Wednesday, December 28, 2011

OLD BIDDY COMFORT FOOD...WARM WINTER SOUPS

Since lunches are now served at my home seven days a week, whether I'm there or not, soup has become a major part of our menu, especially during these cold winter months. 

Soup has always been one of my favorite things to both make and eat, at anytime of the year.  This year soup has become a staple and a survival food for feeding my elderly parents something warm and filling at their lunchtime.  If I'm not going to be home, the soup can go from the fridge into the small slow cooker before I go off to work and, set on "warm", it will be ready for them to serve themselves by noon. 

As a recipe collector, my cookbook shelf is bulging with soup recipes screaming to be tried, everything from classic chicken noodle and creamy tomato to deli favorites from around the country such as chowders and chilis.  Soup is as varied as any other dish you can name and even when following a recipe, seldom comes out the exact same way twice. 

As an added bonus, it's really hard to mess up soup.  Many Mothers and chefs have gone through their pantry and refrigerators on a Friday and simply swept everything into a big pot with some broth and turned all those leftovers into a wonderful soup.  While working at the Holiday Inn restaurant in my younger years, we all looked forward to Friday lunch because chef made the best soup from everything left in the kitchen during the week. 

MAKING MY WAY THROUGH MY RECIPE FILE
This week I pulled out a recipe that's been intriguing me for quite a while - Cheeseburger Soup.  The original recipe must make enough soup to feed a small army because even cut in half this made enough for six servings.

Living up to it's name, it tastes a lot like a really juicy cheeseburger.  Although I followed the recipe closely for this first time I will be modifying it many times by switching up the cheese (a spicy Montery Jack for the processed American), adding some bacon for something close to a bacon cheeseburger or maybe some swiss for the American and a few added mushrooms.  Take a look at your favorite diners burger list and make some variations of your own.  But believe me, you'll want to try out this soup this winter - I'm sure it will become a family favorite.

CHEESEBURGER SOUP
1/4 pound lean ground beef
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup shredded carrots
1/4 cup chopped celery
1/2 teaspoon dried basil or oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
3 teaspoons butter
3 cups chicken broth
1 pound potatoes, peeled and diced to a small bite size
1 tablespoon corn starch mixed in 1/4 cup cold water
1/2 pound processed American cheese, cubed (I used Velveeta)
3/4 cup milk
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup sour cream (optional)

Cook ground beef in a 2 quart heavy saucepan over medium-high heat until just cooked through, stirring until meat crumbles. 

Add onions, carrots, celery and herbs.  Saute 4 minutes or until beef is browned.  Drain well.

Stir in chicken broth and potatoes.  Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer 10-12 minutes until potatoes are cooked tender.  Stir in the corn starch mixture and stir until soup begins to thicken.  Cook an additional 5-6 minutes until soup thickens. 

Whisk in cheese, milk and seasonings and stir until cheese is melted.

Serve topped with sour cream if desired although I didn't because we were so anxious to JUST EAT!

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