Cold Weather Comfort

Warm the winter chill with this healthy potato and bacon soup

y favorite time to enjoy a steaming hot bowl of homemade soup is winter. Every year, at the first sign of frost, my husband makes his famous oxtail soup. He first introduced it to me when we were newlyweds and it has become a highly anticipated occasion in our house every year.

I was quite skeptical initially because I had never even heard of oxtails before then but when I tasted that masterpiece of succulent pieces of meat balanced against tender chunks of fresh vegetables in a tomato broth, I was blown away.

Of course, I eventually requested a meatless version but it didn’t even come close, so once a year in the Ivey household, it goes down!

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I make a mean comfort soup myself and although it doesn’t hold oxtail status, everyone is generally excited that I made it and we’re allowed to have it more than just once a year. 

I stumbled upon a very nice baked potato soup recipe in a magazine a few years back and I tweaked it a bit to fit my healthy eating lifestyle. It was a hit from the first pot! No toasted crusty bread or buttery crackers-this soup is enough all by itself.

One thing I do differently, however, is preserve the potato skins. This particular recipe calls for peeling the potatoes once they’re baked and cooled. Some recipes call for leaving the skins on, but I thought it would be cool to use them to make loaded potato skins.

I cut the potatoes in half, lengthwise, and scoop out the centers, setting the potato flesh aside. After I filled each half with organic cheddar and cooked uncured turkey bacon, I placed them in the oven to melt the cheese. Topped with chopped green onion and a dollop of sour cream to serve, they were among the best skins I’ve ever tasted! 

My favorite dairy free alternatives, which fool even my toughest pro-dairy advocates, are listed in the Helpful Hints section but if you’re not quite ready to take the leap, go for the organic options! 

It’s amazing how even the simplest changes in diet can go a long way to improve overall health.  Eliminating artificial and chemically processed foods from our diet is a huge step toward wellness. I often remind my husband that it can cost more at the register, but it’s much cheaper than the pharmacy.

Try this amazingly delicious comfort soup for yourself. If you’re feeling adventurous- try the dairy-free option or just swap out the milk for a happy medium.

Bon Appetit!

Baked Potato Soup

Ingredients

  • 2 6 – 8 ounces baking potatoes (such as russet or Yukon gold)
  • 3 tablespoons  organic butter
  • 1/2 cup  chopped onion
  • 1/4 cup chopped celery
  • 3 tablespoons unbleached flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 4 cups organic milk
  • 1 1/4 cups shredded organic cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup low sodium chicken broth
  • 8 slices uncured turkey bacon, crisp-cooked, drained and crumbled
  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced green onion
  • 1/4 cup organic sour cream

Directions

  1. Scrub potatoes with a vegetable brush; pat dry. Prick potatoes with a fork. Bake at 425 degree F for 40 to 60 minutes, or until tender. Cool. Peel potatoes, if desired. Chop potatoes; set aside.
  2. In a heavy large saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add onion and celery. Cook and stir about 5 minutes or until crisp-tender.
  3. Stir in flour, thyme, salt and pepper. Add milk all at once. Cook and stir for 5 to 6 minutes or until thickened and bubbly.
  4. Add potatoes, 1 cup of the cheese, and the broth; stir until cheese melts. Slightly mash potatoes with the back of a spoon or a potato masher.
  5. To serve, top each serving with bacon, cheese, green onions and the sour cream.

Helpful Hints

  • An unsweetened soy or almond milk is best- be sure to steer clear of vanilla flavored varieties
  • There are a host of terrific veggie broths on the market to replace the chicken broth; I like Imagine brand.
  • Non-dairy cheese can be tricky because they all don’t behave the same; it depends on what you want it to do.  Daiya brand gets a lot of points for pizza, but I like the Teese brand as well.  Soy-Sation is also a notable contender.
  • Opt for an uncured, nitrite/nitrate free bacon. If you can’t find turkey, there’s a pork option too. Tofutti makes an incredible non-dairy sour cream.  You’ll never switch back.

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