Category Archives: Recipe

Creamy Potato Soup

Creamy Potato Soup Makes Perfect Winter Comfort Food

Creamy potato soup
Jars of creamy potato soup and vegetable soup 2018

If you don’t want the history–scroll down to find the kinda sorta recipe for creamy potato soup.

I was on a soup-making binge since we had some of what passes for winter weather here in southern Arizona. The creamy potato soup is particularly well suited to cold weather when you want something filling and comfort-making. And the vegetable soup made me think of my German ancestors, for whom soup is a regular meal. Check out the German Buttermilk Potato Soup I wrote about earlier. And I thought of pioneer families who no doubt threw a lot of ingredients into the pot that was kept simmering on the fire all winter for a perennial vegetable soup.

But I also thought about my mother and grandmother and their soup-making, which as far as I experienced, consisted of opening a can. The Campbell Soup company took over soup entirely by the mid-century era when convenience was everything in the kitchen. Which sometimes meant nutrition and taste took a back seat. Not only that, but for a while every recipe seemed to call for a can of mushroom soup.

I still have a lot of those canned-soup-based recipes in my recipe box, but now I just look at them and go “Yuck!”

Even today, canned cream of tomato soup accounts for the highest quantity of any stable canned food sold in grocery stores.

They first produced canned soup in 1879. In looking at the company’s history, I learned that the co-founder with Joseph Cambell was an Abraham Anderson. (Darn! I wish I could claim I’m related to that guy through my mother’s paternal line.)

Mid Century Cookbook And the Can

Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook 1953
I checked Better Homes and Gardens cookbook–one of the favorites of that period. I saw that although the book does give instructions for making broth from scratch, it also instructs the homemaker to make jellied consomme by chilling a can of condensed consomme, and garnishing with lemon and parsley.

In the meager 6 pages dedicated to soup, the editors include half a column devoted to “Canned-soup combinations,” for those daring housewives who dared to go beyond merely opening a can and adding water. Be adventurous! Mix two different kinds of canned soup!

  • Berkshire Soup: 1 can corn chowder and 1 can of celery soup with 1/2 cup of water and 1/2 cup of milk.
  • Celery-Chicken Soup: 1 can chicken soup and 1 can celery soup with 1/2 cup of water and 1/2 cup of milk.
  • For those wanting a real gourmet experience: Creole Clam Bisque: 1 can clam chowder with 1 can chicken gumbo and 1 can of light cream.

There are more, but you get the idea.

Even a couple of the “from scratch” soup recipes use a canned soup as a base.

Canned vs. Home Cooked

Canned Soup
Old style cash register and canned goods in a butcher shop in New Ulm, Minnesota. Public Domain photo from EPA.

I was so accustomed to the idea of convenience food, that I filled shelves with condensed soups for decades. Finally I woke up and read the labels. All that sodium! The lack of distinctive flavoring! I reformed and started making my own. Not only are they usually delicious, but soup serves as a great recycling tool for veggies that are about to reach their expiration date.

Tips for Creamy Potato Soup

Hence creamy potato soup. I can’t give you an exact recipe for creamy potato soup–or for the other soups that I am going to share in this series. But I hope that will encourage you to use your own good instincts to use what you have on hand, satisfy the particular tastes of your family.

TImid? Just taste, taste, taste. When my grandson came over and made chicken noodle soup, I gave him a cup full of teaspoons, so that he could taste many times, each time using a clean spoon. Some people use a box of plastic throw-away spoons.

However you handle it–taste, taste, taste as you go along and let that suggest what needs to be added. Just remember that once you get too much of something like salt or basil, it is difficult to drown it out, so add seasonings a little at a time.

One more tip–this soup cooks quickly, not like the simmer-all-day kind of soup.

Creamy Potato Soup Kind-of-sort-of Recipe

Creamy Potato Soup
Creamy Potato Soup

Soup –at least in my kitchen–never wants to stick to a recipe, so think of this as guidance rather than iron clad instructions.

Peel a few potatoes (3 or 4 depending on size of potato and how much soup you want to make). You can really use any kind of potatoes, but mealy baking potatoes will tend to disintegrate. Dice the potatoes Peel and slice fairly thin a carrot or two. Do the same with a stalk of celery. Chop onion if you want to include it.

Brown the carrot, celery and onion in some butter. Meanwhile, cook the potatoes briefly in water. They should resist being speared by a fork so they won’t fall apart in the rest of the cooking.

