Light Loaded Potato Soup

Main Courses, Sides, Soup, Tailgating / Wednesday, October 13th, 2010

I haven’t said much about BlogHer Food. By the time I was asked to be a panelist, the tickets were sold out. So it seemed rude to mention it then.

Too neener-neener-neener.

You know me. It ain’t fun if the homies can’t have none.

But now that I’m back, a lot of you have asked about the conference, so I’m ready to spill – about the panels, the people, demos, goodie bags, the cost – everything. If I don’t cover something here, feel free to ask about it in the comments.

(Oh, and if you DON’T want to read about BlogHer Food, just skip to the recipe for Light Loaded Potato Soup. Warm, indulgent, ready in 20 minutes – and no one will know it’s a light version unless you tell them. Ah, the magic of bacon.)

So I stepped off the elevator to check in at BlogHer Food, and …

They handed me my name badge, a conference guide and a canvas bag. The bag contained a few gift items from the conference’s sponsors, but it was really meant for collecting samples, coupons and promotional items at each sponsor’s booth in the hallway. The same booths are open all day during both days of the conference, hosting demos and giving away samples of their products.

Any new products or cool demos?

Absolutely! The Scharffen Berger chocolate booth had a mini cupcake buffet with an assortment of cakes, frostings and toppings. Kraft introduced a cream cheese product with the consistency of sour cream (scheduled to hit the shelves in early 2011). Nature’s Path had a rainbow of new organic snack and energy bars. We tried shots of Cascal, a new fermented all-natural soda. The Cuties California Clementine people passed out clementine-and-thyme cocktails. The Nutella folks shared a table full of samples and breakfast recipes. There were also healthier snacks from Athenos and Stacy’s Pita Chips.

What did they feed a bunch of foodies for breakfast?

Breakfast was basically the same both mornings – a light buffet with fresh fruit, granola, bran muffins, oatmeal, yogurt, milk, juice, tea and coffee. And, gluten-free folks will be glad to know that there was a separate buffet set up to avoid contamination.

What about the people? What’s it like to meet a bunch of food bloggers?

Overwhelming! The roar in the hallway during the demos was like being in a high school cafeteria. People were looking at each other’s name badges and exchanging business cards (which are on BlogHer’s list of things to bring with you). I assumed the other attendees would be food bloggers, too, but there was a broad mix of people. Some were gathering information before they started their blogs. Others were reps from PR firms, cooking stores, Food Network and food companies. There were professional food writers, photographers and stylists, chefs and experienced food bloggers.

Most people were extremely friendly. But some weren’t. Gird your loins!

And the panels? Any good tips?

Each session featured four panels going on at the same time. They were divided into Values, Visual, Vocation and Voice. You didn’t have to sign up for any particular track or panel. In fact, you could get up in the middle of one panel and walk right into another.

Here are some of my favorite tips from the BlogHer Food panels:

1. Ever wondered how food photographers get those really dark, artsy shots? Bounce the light with black foam core instead of white. Need to bounce light for a restaurant photo? Use your white napkin.

2. Want to add video to your blog, but you have no idea how to start? Use iMovie to “stitch” together some digital photos of the cooking process, and then record your voiceover using a microphone headset.

3. Interested in publishing a cookbook? You’ll need to bring something to the table besides recipes. Publishers are looking for cooks with a solid fan base, as well as their own media contacts. Who have you worked with? How do people know you? Who do you know?

4. Want to make your photos pop? Pair colors that are opposed on the color wheel, like blue and orange, yellow and purple.

5. Writing a recipe’s instructions? Keep in mind that some of your readers might not know cooking terms like “sauté” and “braise,” even if they’ve been doing these things for years. Consider adding information to your instructions about what kind of heat to use and for how long and what the cooked food should look and feel like at different stages in the process (e.g. what color the vegetables should be, how the cake should feel when it comes out of the oven).

Several people were taking notes via Twitter during the panels, so if you’d like to see more tips, go to Twitter and type “#blogherfood” in the search box.

How accessible were the experts at BlogHer Food? (Or, can I get close enough to goose Dorie Greenspan?)

