Broccoli Cheese Potato Soup

Broccoli Cheese Potato Soup--Made with fresh ingredients and so good!

When I was doing my meal planning this week, I was happy to see that I had all the ingredients needed to make a family favorite for dinner: Broccoli Cheese Potato Soup.  However, when I went to make it, I realized that while I had everything I needed, it wasn’t necessarily in the most convenient form: baby carrots instead of pre-shredded, frozen broccoli instead of fresh (I forgot to pull it out to thaw) and some potatoes that were starting to go bad.  So the prep time for this meal took a little longer than planned.  When my husband called to give me the heads up that he was on his way home from work, he asked what we were having and was excited when I told him.  This is a soup that my family cannot get enough of and we rarely have leftovers because everyone just keeps going back for more.

So let’s get started:
Start by prepping your ingredients.  Chop the vegetables.  Cut the potatoes into approximately 1-inch cubes, shred the carrots (if you don’t have pre-shredded), chop the onion and mince the garlic.  For the broccoli, chop it into tiny florets (cut off as much stem as you can so the pieces are smaller).

Broccoli Cheese Potato Soup--Made with fresh ingredients and so good!

Add your broth to a pot and throw in the onions/onion salt, broccoli, carrots, garlic/garlic salt and bay leaf.  Simmer on medium, covered for about 15-20 minutes, or until the veggies are tender.

While the veggies are cooking, start the potatoes boiling in a large pot.  Drain the water when they are cooked through but not too soft.

Once the broth/veggies and potatoes are done, pour the broth/veggies into the pot with the potatoes.  Make sure to remove the bay leaf.  Slowly stir in the half and half (you can also use 2% milk or even heavy cream).

Turn the burner onto a low heat, uncovered.  Season with the remaining herbs and spices, adding a little extra or a little less of whatever you like.  Personally, I love the allspice and nutmeg in this soup.  It adds an unexpected richness to the overall flavor without being overwhelming.

Broccoli Cheese Potato Soup--Made with fresh ingredients and so good!

Once the soup has warmed back up, add the cheese in small handfuls and stir until melted.

If the soup is thinner than you like after adding the cheese, you can add a thickening agent.  (I prefer to use Ultra Gel, which is a modified food starch similar to cornstarch, but you can add it to hot or cold liquids without mixing it with water first and it won’t separate.)

Remove from heat and serve.  Garnish with shredded cheese, parsley or any other seasoning you like a little more of.  Enjoy!

Broccoli Cheese Potato Soup--Made with fresh ingredients and so good!

Broccoli Cheese Potato Soup

Ingredients:

  • 4 c. broccoli, chopped
  • 4 c. potatoes, cubed 
  • 4 c. chicken broth
  • 3 c. cheese, shredded
  • 2 c. carrots, shredded
  • 2 tsp. onion salt (or 1/2 c. onion diced)
  • 1/4 tsp. garlic powder (or 2 cloves of garlic minced)
  • 2 c. half and half
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp. allspice
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. dried basil
  • 1/8-1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1/8-1/4 tsp. salt (varies depending on salt content of broth)
  • 1/4 tsp. ground pepper

Directions:

  1. Chop the vegetables.  Cut the potatoes into approximately 1-inch cubes, shred the carrots (if you don’t have pre-shredded), chop the onion and mince the garlic.  For the broccoli, chop it into tiny florets (cut off as much stem as you can so the pieces are smaller).
  2. Add your broth to a pot and throw in the onions/onion salt, broccoli, carrots, garlic/garlic salt and bay leaf.  Simmer on medium, covered for about 15-20 minutes, or until the veggies are tender.
  3. While the veggies are cooking, start the potatoes boiling in a large pot.  Drain the water when they are cooked through but not too soft.
  4. Once the broth/veggies and potatoes are done, pour the broth/veggies into the pot with the potatoes.  Make sure to remove the bay leaf.  Slowly stir in the half and half (you can also use 2% milk or even heavy cream). 
  5. Turn the burner onto a low heat, uncovered.  Season with the remaining herbs and spices, adding a little extra or a little less of whatever you like.  Personally, I love the allspice and nutmeg in this soup.  It adds an unexpected richness to the overall flavor without being overwhelming.
  6. Once the soup has warmed back up, add the cheese in small handfuls and stir until melted.
  7. If the soup is thinner than you like after adding the cheese, you can add a thickening agent.  (I prefer to use Ultra Gel, which is a modified food starch similar to cornstarch, but you can add it to hot or cold liquids without mixing it with water first and it won’t separate.)
  8. Remove from heat and serve.  Garnish with shredded cheese, parsley or any other seasoning you like a little more of.  Enjoy!

Meal Planning: How Do I Stick with It? (Part 2)

Meal Planning: How Do I Stick with It?--simple tips on how to follow through with meal planning

Last week I posted about how to get started with meal planning.  I got a good response so I decided to do a little follow up post about how to stick with it once you’ve started.

Like with many good intentions, we start out strong.  But after a while, we can fall into the trap of complacency.  Life happens.  Other things take priority.  I totally get it!  However, I think it’s easier to stick with something when we think about our “why” or our reason for doing it in the first place.  Maybe your “why” for meal planning is to put healthier meals on the table.  Or maybe it’s that you want/need to stick within a budget.  Whatever it is, if it’s important to you, then you can remind yourself of your “why” when it comes time to do your meal planning each week (or however often you do it).