Dump the potato water (or some of it) along with the potatoes and other vegetables into a large pot and add 32 oz or so of chicken or vegetable broth. Now comes the fun part–decide how you want the soup to taste, add salt, pepper and herbs to make it a French (tarragon, for instance); Italian (mixed Italian herbs); German–include a piece of star anise in the simmering soup; Greek–oregano and lemon, etc. Smoked paprika is a great seasoning for potato soup.

Simmer just until the vegetables are gently cooked. (This doesn’t take long since everything is diced in small pieces.) At this point if you want a smooth soup instead of the bumps and lumps, use a stick blender to smooth it out. Of course you can use a regular food processor, but that means pouring hot soup back and forth, which does not sound appealing to me. I prefer to process only about half of the soup, so there are still some lumps.

Pour in a couple cups of half and half (you can use heavier cream, or stir in sour cream at the end of the process, too). Meanwhile grate a cup or two of cheddar cheese. When the soup is warm through, stir in the cheese and let it melt in.

Add-ons or garnishes to consider for your creamy potato soup: diced crisply fried bacon or ham; sour cream; scallions; parsley .

I stored the leftover soup in the refrigerator for a few days. I purposely did not make a huge batch, because you can’t freeze it. A creamy soup like this separates in freezing. Not a pretty sight.

1/2 of creamy potato soup
1/2 of creamy potato soup goes in a jar for the refrigerator.

Put a creamy, filling, quick-cooking comfort food like Creamy Potato Soup definitely belongs on your table this winter. What seasoning will you use?

More Soup:

Next up: Winter Vegetable

Vintage Restaurant Meatloaf

Hale’s Restaurant, Killbuck, Ohio

Hale’s Restaurant

Hale’s Restaurant stood on the corner of Main and Front Streets–the main intersection of Killbuck Ohio– when I was in school in Killbuck, Ohio. Recently on a Facebook group for present and former residents of that village,contributor “Tootzi” Snyder, shared a special recipe. Claude Hale, the owner of Hale’s restaurant had given his meatloaf recipe to her. Thank you, Tootzi for setting me out on this research and cooking adventure.

[Note: That is not Claude Hale in the photo above, but a person from the Danville fire department. Ironic when you read the history of the restaurant, which I outline below]

Vintage Meatloaf

Hale's Restaurant Vintage Meatloaf
Hale’s Restaurant Meatloaf naked


UPDATE March 2019: Although I cheated and served French Fries instead of mashed potatoes, I did have gravy on the meatloaf I made. Somehow I knew peas and mashed potatoes and gravy had to be part of the meal. Sure enough, the husband of a high school friend of mine posted on the Killbuck group:
The first meal that I had in Hales was meatloaf with mashed potatoes and gravy. $.70
The side dishes were : Peas,prunes, head lettuce, Apple sauce. cottage cheese and garden salad. [presumably, pick two. And can you imagine prunes on a restaurant menu today? As a side dish?]

Recipe hand written by Claude Hale, owner of the Hale’s Restaurant in Killbuck. Courtesy of Tootzi Snyder. NOTE: “Mango” is Northern Ohio lingo for bell pepper.


And about that “mango” in the recipe–remember it is Midwestern lingo for green pepper. Here’s a good explanation of how that word usage and confusion happened.

Anderson’s Restaurant

My grandmother and grandfather Guy and Vera Anderson (on the left in the picture at the top of the page) ran a restaurant in Killbuck, too. They started serving meals in the mid-1930’s and closed around 1945 when my grandfather began to have heart trouble. So naturally, I was curious to learn whether Hale’s restaurant came along afterwards to fill a void. Or was Hale’s a competitor to the Anderson’s Restaurant just down the street on Main? After all, I’m certain that Anderson’s also served meatloaf.

Hale’s Restaurant Timeline

After some Googling and reading newspaper articles from the period, I can present this history of Claude Hale and his restaurant. Alas, no menus or ads featuring meatloaf.