Everyone is very, very accessible. You don’t have to stand in line to meet someone or buy a VIP pass or anything like that.

Any information on food trends?

There wasn’t a panel specifically on food trends, but everyone was talking about gluten-free cooking, as well as urban farming, canning and preserving.

How did my panel go?

I’m probably the worst judge of how my panel went, but I was on the Storytelling panel, and it FLEW by. Lots of questions. Lots of comments. Hallelujah.

What about lunch and dinner?

On the first day, there was a lunch buffet sponsored by Kraft, and dinner was party food at the welcome party. The next day, we were on our own for lunch at the Farmer’s Market, and dinner was party food at the closing party.

How long does each day last?

The BlogHer schedule is full, from 8:30 a.m. until 9 or 10 p.m. If you want to see the city, you’ve got to schedule extra sightseeing days or choose to miss a panel or speaker.

What about the parrrrrrties?

Lots of food. Free booze. Goodie bags. People networking. Photo booths. Live music. Door prizes.

How do people afford to go?

Depending on your travel plans, BlogHer Food can cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars to well over $1,000. Many people save money by finding roommates and sharing hotel rooms. Some people are sponsored, privately or through their workplaces. Since I was a panelist, I’ll receive a travel reimbursement, but we paid everything out-of-pocket before the trip. How much it takes depends on your plans. Are you going to eat only at the conference or make reservations for a dinner out? Are you OK with staying at a budget hotel and taking public transportation, or do you want to stay within walking distance of the conference? Will you schedule an extra day or two for sightseeing, or do you need to plan as short a trip as possible? All of these things factor in.


If you have more questions about BlogHer Food, feel free to ask away in the comments section below!

Light Loaded Potato Soup

Adapted from “Cooking Light”

Makes 4 servings (about 1 1/4 cup each)

  • 4 (6-ounce) red potatoes
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 1/4 cups fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups 1% low-fat milk, divided
  • 1/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 bacon slices, halved
  • 1/3 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 4 teaspoons thinly sliced green onions
  1. Scrub and dry the potatoes, and prick them all over with a fork. Place the potatoes on a plate, and microwave them on high for 13 minutes. The potatoes should be tender. Cut them in half, and set aside.
  2. While the potatoes are cooking, heat the oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion, and sauté for 3 minutes. Add broth.
  3. In a small bowl, combine flour and 1/2 cup milk. Add the mixture to the pan with 1 1/2 cups milk. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Cook for 1 minute.
  4. Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in sour cream, salt and pepper. Set aside.
  5. Place a paper towel on a microwave-safe plate. Arrange your bacon halves on the paper towel, and cover them with a second paper towel. Microwave on high for 4 minutes. Crumble bacon. Set aside.
  6. Scoop the potato pulp out of the skins, and mash the pulp into the soup. Discard skins.
  7. Garnish each serving of soup with cheese, green onions and crumbled bacon. Serve immediately.

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38 thoughts on “Light Loaded Potato Soup

  1. So nice to share part of my breakfast with you on Saturday morning. Still thinking about making some ribs with Dr. Pepper! :)

    And many, many thanks for this wonderful soup. I made a similar version years ago, but never wrote down what I put into it. I've always wanted to make it again, but couldn't remember how much chicken broth and milk I had used … problem solved. Thank you!!! :)

    1. Glad to help! And I had a ball at breakfast with you, too. Now, you've got me thinking about those ribs again…

  2. Rebecca, you were one of the first people that I spoke to on Friday. It was a delight to meet you. Your smile is infectious. Thanks for this summary. I hope that you got to see the Golden Gate Bridge!
    Nicola xo

    1. Nicola! I loved meeting you, too. You've got that spark that lights up a room. And we DID make it to the Golden Gate! Thank you so much for your help with that adventure. ;)

  3. Fantastic! I enjoyed your play-by-play, yet categorized recap of the conference. And throwing in a light take on potato soup – double score! I've been looking for a recipe that enriched the soul without growing the thighs. (You and I have a significant disagreement, though. I am a firm believer in the grossness of bacon and all things pork.)

