Thursday, January 5, 2012

(Not)Hibernation Day: Baked Potato Soup

On the day before winter break, my son's school celebrates "Hibernation Day."  All of the kids come in their PJs, and they learn about the ways in which animals hunker down for the winter.

Now that the holiday madness is over, I'm ready for hibernation, myself.  I've probably gained at least five pounds, and I'd like to just sleep for a long, long time, preferably under a mountain of blankets.

But that doesn't really work very well when you have an 11 month old who demands to be picked up and fed at 5:30 a.m., and a laundry machine and stove that continue working well into the night.

So yesterday I went to the YMCA to claim the free month membership that I won in a raffle back in October, and this morning, I dropped N. off at the Child Watch and went to kickboxing class.

The memory of the physical body is an amazing thing.  If you've ever danced, or done gymnastics, or done aerobics of any kind, you'll know what I'm talking about: even years later, you remember your form, you move without thinking.  I'd pulled out my old kickboxing wraps from before I was married, and as I pulled them onto my thumbs, I was impressed to discover that I still remembered how to wrap them.  And as the class began to bob and weave and punch and kick, I was brought right back to that sweaty basement room where I first took kickboxing classes, more than ten years ago.  It felt good to be sweating, even if I did spend a good chunk of the breaks in class peering into the Child Watch window to make sure N. hadn't melted down.  (Truth be told, it was probably as good for her as it was for me.)

This recipe is adapted from an old Cooking Light issue.  I stopped subscribing years ago because its name no longer seemed to reflect the calorie content of its recipes, but at least this one isn't quite as bad as the original you sometimes see around the web.  You could probably veganize it by using soy products, but I haven't tried that; let me know if you do with any success.  As it stands here, it's comfort food: the sort of thing you eat in your winter cave, hunkered down over a fire and watching the snow fall, but can also feel not too badly about when you're sweating away in the gym, fulfilling your New Years' resolutions.

Baked Potato Soup

4 baking potatoes (about 2 1/2 lbs.)
2/3 c. all-purpose flour
6 c. 2% milk
1 c. reduced-fat shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese, divided
1 t. salt
1/2 t. freshly ground black pepper
1 c. nonfat greek yogurt
3/4 c. chopped green onions, divided
6 bacon slices, cooked and crumbled (optional)
cracked black pepper (optional)

Preheat oven to 400°.  Pierce potatoes with a fork; bake at 400° for 1 hour or until tender. Cool. Peel potatoes; coarsely mash.  (You can also microwave the potatoes; I did this and it worked out just fine.)

Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Place flour in a large Dutch oven; gradually add milk, stirring with a whisk until blended. Cook over medium heat until thick and bubbly (about 8 minutes). Add mashed potatoes, 3/4 c. cheese, salt, and 1/2 t. pepper, stirring until cheese melts. Remove from heat.

Stir in greek yogurt and 1/2 c. onions. Cook over low heat 10 minutes or until thoroughly heated (do not boil). Ladle 1 1/2 c. soup into each of 8 bowls. Sprinkle each serving with 1 1/2 t. cheese, 1 1/2 t. green onions, and about 1 T. bacon. Garnish with cracked pepper, if desired.
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  1. The recipe looks great...
    I know exactly what you mean about the body's memory--it's crazy isn't it? A few years ago, I took an adult gymnastics class, and although I was in good shape, the fact that my body remembered how to flip and twist resulted in me being so sore for a whole week that I could hardly walk!
    In many cases, it is a good thing though :)

    Side note: my nephew's class had hibernation day too, and he was very upset because he could not find his camo pjs that morning. It was quite a crisis! I'm ready to hibernate fact, I am kind of doing that right now!

  2. I wish I could hibernate right now. I have some new books to read and I'd love to have a day to spend wrapping in my blankets, reading and eating things like this.

    If I ever open a bed and breakfast I might offer a hibernation package.

  3. I love the idea of hibernation day. That sounds like fun!

    I know exactly what you mean about the physical body's memory. I feel it when I swim, as my body reverts back to the same exact strokes that it repeated over and over again for years (and that ultimately ruined my shoulders). I don't think I could relearn those strokes ever.

    Lately I've been playing piano again at my parents' house, relearning a song I used to know by heart. (I always played what I learned by heart - I was a terrible site reader.) I've been noticing as I relearn that at first it's really hard and I struggle and struggle and then suddenly something clicks and my fingers remember and it just happens without me even thinking about it - I glide over sections that before I could barely fumble through. It's an incredibly feeling. Sometimes I get to a section and I just play it without having any idea what I'm doing. It's so odd.

    I read once an interesting anecdote about the physically body's ability to remember. There was a man who suffered a horrible brain injury and lost his ability to create long term memories. Every day a woman would visit him and he would reintroduce himself to her, he never remembered her despite spending several hours a day with her, five days a week. The woman would give him puzzles to solve and even though he never remembered doing them, his hands found them familiar and he got better and better at the puzzles, finishing them faster and faster, despite having no recollection of ever having completed them before. I thought that was remarkable and have always kept that strange piece of knowledge tucked away. Your post made me want to share it.

  4. You're right about physical memory. It's uncanny, actually. I haven't swum in MONTHS. And yet, I know, when I start again (on my list of resolutions) it will come back to me in a thrilling way. Thank goodness.

    Kickboxing is impressive! Glad you have the outlet, and glad N was happy at the Child Watch. You're right - not a bad thing for both of you.

  5. Good for you for pushing yourself out there! I stopped Cooking Light subscriptions when the odd ingredients started cramming up my small cubbards!

  6. I'm inspired. I never had the courage to try kick-boxing but I desperately hope that my body will remember a number of things once I can finally find my way back to them.

  7. I love the idea of hibernation day, and that soup sounds perfect for a cold winter's day. Good for you for getting back to the kickboxing, glad you enjoyed it.

  8. Hibernation sounds awesome. Maybe I will hibernate for my 2WW and eat lots of that yummy soup!

  9. The mental image of you doing kickboxing in a basement fills me with joy for some reason. I think...I just love the idea of people doing things that are unexpected. Happy hibernation, friend!

  10. That is a cool idea!

    We just came from a stuffed animal sleep over at the library. The kids drop off the animals the day before. Then the staff make up scenarios and take pictures. Then the next day the kids come back and watch a slide show of what their animals did. G's animal did a lot of reading LOL, and some sneaking around. Followed by juice and bagels. Too fun.


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