Are you an "always follow the recipe" kind of person, or do you like to improvise a bit when you cook?
My Mom and I laugh about this when we cook or sew together because she is such a rule follower. She measures things exactly and generally plays by the rules. She likes to sew from patterns, and follows the patterns exactly. That's probably why she is such a good cook and wonderful seamstress! It's kind of surprising though because my Mom is such a creative person, I would have guessed she would take more "liberties" when cooking or sewing.
I on the other hand do things differently. I like to sew things that don't use patterns, and just "figure it out". I like to pattern sew, but I'm ok with changing things up a bit as long as it doesn't affect the structural integrity of the finished product. I rarely use measuring cups when I cook, only when I bake (you do have to be really exact then). And I'm fine with substituting ingredients in a recipe with those I have on hand as long as the outcome is similar.
So I came across this yummy sounding recipe for Queso Potato Chowder in my latest Southern Living. Seriously? Is this like queso dip crossed with potato soup? Right up my alley.
I had some great looking poblano peppers and bell peppers from our CSA share this week, so they would work as the peppers in this soup. I didn't, however have the refrigerated southwestern style hashbrowns the recipe called for. I did have some regular potatoes in the pantry though, so I cubed them up and subbed them in.
I also didn't have the queso asedero cheese the recipe called for. I wish I had because I bet it's super creamy like queso dip. I did have some monterey jack cheese though, and that made a good substitution.
I had the milk and half-and-half, but I'm sure I could have used all milk to cut some calories, but who's cutting calories?
So here's the recipe. I'm giving you the original, from this month's Southern Living Magazine, and I'm showing you my substitutions out to the side.
I guess my point with this post, besides sharing a really yummy recipe, is to say, don't be afraid of substituting ingredients! It's ok to sub out similar veggies, cheeses, fruits and sometimes spices. Make it your own, you may even find you like your own version better!
Queso Potato Chowder (from the October 2011 issue of Southern Living)
1/4 C butter
1 C finely chopped red bell pepper / I used a mix of orange and red
1 C finely chopped onion
3 poblano peppers, seeded and finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 (20 oz.) package refigerated southwestern-style hash browns / I used 5 good sized Idaho potatoes, peeled and diced. Next time I'll grate them.
1/4 tsp. ground cumin / I used a bit more
2 (14 oz) cans low sodium fat-free chicken broth / I used 1 (32 oz) box
1/3 C flour / I didn't measure
1 1/2 C milk
1 C half-and-half / you could just use all milk instead of the half-and-half
1 C (4 oz) freshly shredded asadero cheese / I used Monterey Jack
1 C (4 oz) freshly shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
1. Melt butter in a dutch oven over medium-high heat; add bell pepper and next 3 ingredients, and saute 4-5 minutes or until tender. Add potatoes and cumin, and saute 5 minutes or until browned and tender. Gradually stir in broth, stirring to loosen particles from bottom of dutch oven. Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer 25 minutes.
2. Whisk together flour and next 2 ingredients. Stir into potato mixture, and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, 5 minutes or until thickened. Reduce heat to low. At this point I mashed some of the potatoes in my soup with a potato masher to further thicken the soup.
3. Add cheeses, and cook, stirring constantly, until cheeses melt and mixture is thoroughly heated.
Note: If anyone from Southern Living happens to read this post, I in no way meant that your recipe needed adapting! I was just too lazy to go to the store to get your required ingredients. I have read your magazine for as long as I can remember (seriously - probably not normal for a 16 year old to read Southern Living) and look forward to every issue. Over and out.