In my “how to get started” post, I mentioned a few tips that help make my life easier when planning out my family’s meals and I wanted to go into a little more depth and explain how each of these help me stick with meal planning.

One tip I gave was to make a list of meals that you/your family like to eat.  By having a running list of meal options, it makes choosing what to make each week easier because you don’t have to think about it.  There have been weeks that I’m sure I wouldn’t have taken the time to meal plan if I didn’t have a list of meals to choose from.  I also have a few Pinterest boards that I refer to when I want to try something new.  If it works out and we want to make it again, I just add it to my list.

Meal Planning: How Do I Stick with It?--simple tips on how to follow through with meal planning

Another one I mentioned was my dry erase calendar.  It’s a five week calendar and I just fill in the dates and meals.  I like having a monthly calendar because it shows me what I’ve planned in the weeks prior so that I’m not repeating the same meals too often.  It helps me introduce a little more variety into our meals.  Plus, if there was a meal I didn’t make the week before for some reason, I can usually move it to the current week because it’s likely I’ll have all the ingredients needed.  One other way the calendar is useful is that I can put certain events on it that might require me to plan a different kind of meal based on time available.  For example, we had a movie night last week with our church group that started at 6.  My husband gets home at 5:30.  So when planning meals out at the beginning of the week, I knew that I either needed to make a meal ahead of time (like a crock pot meal) or it needed to be a low-prep meal (like breakfast for dinner).

Lastly, I try to do my meal planning and grocery shopping at the same times each week. We get our local grocery ad on Saturdays.  So on Saturday I will browse through the ad to see what kind of sales they are running and circle anything we need.  Then, when I sit down to meal plan–usually Saturday or Sunday–I have my ad with me and I can see if there is anything else I need to purchase based on the meals I’m making that week.  Monday is a double ad day, so I keep the ad from the week before to refer to as well.  It’s totally possible that there is an item in the previous week’s ad that I didn’t need last week, but I do this week.

Each of these tips helps me streamline my process so I get my meal planning done faster and it doesn’t feel like such a big task.  At first, it might be difficult to implement these changes into your schedule, but if you stick with it, I’m sure you’ll be glad you did.

What is your “why” for meal planning?

Meal Planning: Where Do I Start? (Part 1)

Meal Planning: Where Do I Start?--tips for starting your own weekly meal plan

When my husband and I first got married, I didn’t know much about meal planning.  I was used to cooking meals for myself and sometimes my sister, who was also my roommate.  What I made totally depended on what I happened to have on hand that week and more often than not it was a can of soup, pancakes (or some other breakfast food) or maybe a casserole if I was feeling ambitious and needing leftovers for a couple days.  It’s not that I didn’t know how to cook, but when you’re cooking for one, it’s just not super motivating to spend a lot of time in the kitchen.

Fast forward to 2016.  I’ve been cooking for my family of two, then three and now four for the last 7.5 years and it wasn’t until about a year and a half ago that I finally decided that I needed to start meal planning.  My reasons were simple: 1) I wanted to make sure my family was eating well, 2) I hated hitting 4:00 or 4:30pm and realizing I had no idea what I was making for dinner that night and then rushing to figure it out, and 3) I wanted to save money.  I decided that I have enough things on my plate as a mom, wife and adult, that if I could make my life a little simpler by planning out our meals for the week then I should do it.

I’ll save the process I went through to get where I am now for another day, but suffice it to say that I feel good about my current process and how it works for us.

Here’s what I do:

  1. Each week I get the ad for my local grocery store and browse through it, circling items that we are out of that are on sale.  (Obviously not everything we need will be in the ad, but if I can save a little money and time by knowing ahead of time what’s on sale, then why not?)
  2. I pull out a list of meals that my family likes to eat on a regular basis.  It’s just a list I’ve written out on a sheet of lined paper that I can add to as we find more meals we like.
  3. Then I take my list and put it next to the grocery ad so I can see what meals I can make using items that are on sale that I don’t have.  For example, this week I had written down that we needed teriyaki sauce, which was on sale.  Also on sale were broccoli and cauliflower.  Looking at my meal list, I can make teriyaki chicken with steamed veggies and rice because I already have carrots, chicken and rice.
  4. I have a dry erase calendar that I use to plan our meals for the week.  Knowing that it takes about 30 minutes to make, I can check our week and schedule it depending on what’s going on in the evening during the week.
  5. I repeat this process until I have meals planned out for each day of the week.  
Meal Planning: Where Do I Start?--tips for starting your own weekly meal plan

My main goal when planning out meals is to use as much of what I already have as possible and only buy what I need.  Some meals don’t require me to buy anything if I already have it all on hand and others I need a few ingredients.  This way, I know exactly how much I need of each item and approximately how much I’ll be spending.

Once I’ve got it all planned out, I know I have a little flexibility with moving the meals around because I know I’ve got everything I need to make whatever meal I’ve planned.  Some weeks I follow it to a “t” and other weeks I move the meals around if something comes up or I just feel like making something else that night.

A couple of other tips:

  • I try to plan my shopping trip for the same day every week (usually Mondays, since I can double up on ads).
  • I always keep easy no-prep meals on hand, like frozen pizza and freezer meals, for days I just don’t feel like making the effort what I’ve planned.

What has stopped you from meal planning for your family?