We have a flower bed beside our patio. Only three types of flowers grow there throughout the year. From April to October, the bed is filled with impatiens. They are the “standard issue” impatiens and the colors vary by what’s available each year. We plant impatiens not because they are our absolutely favorite flower, but because of their easygoing nature. Our house is in the woods and we need flowers that are tolerant of both full shade and low maintenance. ;-) Impatiens fit the bill, and by the end of the growing season their showy display is impressive.
However, during the late fall and winter months, this particular flower bed looks pretty sad and lonely. The fact that this bed is right beside my immediate “at the ready” firewood supply for the wood stove does not help at all … as the errant log and large sheaths of bark often find their way into the bed. The upper floor of our house is T-shaped and the patio is actually the space under the base of that T. It’s also right outside our den where our woodstove is located. (I designed our house with the openness we wanted and the ease of heating with wood foremost in my mind.) My husband keeps me well supplied with wood, which often means the wood is stacked a good 3- or 4- feet high between the columns that frame the patio. For months, I don’t usually even see the flower bed unless I go wandering in that part of our yard and woods, perhaps checking out something that the cats are up to. Right before Valentine’s Day, I walked into our woods down the hill from the patio to empty our chinchilla’s cage of its shredded pine bedding. Admittedly, it’s a task I often relegate to my husband when he’s out in the yard refilling the birdfeeders, but this time I was working on my “to do” list for the party and the timing was off to make it one of his collateral duties. Coming back up the hill, I was rewarded by the lovely sight of more than a dozen snowdrops in the flower bed. I stopped and smiled and thought, yep, it’s that time again. Every single year, without fail, I am joyfully surprised by the appearance of snowdrops. :-)
Snowdrops are aptly named because they show up at the time of year when snow is in the forecast and can often be seen peeking through snow. When your are dreaming of seeds and bedding plants in a few months and your only expectations of fresh flowers are from the florist, suddenly, there they are for you. Today’s forecast is for several inches of snow. So, this morning out of curiosity, I purposely stepped around our firewood “fortress” to see how many snowdrops remained. I saw three and they looked as pretty as ever, no worse for wear from rain and sleet the last 24 hours. One was actually outside the confines of the flower bed—on its way down the hill—but still standing proud and pretty. (Its location was a nicer reminder than the stack of landscape timbers off to the side of the patio that we need to re-do the flower bed, since the timbers have fallen away due to gravity and time.) The funny thing about snowdrops is they look so delicate and fragile to me, much like lilies of the valley in their fragility and whiteness fringed with green. I wonder how they can survive the cold and snow and remain so intact and beautiful. Yet they do, year after year. Best of all, they are another sign that spring is coming. When my prolific blue star flowers (sometimes called Star of David flowers), the third type of flower that graces this bed, follow in a few weeks, I will know for certain winter is behind us.
Photo by dawnzy58
However, today winter remains and with the snow soon to make its appearance here, a suitable dinner is needed. You guys already know I’ m a soup kind of girl! Well, the opposite of delicate, but still as suited to a snow day as the snowdrop, is a hearty, flavorful soup. What kind of soup recipe do I turn to when I am otherwise occupied (e.g., doing taxes today) and don’t plan to be in the kitchen enjoying the soup “process,” like I do with my Everything Soup? Well, I have a couple of quick soup recipes I rely on … like this Hearty Baked Potato Soup recipe. It was shared on J.D. Roth’s personal finance blog, Get Rich Slowly. (I am nothing, if not a girl of many interests.) His wife, Kris, is the mastermind behind this very simple and easy, yet wonderfully tasty soup. It’s pretty frugal (always important, but especially appreciated these days) and it’s made from ingredients that almost everyone has on hand. That latter fact makes any recipe a winner for me, but especially on a snowy day. (The snow just started coming down!) After all, you don’t want to go to the grocery store and face the “snow is coming and, oh, no, I might run of of TP, milk, bread, or junk food” crowds, do you? I didn’t think soooo! (Of course, that might only be in Virginia where that particular phenomenon occurs. Do tell.) Finally, this recipe is naturally gluten free, so it’s GFE! Love that, and love this soup!
Do you have a food or recipe that you call on when snow is imminent or already falling? One that warms your body and your soul perhaps. Tell us about it. Perhaps you have your own “must have” ptoato soup recipe … we’d like to hear about that, too!
Baked Potato Soup
(Click here for a printable version of this recipe.)
– 3 large russet potatoes, cleaned (but not peeled), skins pierced 3-4 times with a fork (you can use about 6 smaller potatoes, and I’ve used white potatoes before also; with a large crowd you can use a large stockpot and double the recipe)
– 1/4 cup butter (dairy or non-dairy)
– 1 small yellow onion, chopped
– 2 cloves garlic, minced
– 1/4 cup GF flour
– 2 cups GF chicken broth (or one 14-ounce can, I often make my broth from Better than Bouillon chicken base; or vegetable broth for vegetarian/vegan)
– 12 ounces evaporated milk (or dairy-free milk; almond milk is my favorite in this recipe)
– 2 tsp seasoned salt
– Optional toppings: shredded cheese (dairy or non-dairy), diced ham or crumbled bacon, chives or scallions, Tabasco sauce, GF croutons
Microwave the potatoes 8-9 minutes until baked through. Set aside to cool slightly. Melt the butter in a soup pot over medium-high heat and add onion. Cook 6-7 minutes until softened. Add minced garlic and cook 30 seconds, until fragrant. Add flour and stir several minutes to make a thickened roux. Gradually stir in evaporated milk and broth. Scoop the pulp from one potato, mash it slightly and add to soup. Cook soup on medium to bring to a boil. Add seasoning salt (to taste). Dice the remaining two potatoes and empty skin of the third potato. Add to soup and heat through.
Shirley’s Notes: Adapted from Kris Roth. This recipe is also great to turn to when you have a couple of potatoes in your pantry that will soon be sprouting offspring (if enough dirt gets thrown their way!). It’s very well received when shared with others, too—it looks very appealing in a canning jar. If you’ve always shied away from potato skins in recipes, don’t this time. The skins give a nice heartiness to the soup and add more nutrients as well. As noted, this soup can be made dairy free using a dairy-free equivalent for butter/margarine and, a dairy-free milk, like almond milk or coconut milk in place of the evaporated milk. I love this recipe made with almond milk. I’ve also added additional ingredients like mushrooms (when the onions are added) and diced chicken (when the last potatoes are added) for an extra hearty and tasty version of this soup.
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