Recipe for cream of awesome soup

It snowed today.  Only 3-4 inches, not a lot for northwest Illinois, but more than we’ve gotten at once for the past couple years.

When I was a kid, I remember it snowing all the time.  We’d go out sledding in the field across from our neighborhood. We’d pretend to be Arctic explorers bravely walking across the frozen pond, then running back to shore at full speed when someone thought they heard the ice crack. We’d make snow forts.  One year, on a snow day, my brother and I made a snowman on the roof (my mom was not happy about that).

Now, snow is just snow.  It’s still pretty to watch, but it’s also figuring out what to do with the kid if school is cancelled. It’s navigating slippery roads filled with a mix of overly-cautious and overly-aggressive drivers. It’s shoveling and melted puddles on the floor to avoid.

It’s also the perfect time to curl up with a book, or a notebook to write in, and a big bowl of homemade cream of awesome soup.

What, you’ve never heard of cream of awesome soup?  I’ve made it probably half a dozen times this winter, each time with whatever ingredients I’ve had on hand.  What I like most about it, besides how easy it is to make, is that it can be healthy too; you’re cutting out a lot of the sodium that most canned and commercial soups have. I don’t give any set amounts because so much of what makes cream of awesome soup awesome is that it’s whatever you want it to be. 

Cream of Awesome Soup

  1. Start with a big heavy nonstick pot. Pour in 8-10 c chicken stock (I prefer making my own, but you can also use store made, or just water and bouillon – although use only 1/2 tsp per cup of water, as you can always add more later).
  2. Add some diced veggies.  Carrots, potatoes, celery, parsnips, broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, corn – whatever you have on hand.  Throw in some pepper and herbs too – rosemary, thyme, bay leaves, parsley, sage, a dash of chili powder, etc. I suggest leaving salt out until the very end, because depending on what else you add (especially ham or cheese), it can really increase the saltiness. Simmer on med-low.
  3. Now make a roux to thicken the soup. In a separate pan, sauté a chopped onion or leek in some olive oil or butter over medium heat.  Add diced garlic and grated ginger, if you have any. Once the onion/leek is soft, dump in 1/2-1 c flour.  Stir until the onion/leeks are coated, then pour in 2-3 c milk.  Stir constantly on low heat until it’s really thick, and then add it to your broth and veggies.
  4. At this point, decide how chunky you want your soup. If you like chunks of veggies, leave it how it is. If you want a creamier soup, once the veggies are soft either scoop most of the chunks out and puree them in a blender or food processor, mash them with a potato masher, or – my favorite – use an immersion blender (you can get a decent one at Target for $20). I’ve also thrown in leftover mashed potatoes to make the soup creamier; you could probably use instant ones as well.
  5. Once you have your soup the consistency you want, add some meat.  Diced ham, chicken, turkey, bacon, whatever you want. To make it more filling, add barley, already-cooked rice, or already-cooked egg noodles. Cheese goes well with potato, broccoli, and spinach soups.
  6. Taste it and season accordingly.  More salt? More bouillon? More milk or water?  Then let simmer for a couple hours – the longer it cooks, the more it’ll thicken.

What’s your favorite way to spend a snowy day? Any favorite recipes you like to make on them?

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