With the Super Bowl coming up, why not have a soup-er bowl of our own with some of our family favorites (and a few new ones, too)?

This week, I’m highlighting a recipe for Baked Potato Soup that my mom found in a local women’s group cookbook, Working for a Cure. This is an easy and yummy new take on potato soup that has a little hint of flavor you just can’t get out of a boiled potato. It’s thick. It’s chunky. It’s everything you want on a cold winter’s day.

Give this one a shot and let me know some of your favorite soup recipes. We’re always looking for something new to try.

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Baked Potato Soup

4 large baking potatoes

2/3 cup butter

2/3 cup all-purpose flour

6 cups milk

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1 1/2 cups shredded cheese

12 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled

1 8-ounce package sour cream

4 green onions, chopped

Wash potatoes and prick several times with fork. Bake at 400 degrees for 1 hour or until soft. After cooling, cut potatoes in half lengthwise. Scoop out pulp and reserve; discard shells. Melt butter in Dutch oven over low heat. Add flour and stir until smooth. Cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Gradually add milk. Cook over medium heat until think and bubbly. Stir constantly or it will stick. Stir in potatoes, salt, pepper, cheese, bacon, and green onions. Cook until heated but do not boil. Stir in sour cream. Can be served with additional cheese, bacon, and green onions on top. If soup is too thick, thin with more milk after all ingredients have been mixed together.

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Yes. I’m a Beagle mom, and my two kids couldn’t be anymore different if they actually tried to be. Jackie, the eldest (and the one screaming in the above picture), is relatively laid back, well mannered, easy to handle, and minds to a T. At the same time, she is a hunter (of birds and squirrels), is upset fairly easily by passersby, hates all things healthy and only likes French fries and such, and has a very loud “bugle” that she enjoys singing. Now, Jo, the youngest, is quite the opposite. She doesn’t bark; and if she does, something is majorly wrong. She is pretty calm but still has puppy-spurts of energy, has no idea what manners actually are, has a large appetite, loves all fruits and vegetables, and never misses an opportunity to snuggle.

When someone refers to them as dogs, I’ll admit that I’m a tad offended. They are as close to children as I plan to have right now; and to be honest, they act better than any human child I’ve ever come across in a restaurant, store, or in the car. They don’t interrupt me while watching TV or talking with people. (Now, when I talk on the phone, Jackie tends to talk, too; but I can always let her outside to bugle it out.) They may wake me up in the middle of the night, but it usually only lasts for 10 minutes or so before we are back in bed. When we go to a pet-friendly restaurant, they both sit quietly waiting for little bits of whatever I’m having and never make a peep. They ride in the car with ease and usually fall fast asleep before we get to our destination.

No, I wouldn’t trade them for humans for the world.

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I don’t know about you, but I’m a huge fan of dips of all kinds. Hot dips. Cold dips. Meaty dips. Veggie dips. If you can dip a chip, cracker, or vegetable in it, I’m most likely going to try it. Last Friday, a group of us girls got together to enjoy a pizza night at home in front of the fire; and I volunteered to bring another dip to try. Hopefully you can give it a try at an upcoming Super Bowl party?

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Man Rotel

1 pound mild sausage

1 can rotel tomatoes

1 package cream cheese

Brown and drain the sausage. Add the drained can of rotel tomatoes and mix into the sausage. Add the cream cheese in pieces and melt together. Serve warm with tortilla chips.

First, a tree update. It didn’t make it. Two days after posting my last blog about how well it was doing and how I was going to help it grow, I walked into the living room to find it leaning drastically towards the floor. So, out it went with the trash.

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Now, I’ve been traveling to and from Baton Rouge for a month now for my new job with Country Roads; and yes, I’ve been listening religiously to “Up and Vanished” just like I said I would. On Monday morning, I finished the tale of Tara Grinstead. Twenty-four episodes later I was convinced I knew exactly who killed her and who was taking the fall for it. These two that were arrested (Ryan Duke and Bo Dukes – no relation) have quite the story and so many missing pieces. You have to go listen if you haven’t. I don’t want to spoil the not-so-finalized ending you’re left with.

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In the mean time, I’ve started up a new podcast. It’s by the same producers of “Up and Vanished”. It’s called “Atlanta Monster“, and it’s all I can do not to jump ahead and search Google far and wide for missing information. I’ll keep you posted on what I think. I’m only through Episode 2 as of today.

