When Winter Lingers

The rain has just kept coming here, which shouldn't be surprising given that 'here' is Seattle, Washington. But it's been excessive and lengthy this winter even by our soggy, Gore-tex'ed standards.  What else can a girl do but invite over a bunch of girlfriends for comfort food, wine, and reality TV?

My friends are a delightfully diverse bunch.  They are moms, newlyweds, and single gals.  We are tall, short, and medium, Korean and Irish.  Our dietary needs run the gamut from those who will eat anything someone else makes for them to vegetarians and even one dairy-free, gluten-free girl.  What in the world do you make for this crowd?

You make them a baked potato bar, with vegetarian chili and all the traditional baked potato toppings on the side: shredded Tillamook cheddar (the only cheddar in my book), diced green onions, sour cream, dairy-free sour cream, diced bacon, salsa, sliced olives, and steamed broccoli.  Everyone stays on their diet, and most importantly, we all feel warmed, comforted, and well-fed.

Already thinking of my next meal, I baked up all the potatoes I had, with the hope that the girls would leave a few untouched and I'd get to make potato soup.  I got my wish, and then found this recipe in an old, funky cookbook which also magically included many of the toppings I had leftover as well.  Soup kismet.

Baked Potato Soup

6 large organic Yukon Gold potatoes, baked
1/2 c butter
3 T flour
3 c milk (fat free works just fine)
3/4 t salt
1/2 t black pepper
2 oz real bacon bits
4 oz sour cream (don't use fat free)
shredded cheddar cheese
diced green onions

Melt butter in large, heavy pot.  Whisk in flour and cook for 2 minutes.  Whisk in milk, and continue to stir until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes.

Cut potatoes into bite sized pieces (include the skins only if you are using organic potatoes.  If not, discard the skin) and add to pot with salt, pepper, and bacon. Cook 5 or 10 minutes, then use a potato masher to smooth out the potato chunks a bit.  Stir in sour cream and add more milk if needed to get the consistency you want.  Top with lots of cheese and diced green onions.

I left the cheese out of the main soup and instead added it as a topping since I wanted to freeze some of this soup - it'll be the perfect thing to take to one of our many friends who have recently had babies - but feel free to stir some in with the sour cream to incorporate it into the soup.

Don't forget to put more cheese on top, no matter what, and let the comfort roll over you as the rain hits the roof.

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