Saturday, February 23, 2013

Be ... Our ... Guest!

by Shannon

Ryan and I love to have guests. Brunch, lunch, dinner, dessert, nightcap, overnight, daytrip. We don't care, as long as there are more people in the house than just the three of us. With Ryan's love of craft beer, our mutual appreciation of locally-roasted coffee and our amateur-foodie attitude, we entertain with food at least three or four times each month. Today, we had Drina and the kids over for lunch. Her husband John is busy with tax season, so we were happy to get the kids out of the house (and to give Drina an opportunity for some adult conversation). 

By 7:30 this morning, Ryan, Cruncher and I had rolled out of bed and were readying the house for our guests. Per usual, Ryan was responsible for cleaning, with Cruncher's assistance, and I took care of the food. On weekdays, Ryan does most of the tried-and-true dinner cooking, since he gets home from work first. But on the weekends, I like to take over and try new recipes. For lunch, I was featuring loaded baked potato soup and gourmet grilled cheese. 

If you want to follow the real recipe for the soup, I started here. But I didn't really follow the directions.  At all. I more or less used the ingredient list as ... suggestions, if you will. Besides, I haven't screwed up soup in a long time. 

This would make a great meatless meal if you omit the bacon. Of course, bacon makes everything immensely better, but it would still be a great soup without it. For these recipe pictures, the descriptions go clockwise from top left.

I started the stockpot with five teaspoons of Better Than Bullion and five cups of water boiling at a medium-high temperature. Off to peeling potatoes, about 3.5 pounds (or 10 total spuds). I hate peeling veggies. One day, I'll take off a knuckle. I chopped the taters up in different sized pieces, as I wanted the soup to have some chunky pieces and some smaller pieces that basically disintegrated into the broth, to build up the thickness. I ground some pepper on top (I always add dried spices at the beginning), and boiled the potatoes in the broth for about 15 minutes (stirring occasionally), until I could stab them easily with a fork. While that was going on...
I chopped up a single bunch of green onions. Green onions are our family's favorite cooking onion. They add great flavor and color, and they don't make me cry when I'm chopping them. I chopped them up to the light-green part of the stalk and put the dark green chopped pieces aside. The dark green pieces are thinner and cook faster, so I don't don't usually add them until late in the game. In went the white and light green pieces. 
After the potatoes were stab-able, I turned the stovetop temp down to "warm." I took a one-pound bag of frozen broccoli and put it in my food processor with a couple scoops of the soup. (The liquid helps the food processor not hate me.) I pulverized the contents, then adding it to the stockpot. I didn't want the broccoli to scare the kids from eating a bowl, so I wanted the pieces small. 
I then put a couple scoops of the soup, 8 ounces of half and half plus about half a cup of sour cream into a bowl to stir and mix thoroughly. Apparently, it's better to mix the dairy separate from the hot soup, to avoid curdling. Then I poured the mixture back in the soup and stirred. Now it looked like potato soup!
Here's the "loaded" part of the loaded baked potato recipe. Five cooked bacon strips (we always use thick-cut, and Ryan fried them up first thing this morning), four tablets of butter chopped, 8 ounces of shredded cheddar and the rest of the green onion. Stir and eat when all is melted. I did add another 10 ounces or so of water, as this deliciousness had cooked up pretty darn thick by the time we ate lunch.
For the kids, "gourmet grilled cheese" means hearty bread with cream cheese on each slice and shredded cheddar between. For the adults, goat cheese with a shredded mozzarella/parmesan blend on the same bread. Drina supplied the perfectly ripe fruit salad and heavenly butterscotch meringue bars. We. Were. STUFFED.
The kids recovered from full bellies faster than us adults. They fashioned a rocket ship!
Sibling love.  : )  That Ducky — she is such a little mother.
And then they all chillaxed with some coloring. Cruncher took on Transformers, Ducky chose Our Lady, and Mag-Lite tackled Thomas the Tank Engine...
...while we had some adult conversation and enjoyed our favorite coffee microroastery's Tanzanian peaberry (roasted two weeks ago). And Baby Larry tried to tell everyone he needed a nap.

I know. I know. The question on all of your minds is, "But, Shannon, what were you wearing while you slaved over the stove and played hostess?!"

Jade stud earrings: heirloom
Porcelain ose necklace: gift from the MIL, formerly Ryan's grandmother's 
Red T-shirt: Old Navy
Wool cardi: United Colors of Benetton, vintage
Skinnies: Old Navy (always stock up on denim in August!)
Loafers: Crown Vintage, DSW

And Cruncher wore his favorite non-schoolday outfit: Darth Vader, brown plaid cargos, snake tattoo and black dress shoes. He's got a look, that's for sure.

And tomorrow, we do it again! Isaac, Tenille and their kids are due over for dinner. May as well have people over again since the house is already clean. I'll let you know how it went in my WIWS post. 


  1. I call it, "being a minor-league foodie." Isn't it fun?? :-) I'll have to try the soup. I'm making a potato soup myself this week!

    I nominated you for a Liebster Award! Check it out here and reap the benefits of some easy blogging material:

  2. Thanks again for the enjoyable afternoon and yummy food! I LOVE the pics of the kids! :)

    1. Let me know if you want to plan another afternoon together! I'll email the pictures to you...