recipe: grandpa’s potato-leek soup.

first of all, i want to thank everyone who made my grandpa’s tortellini soup that i posted a couple of weeks ago. it warmed my heart to see people loving his recipe and keeping his spirit alive through cooking. that’s why we pass down recipes, and i’m so thankful to be able to share these with all of you!

last week i asked the wise people of facebook and twitter what soup i should make next out of his cookbook. the overwhelming response was for this one, potato-leek soup, also known as vichyssoise (pronounced vishy-swah). pumpkin soup came in at a close second, so for all you pumpkin lovers, get ready for that one in a week or two!

this recipe is one of the easiest soups i’ve ever made. if you don’t count the seasoning and the garnish, there are literally only four ingredients. FOUR! i mean, even if cooking scares you, you can handle four ingredients, can’t you? i think you can, you’re the best!

one of the best parts of grandpa’s cookbook is that on many of the recipes, he adds a note. most of them talk about where he first found the recipes, and some of the good memories attached to it. and don’t we all have those notes for the food we make? we all remember the first meal we cooked for a dinner party or significant other, or the recipe that our mom passed down to us, or even the one you randomly found online and never stopped making because it was so good. grandpa wrote his memories down for us, so we can add those to the memories we make with his recipes. i’ll be sharing these notes at the bottom of a recipe when grandpa included one.

making this soup was extra-special for me because both my sister and my cousin stopped by while i was cooking, and we got to talk about grandpa and remember when he made certain soups for us. i’d forgotten eating a lot of these when i was little, and their memories helped jog mine. if i had any doubts about working my way through this cookbook, they’re gone after making this one.

if you’ve never had potato-leek soup, you might be like “wtf erin?! you want me to eat soup made of potatoes and onion-type things??” just trust me on how good this is. potato-leek soup is a creamy soup, with a light flavor of potato and leek, but it’s not too onion-y. it’s incredibly easy to eat, and best served with some crusty bread to dip in it. i hope you enjoy it as much as we did!


potato-leek soup (aka vichyssoise) makes a large pot of soup, enough to serve 4-6 and freeze half

  • 4 C. potatoes, peeled and coarsely chopped (i used six medium potatoes, because i wanted it thicker)
  • 3 C. leeks (white part plus 2 inches of green), thinly sliced (note: you can also substitute 3 C. thinly sliced onions)
  • 2 qt. fresh chicken stock or chicken broth
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 C. heavy cream
  • 3 T. fresh chives or parsley, finely chopped

in a heavy, 6-qt. saucepan or soup kettle, simmer the potatoes, leeks, chicken broth and salt partially covered for 40-50 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. use an immersion blender to blend the vegetables until the soup is smooth. you can leave some potatoes and leeks whole, at your preference. (if you don’t have an immersion blender, you can transfer the soup into a blender and blend it smooth, then transfer it back into the pot. caution: be careful when transferring hot liquids!) [note: grandpa’s original recipe said to “force the soup through a food mill or sieve into a large bowl and then pour back into the pot.” thank goodness for electric blenders, huh?]

season the soup with salt and pepper, and stir in the cream. before serving, return the soup to a simmer. ladle into a soup tureen or  individual soup bowls. serve garnished with fresh chives or parsley, and with some hot, crusty bread. this soup can also be served chilled.

note from grandpa: “we first served this soup on new year’s eve in the early 1960s after acquiring the Time Life International Cook Book series. we all enjoyed it so much that from that point forward, it became a tradition and always appears on our new year’s eve dinner menu.”


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recipe: grandpa’s tortellini soup.

you know how sometimes you just need a good bowl of soup? and not that crappy canned stuff (although there is a place and time for that). you need real, homemade, hearty soup.

this soup is the soup that you need to make when you’re in that mood. bonus points: you can make this using just one pot for everything!

my grandpa bill, who passed away this past february, was a pretty amazing guy. he was a military captain and doctor, an anesthesiologist, a wonderful husband to my grandma, a father of eight, a grandfather of 24 (plus some spouses), and a great-grandfather of two. he was the kindest, gentlest man you’ll ever meet. in addition to all that, he was also a fabulous cook, and soup was something of his specialty.

last christmas, he gave each family member their own copy of a cookbook…his cookbook.

it’s full of his best soup recipes, along with recipes for the snacks he used to make for all the big family get-togethers (that we are pretty sure he put crack into, that’s how addictive they are).