  • Prior to April 1940: A restaurant called Bob and Bud’s Restaurant operates in the landmark Killbuck building at the corner of Main and Front Streets. [I have no information about Bob and Bud’s, unfortunately.]
  • April 1940: Claude Hale movs from Akron when he buys an interest
    in Bob & Bud’s Restaurant in Killbuck from Fred Teisher . Robert Teischer remains as his partner and assists in operating the restaurant, which becomes Hale’s Restaurant.
  • March, 1943: World War II calls all able-bodied men and Claude Hale signs up to fight. He announces he will close Hale’s Restaurant. [Apparently Mr. Teischer had moved on.] This threatens to leave Killbuck with no restaurant for the first time in 50 years according to the Killbuck columnist for the Coshocton Tribune. [If that is true, the first restaurant in Killbuck started in the 1890s, which definitely was earlier than the Anderson’s restaurant, So whose was it?]
  • In 1943, Mrs Mayme Burton rescues the town when she starts serving meals at her place of business on North Main Street. She also operates a gasoline station and a grocery store. (Sounds just like the combos we have now with gas pumps, shopping and a fast food restaurant under one roof.)
  • 1946: When he returns from the war, Claude reopens the restaurant. In the Killbuck Gang Facebook page, Owen Mellor recalls Hale’s was open in 1946.
  • June, 1958: The newspaper reports that Mr. and Mrs. Claude Hale have repurchased the restaurant from Norman Crandall. I was not able to find a notice of the original sale to Crandall, so don’t know when that took place. As far as I know the restaurant continued to operate as Hale’s throughout the 50s.
  • December, 1967: The Coshocton Tribune announces that Claude Hale and his wife have sold their restaurant to Mr. and Mrs. Robert Dobbins. (They sold the business but retained the building, which included apartments.)
  • December 1970: A devastating fire breaks out in the middle of the night. Despite the efforts of 75 fireman and twelve trucks, the restaurant and apartments above are destroyed.

A FIRE Reveals the History of the Building

Newspaper coverage of the fire brings the story back to my own family. A few months ago, I featured a photo of my great-great grandmother, Mary Morgan’s home on the corner of Main and Front Streets. The article on the fire includes speculation that the building was built before the turn of the century. I knew that, because my great-grandfather ‘Doc’ Stout started his first medical practice there when he married Mary’s daughter, Hattie.

Even more interesting, the article says that the building previously served as a dry goods store and a post office. That is all part of my family history. Mary Mogan’s first husband, Asahel Platt operated a dry goods store. I discovered that fact through the probate papers filed after his death. After her second husband, Jesse Morgan, disappeared from her life, Mary served from time to time as postmistress for Killbuck. 

All those activities, plus her business as a seamstress, took place in the same building that later housed Hale’s restaurant. You can clearly see the similarity with the picture of Hale’s restaurant above.

Mary Morgan's house
Mary Morgan’s Killbuck house with Doc Stout office on right. Circa 1880

So much for the history of the Hale’s Restaurant. How about a slice of restaurant meatloaf? Claude Hale’s recipe obviously serves a lot more people than you might at home. In the notes on the recipe, I tell you how easy it is to convert this to 1/3 the size.

Also, this recipe is pretty basic. If you want to try one with a little more pizazz, see my own meatloaf recipe. I believe the use of tomato paste or sauce or catsup probably derives from the Anderson’s Restaurant recipe. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. (Although I may add more eggs to the Anderson Recipe next time, because I really liked the texture of Hale’s meatloaf.

Hale's Restaurant meatloaf
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Hale’s Restaurant Meatloaf

This is a vintage, mid-century restaurant recipe for a no-frills meatloaf, juicy and flavorful.
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Keyword beef, meatloaf, vintage recipe
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 3 hours 30 minutes
Total Time 3 hours 45 minutes
Servings 36 slices

Ingredients

  • 6 lbs ground beef
  • 3 1/2 tbsp salt
  • 1 tbsp pepper
  • 1 1/2 lb onion chopped fine
  • 3 cups cracker meal
  • 1 mango (green bell pepper) chopped fine
  • 12 eggs
  • 1 bunch celery chopped fine or 3 tbsp celery seed

Instructions

  • Beat eggs. Mix all ingredients, pack in pan and bake 3 and 1/2 hours. (temperature not given, but for such a long baking time, probably 325)

Notes

This is the full restaurant-sized recipe as written by the restaurant owner.  I made 1/3 the amount and it made an 8″ loaf pan plus a mini loaf pan. Alternatively, it would fill a 9″ loaf pan.
The recipe is easy to divided in thirds.  Just remember that 1/3 a Tablespoon is 1 teaspoon, so don’t overdo the pepper.
Several people on first seeing this recipe thought it was too many eggs, but I found the eggs and cracker meal balanced perfectly with the ground beef for a very good texture.
You can serve it with a brown gravy (mix 3 tbsp melted butter and 3 tbsp flour, and add 1 to 1 1/2 cups beef broth depending on how thick you want the gravy.)  For an authentic mid-century restaurant meal, serve with mashed potatoes and canned peas and a lettuce salad.