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Recently, I received a little note of thanks from Natchez-extraordinaire Kathleen Bond for a recipe I shared with readers a few months back. Here it is:

Kudos to Jennie Guido for sharing her fabulous family recipe for
breakfast casserole. Its flexibility made it so easy to customize to
my personal taste (sautéed spinach and mushrooms on the first try). I
made two lasagna pans of it for our annual Christmas brunch – and
greedily portioned out the little bit that was left over to enjoy all
by myself over the next few days. I’m now contemplating what variation
I’ll try next – and I guarantee it won’t wait for a party – it will
get divvied up and frozen in single meal-sized bits for me to pull out
whenever I want a special breakfast treat in the new year. Maybe with
some awesome Louisiana strawberries on the side!

It’s definitely a popular recipe that we have used during a couple of different functions and luckily are left with plenty of left overs to enjoy for days to come. Mom found the original in Flavors of Natchez and tweaked it to meet our needs. Whether veggies or meats, this breakfast casserole should be first on your list of recipes to try in 2018. Give it a go with your favorite ingredients, and let me know how it turns out. We are always looking for new variations to try.

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Breakfast Sausage Casserole

1 pound medium or hot sausage, browned and drained
Fresh vegetables of choice, chopped and sautéed
8 eggs, well beaten
1 large onion, chopped (We used green onions.)
12 slices white bread, quartered
10 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated
4 cups milk
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard

Cook sausage until browned or vegetables and onions until tender. Drain the drippings from the sausage except for about 2 tablespoons for the onions. Sauté the onions, if using sausage, until tender. In a greased 9-by-13-inch casserole dish, layer the ingredients. Begin with half of the bread, then half of the sausage, half of the onion, and half of the cheese; repeat layers. Beat together the eggs, milk, salt, pepper, and dry mustard; then pour over layers. Cover and refrigerate overnight before cooking. When ready to bake, bring to room temperature. Bake at 350 degrees for fifty minutes. This recipe serves 10 to 12.

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Christmas Tree 2017 (Pictured in early January 2018)

I have a Christmas tree that won’t kick the bucket, and I’m not about to take it down before it starts dropping. I was opening the blinds last week and noticed these little down nodules on the tips of the branches (as seen in the picture above). Now, they didn’t worry me because I’ve seen these before. My tree from 2014 did the same exact thing. However, I let it go well into January of 2015 and finally was forced (by my mother) to take it down and move it outside. I had neighbors tell me they used to replant their trees as children, cut it down again, and bring it back inside the following Christmas. I was determined to let mine grow that year outside in the stand for as long as possible, but a frost got it finally in March.

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Christmas Tree 2014 (Pictured in late January 2015)

You see, those little nodules sprout off the ends of the limbs and continue on as new growth. It’s quite the site on my white, flocked tree. They are soft to the touch and fragrant as all get out. I’m not going to be fooled into taking it down too early this year or letting it freeze. I’m going to see if the damned thing will grow all year long. I think I’ll plant it in my tomato pot out back and see what happens next. So, if you drive down Auburn Avenue, don’t be alarmed by the Christmas tree in the window when February rolls around. It’s just getting started.

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I’m not much of a baker, but I love to bake this particular pie. It’s simple, yummy, and comes out perfect 90% of the time. This week, I was determined to have one baked up and delivered for a friend’s birthday happy; however, I did encounter the worst one I’ve ever put into the oven. It cracked completely around the edge of the pie; and usually I’m used to a single crack in the middle, which no one ever seems to mind. But, out of this continual crack, the insides started bubbling out like an active volcano. So, that one went to the testers (also know as the parentals). But I will say that my second attempt came out perfectly without a crack, which has never happened before. So, Happy Birthday, Chelsea! It was quite the pie to complete this week.

Chocolate Chess Pie

1 graham cracker crust

1 stick unsalted butter

1 ounce square semi-sweetened chocolate

1 cup sugar

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Melt the butter and chocolate together. Pour into a bowl and whisk together with the sugar, eggs, vanilla, and salt. Pour the filling into the crust, and bake in a 325-degree oven for about 40 minutes or until the top is set. (It’s best served warm!)