well, i’ve been planning on working my way through this cookbook for some time, and now that summer is over, i think it’s high time to roll up my sleeves and get going. i’m not putting any sort of timeline on myself, i have too many of those at work, but i’m going to check off the recipes in grandpa’s book until i’m done. and i’m going to love it, because he would love it. (i’m totally going to cry into each and every pot of soup that i make, but that’s to be expected)

so without further ado, here is my first attempt at cooking my way through grandpa bill’s cookbook. cheers!

tortellini soup makes a large pot of soup, enough to serve 4-6 and freeze half

  • 1 lb. italian sausage (sweet or hot, we used 1.5 lbs. of hot)
  • 1 C. onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 5 C. beef broth (can substitute chicken or veggie broth)
  • 1/2 C. water
  • 1/2 C. red wine (deep red)
  • 2 C. chopped, seeded tomatoes, about 4 (we used 1 can of diced tomatoes instead)
  • 1/2 tsp. basil (1 Tbsp. if using fresh basil)
  • 1/2 tsp. oregano
  • 1 8-oz. can tomato sauce (we used the stuff my mom and i canned last summer!)
  • 8-9 oz. tortellini, refrigerated or dried (we used refrigerated cheese tortellini)
  • 1 med. green pepper, chopped
  • 1 1/2 C. zucchini, shredded
  • 3 T. parsley, chopped

brown the sausage and pour out most of the oil, reserving around 1 Tbsp. of the oil for sauteing the onions and garlic. saute onions and garlic in the reserved oil with the browned sausage until the onions are translucent.

add the beef broth, water, wine, tomatoes, basil, oregano and tomato sauce and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes.

stir in the tortellini, green pepper, zucchini and parsley and simmer for an additional 30 minutes, covered.

because this makes a lot, you can freeze as much soup as you want and leave out only what you want to eat right away. it’s great to thaw out on a night where you want a good dinner but don’t feel like cooking!


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humpday happy list.

they’re baaaack! oh and i know you’ve just been waiting for these little humpday posts to come back. don’t pretend you haven’t been. (okay, you probably haven’t been waiting, but just let me pretend for a bit.)

i hope you enjoy my little happiness list on this hot wednesday. i’ve missed looking for inspiration throughout the month, and good thing i’m picking it back up again, because i have a feeling that i am going to need some inspiration over the next few months. i just got a GIGANTIC project assigned to me at work, and although i’m very excited about it and the opportunities it’s going to bring, i’m also freaking the bleep out.

here’s to it being the wednesday before labor day, and all the fun to come this weekend. let me know what’s been inspiring you/keeping you going this month!


1) humpday craftiness: rain drawings.

i saw this on (where else?) pinterest the other day, and now i cannot.stop.thinking about it! wouldn’t this be a fun thing to do on the sidewalk in front of your house, as a little surprise for the mailman  when it’s raining (or anyone really)? now i just need to convince Mister Man that this is a good idea too.

2) humpday hairstyle: topknot, topknot, topknot. also a topknot.

this weather makes me want to strip naked and lay on the concrete floor in my basement. but since i have a full-time job and also that is not socially acceptable, i settle for piling my mane on top of my head in a topknot. there are bobby pins scattered around the house, in all my pockets and bags, if that’s any indication of how often this has been happening. in other news, i need a haircut.

3) humpday gift idea: gifts in jars.

at the bridal shower for my friend kari the other day, one of the guests, who happens to be a coworker of mine (as well as a fabulous blogger), brought two jars that looked like this one, full of household necessities like sponges, dish towels, COFFEE, etc. when i saw them, i had two thoughts: 1) i wanted to steal them for myself, and 2) i wanted to steal them and take them home for myself. as someone who is always at target last minute for shower gifts, and never has wrapping paper on hand, this solves many, many problems.


4) humpday recipe: infused olive oil.

i love me some infusing. simple syrup, alcohol, sugar, give me something to infuse and i’ll do it. nothing is off-limits, including bacon vodka. so when i saw this little post on a beautiful mess, i got really excited. it’s always nice to have some inspiration for simple tricks to make your cooking feel super extra-special fancy. i will be trying this as the fall starts rolling in.


