It's tradition here in Minnesota (just across the state border from our beloved Cabin Garden, where we Koerings live out our 'regular' lives) that every January, for about two weeks, we actually celebrate winter. I should say: there is some awareness of how nuts our winter existence can be. It's a regular conversation around the bus stop, and between passers-by, to ask each other, "Why do we live here again?!"...
Part of the answer is that (most of the time) we Minnesotans embrace this crazy weather, and it results in some fun times, great stories, cherished memories... and a strange sense of pride. We find ways to keep it interesting. (Read this article to get a good sense of what I'm talking about.)
One of the traditions that keeps it interesting is called the St. Paul Winter Carnival. The highlight of this carnival - at least for my hubby and I - is the Medallion Hunt. Basically, a small "puck" is hidden somewhere in Ramsey County public property (far under the snow), and the "hunters" are led to it through tricky clues...
This is not really my thing. I'm not really into the hunt. But Andy loves it. LOVES. IT. So, I hang with the kids and he goes hunting for the medallion. (Not to sound too Tarzan and Jane on this; truth be told, I wouldn't want to go hunting for the medallion, unless it was some kind of uber-fun social endeavor, with a hot toddy or something to sip on. Now THAT's worth hunting in the cold and snow! :) )
But at least once during the hunt, we host a little "clue noodling" gathering at our house, so I can feel part of the fun. (Aw, thanks, team!) And this year, because the temperatures have been soooooo unbelievabllyyyyyyyyy coollllllllddddddd (like, 5 days off of school in January kind of cold) - I decided I wanted to make a warm and cozy and noodle-worthy soup. (Noodle meaning clue-noodling, not pasta-noodling... even though there's some pasta involved... errr..... ANYWAY....)
So I made this: Beer Cheese-N-Mac Soup. A little combo of Beer Cheese Soup and Mac-N-Cheese. Aha!
Basically, it's mac-n-cheese with some beer, people. And some veggies! So it's not quite the heart-attack in a soup pot that it could have been. Yum!
What was so great about this soup is that as the night wore on... as we noodled over clues... and played games with the kids... and noodled over more clues... my "soup" became plain-old Beer Cheese-N-Mac. Thick and awesome. So, if you aren't feeling the soup vibe, just let it thicken up on the stove on low for a few hours, and voila! There it is.
I was inspired to make this soup from Skinny Fork.. But truth be told - I didn't make this "skinny" - I made it rich and full of flavor because... well, you guessed it... it's not because I have high ideals in the kitchen and don't use low-fat cheese... it's because I didn't want to run to the grocery store. So I used what we had. And it was great! That's why I LOVE soups! Use what you have! Taste it, and add whatever it needs. Gotta love soups.
- 4 Oz. pasta, cooked al dente & drained (I used traditional elbow mac)
- 1 1/2 C. white onion, chopped
- 1 carrot, chopped
- 1 celery stalk, sliced
- 2 jalapeños, chopped (seed them to reduce the spice, but I kept it in)
- 1 shallot, minced
- 1 tbsp. butter
- 2 tbsp. flour
- 1 C. beef broth
- 1 cup skim milk
- 1 can beer
- pinch of cloves
- 1 tsp mustard - or to taste. I kept adding in a bit...
- 2 cups broccoli, chopped
- 1 1/2 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
- 1/4 cup parmesan cheese - or other sharp cheese
- salt and pepper to taste
- Throw all the chopped veggies into a soup bowl with the butter and cook until tender - about 10 minutes.
- Add the flour, and cook another two minutes. Then add the milk, broth and beer... oh nelly, it will smell good.
- Let it come to a simmer, and then you can throw in the broccoli and pasta. Cook until the broccoli is cooked through. Then add the cheeses, stir, and voila... it's beer cheese-n-mac soup!
- If you want it to remain soup-y, take it off the stove right away. If you're cool with it becoming thick and mac-n-chees-y, let it thicken up a bit on the stove. Either way, it's delicious!
And, for a final splash of kick - sprinkle on some of our homemade crushed hot peppers... my favorite!