    What was the topic of your panel?

    1. SERIOUSLY? No country ham? No Broadbent's pepper bacon? No smoked sausage?

      I don't eat a huge amount of pork, but I like having the option. ;)

      My panel topic was storytelling.

      1. Rebecca – I just saw your mention of Broadbent's and had to chime in….I grew up with the Broadbents! Mrs. Broadbent was my middle school homeroom teacher, and in high school, I worked for them at their store! They sold the family business several years ago, but Broadbent's hams will always hold a special place in my heart :-)

  4. I love this guide since I'll be going to my first blogger conference (Food Buzz) in about a month. I'm pretty intimidated, but I'm looking forward to it!

    1. Woman! I was sweating bullets before I walked into the conference area, but everyone was really friendly and ready to meet people. I've never been to Food Buzz, but I'd love to hear about it. You're going to have a great time!

  5. I was always surprised when I ran into an unfriendly food blogger, they were so few and far between that it was always a shock!

    I wish I'd gotten the chance to meet you in person! Oh well, there's always next year! :)

    1. EXACTLY! The unfriendly ones were definitely in the minority.

      You were there? I KNEW I'd come home and find out about people I'd missed. Next time, Baby!

  6. Sounds like a blast! An overwhelming, head-exploding blast…but a blast! Can't wait to go sometime!
    And the soup sounds fantastic!

    1. Overwhelming and head-exploding – YES. It's made me curious about what other blogging conferences are out there. So much to learn!

      The soup is really good. It didn't last more than a day around here. Sad but true. ;)

  7. This recipe is perfect for me. I love potato soup but don't like all the calories that usually come with it. Thanks for lightening things up for me.

    1. Same here! I love creamy potato soups, but they come with a price. This was a great compromise – something Jeff and I could both agree on. Hope you like it!

    1. Thanks! It's really good, and you can seriously get it done in 20 minutes. Perfect for those nights when you remember that you've got to conjure up some dinner. Again. ;)

  8. ok, we need to hear about the swag.

    and unfriendly blogger? I can't see the point in going to a conference like BlogHer if you aren't going to be nice. It doesn't seem like it would be a great way to promote your blog or network, and isn't that the whole point of going?

    1. The swag? Someone posted pics!

      Here's swag from the conference:

      And here's swag from the closing party:

      At least the unfriendly bloggers were few and far between. I only mentioned them, because I've read posts by other people who had the same experience, and they are speaking the truth! When everyone else is so incredibly nice, the bad apples really stand out.

  9. That baked potato soup from Cooking LIght is my absolute favorite recipe from them – I have been making it for years and no one has been the wiser!! I have never tried microwaving the potatoes before – will definitely have to give that a try!

  10. Sounds like a great time! I'm sorry to have missed it. I especially would have liked to see your panel! And that soup looks fab :)

  11. Thanks for sharing, Rebecca. I need to get my butt to one of the conferences.

    Thanks for sharing the soup….I'm TRYING to lighten things up but not sacrifice on flavor.

  12. Thanks for the recap — love the Q & A style and seriously hope that next year is the charm with BlogHer food. This soup is great. We just tried it (leftovers in the fridge) and it's completely delish. : )

  13. I totally enjoy every word you shared. It was informative and I got a few great tips, without having to travel! After a week's vacation, I'm wanting to lighten up what I eat. Great start! I know what's for dinner today!

  14. My roommate and I were just talking about making soups! It's fall but here in FL it's not exactly fall weather just yet. But this looks like a great soup and will be first on the list to try.

  15. It was a rainy day here in DC so I made this for the kids I nanny for subbing turkey bacon (because that package was open). They went NUTS for it. Thanks for sharing!

  16. Definitely going to try this, but I may boil or roast the potatoes instead of microwaving them; I've had problems with overcooking potatoes in the microwave so they come out really gummy, and I've become a bit leery of this method. Still, yum!

  17. i love reading this blog. i'm not much of a commenter…but great work writing, continuing your connections at events, cookin', etc.

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