5) humpday cocktail: beergarita.

specifically this pineapple beergarita from my friend trisha. you already know that she is amazing at whipping up delicious cocktails from our thirsty thursday series in july, but this one…i have not been able to stop thinking about this one. last year for labor day at the cabin, i put myself in charge of bringing the ingredients for a fun cocktail (that should surprise no one, unless you’re new here, in which case, welcome!). it was a hit, and so i’m thinking i should keep up the tradition and bring the ingredients for this baby up there this weekend. methinks it would put me in the running for most popular person at the cabin, right?


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a pickle experiment.

okay, so something you should know about me is that sometimes i like to be a good suzy homemaker and do things like make pesto and can beets and pickles. i did a whole canning day with my mom last year, and that was maybe the day i felt most like laura ingalls wilder. and if you know me at all, you know that she is my hero and i would very much like to be her.

i’ve been trying to be better at doing these things myself, but sometimes an episode or four of the real housewives of somewhere also sounds like a good idea, and then the entire evening is gone, and i have no idea why i have no time for anything. and finding time is really the hardest part of canning and pickling things.

so far my track record for pickling is about .500. the first time i made dill pickles on my own, it was in the tiny kitchen of my studio apartment, and they turned out amazing. all the jars sealed and the pickles were delicious. the next time i made them, i got greedy and made too many jars at once, and it was a failure. only half the jars sealed, and because i was not prepared, i used the wrong type of dill and so they even looked disgusting in the jars.

this year, i decided to do a practice run. some friends and i are going to have a canning day this fall, and dammit i am not going to ruin pickles for them too. so i picked up some ingredients at the farmer’s market this weekend (got totally swindled into buying too many bunches of dill by a smooth-talking, 8-year old boy in the process), and made a small batch of pickles on tuesday night.

tuesday night small batch pickling.

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the jury is still out on these, but it’s looking good so far. if they turn out, i might post the recipe i use. would anyone out there be interested in that? if not, that’s cool too, but i’m here to be useful so let me know!


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when life gives you green tomatoes.

…make fried green tomatoes.

and people, i have a lot of green tomatoes right now. the lovely prior owners of our house planted bell pepper and tomato plants out back. and they are flourishing! i’ve even been able to pick a few peppers which have been delicious (there is just something about homegrown veggies).

the only issue is that the tomatoes just.won’t.ripen. apparently this is a common issue this year with the tomatoes, they just aren’t ripening, something about the weather and a late spring. so there are green tomatoes coming out my butt right now. i had to strip about 15 off the plants last night, and it was killing me that they were going to go to waste.

so last night while my husband trimmed up the crazy hedge in the backyard, i decided to buck up and make fried green tomatoes. which is super minnesotan of me. except not at all. i’m pretty sure i’ve never had fried green tomatoes in my life, mostly because i’ve spent very little time below the mason-dixon line, and it’s just not something we eat up in the northland.

i found a recipe on that didn’t require cornmeal, and modified it for what i had on hand at the time. and you guys. i totally get it now. i understand why they are a precious food, and i understand why they named a movie after them. fried green tomatoes are a perfect metaphor. you take something that isn’t at all at its best, and you turn it into something wonderful. slow clap for the south, you did something right with these babies.

fried green tomatoes (no cornmeal) – slightly modified from (serves 4)

  • 3 large unripe tomatoes, cut into ½-inch sliced rounds
  • salt to taste
  • 1/3 C. all-purpose flour
  • 1-2 large eggs
  • 1 cup fine breadcrumbs
  • black pepper to taste
  • garlic salt to taste
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 stick (1/4 C.) butter

put the tomato slices in a large colander and toss with around 2 tsp. of salt. place the colander in the sink and let the tomatoes sit for long enough to have the salt draw out the moisture (around 20 minutes or so), then gently pat dry with a paper towel and place them on a plate while you prepare the breading.

while the tomatoes are sitting in the sink, put the flour, the egg, and the panko in three separate shallow bowls and season each with salt, pepper, and garlic salt to taste. beat the egg (or eggs) once you’ve seasoned it.

heat the vegetable oil and butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. dip each tomato slice first in the flour, then in the egg, and finally in the panko, letting any excess coating drip off in between coats. with a tongs, place half of the tomato slices into the skillet. cook until golden brown on the bottom, 3 to 5 minutes, then turn and cook until lightly browned on the other side, another 3 to 5 minutes. the first side of the tomatoes will take the longest to brown, and the next will go faster. remove from the pan and drain on paper towels. repeat with the remaining breaded tomato slices. these are best served hot.


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