with parchment paper. In a glass bowl, melt the butter by microwaving it and then mix the butter with the breadcrumbs. Press into the bottom of a springform pan and bake at 350° for about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile cook elbow macaroni according to package directions varying only the cooking time. Cook the pasta about three or four minutes less than the stated time. Also steam the broccoli for about 5 minutes and set aside. Drain the tomatoes and chop up the basil.

Next, in a food processor, process all the cheeses until fairly smooth. Add in the egg, milk, basil, and sugar and blend until very smooth. Mix together the pasta, tomatoes, broccoli and then incorporate the cheese mixture. Stir well and pour into the springform pan.

Bake at 275° for 45 minutes. Do not open the oven but turn it off and leave the pan in for another 45. Then remove from oven and let it sit for 15 to 20 minutes. Slice and serve.