Monday, February 8, 2010

Time to menu plan!

I am a seasonal eater. I guess it comes from growing up eating what was in season in the garden. I don't tend to crave a peach in february and I do not want an orange in July! At this time of year, I am into eating citrus salads and hearty soups and stews with homemade bread. That doesn't mean that I don't get the desire to have some of that wonderful springtime weather that I know is just around the corner!

I cook seasonally partly because I get tired of the same old things year round. In the summer, we eat mostly salads and grilled things and in the winter, we eat casseroles and soups. It gives me something to look forward to and saves me money because I am buying produce in season.

I also think if we ate more seasonally we would be a bit more in tune with our bodies and our climate. Since most of us spend our days in a climate controlled world, most of us think nothing of having meatloaf and mashed potatoes on the hottest day of the year. If you have been out in a hot world all day long, your body will not want to put that much food into your system. I think our climate controlled worlds is part of our weight control problem. We need to get outside and be hot!

I am planning my meals for the few weeks today. I looked on my monthly meal planner guide and next week is almost empty! That's enough to strike fear in my little heart not to mention my stomach! I don't like repetition so I try not to have many meals alike in the same month. There are those that get requested over and over like spaghetti and tacos but I usually end up deciding what we eat and when we eat it. This month, I am beginning to say goodbye to some of my favorite soups and winter casseroles. I know by March, I'll be ready to start cooking with spring fever!

One of my favorite winter soups is potato chowder but it is a chore to make. All that peeling and chopping when all I want to do is eat! Thank heavens I was given this recipe by mom a few years ago. When she gave it to me, I just stared at it thinking it would be the worst chowder I ever tasted. It only had three ingredients! Needless to say, I got sick and she fed me the chowder. It is easy, quick to make and has as many variations as you can dream up. It's a great leftover soup too!

Quick Potato Chowder
1 bag frozen chopped hashbrowns - you could use o'brien potatoes but my husband does not like peppers!
1 package white gravy mix, like pioneer - I buy mine at Sams so it's 3/4 cup.
1 large can low-sodium chicken broth or 4-6 cups of homemade(I have this sometimes in the freezer from big batch cooking a chicken)

Dump all three ingredients into a large pan and cook on low until the potatoes are tender. OR Dump all three into a large crockpot on low for 4-6 hours.

After cooking, I use a potato masher to make the soup thick. Now comes the fun part! The different variations! I add something different each time to use up leftovers.

Variation 1- add crumbled cooked bacon (2-3 slices) and 2 cups frozen corn for corn chowder
Variation 2- add chopped polska keilbasa and cheese(1 cup)
Variation 3- add chopped celery, clam juice, and a can of clams
Variation 4- diced cooked chicken and leftover rice(add this at the end of cooking)
Variation 5- add frozen chopped broccoli or cauliflower when adding the potatoes
Variation 6- chopped leftover steak, add grated cheese after serving.
I could go on and on with the variations so you can see that this soup is very versatile. I have one child who loves clam chowder after our Maine trip and one who does not so I usually cook the potato chowder as is and then split it at the end into two pots. Then I make clam chowder with one and something else with the other.

Get creative with what you have and see what you can come up with!

Man, I will miss this soup this summer!

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