Lifting the Curse of ‘Annie’: Sweet Potato Soup

Annie the musical Andrea McArdle

Annie The Musical

In 1978 for my something-something birthday (I was pretty young, so it was really more like my something birthday), my parents gave me tickets to see Annie. Are you serious!!! Amazing! I loved and still love a good broadway show. And, this particular one had my name. Brilliant.

andrea mcardle as annie daddy warbucks sweet potato soup

The Amazing Andrea McArdle

Kristy Mcnichol little darlings sweet potato soup

After ‘Family’ KM was in this teen flick

The show had debuted earlier that year and it’s tiny red-headed lead, Andrea McArdle, had rapidly become the toast of the great white way. I idolized her. She was really incredible. Eight shows a week, talk and morning show appearances. She was on Johnny Carson a bunch of times (too late for me to see) and sang a duet with my other hero, Kristy McNichol (who doesn’t love ‘Little Darlings’?), on The Mike Douglas Show.

So, you can imagine that when my parents told me we were going to see Annie on Broadway in the big city with Andrea McArdle, I was so so so excited….

The day of the show, I put on my best going to broadway frock and sat on the stairs waiting to get in the car and go. My mother drove into the city as my friend and I belted out the words to every song (except Easy Street, which I never really liked) in the back seat.

We enter the theatre and are ushered to our seats. I’m so excited at this point, I can barely contain myself. I open the program in hopes of learning everything I can about my broadway icon, Andrea McArdle…Then, it happened… An evil slip of white paper fell from the program….what? I read slowly as my dreams and hopes were shattered to pieces.

shelley bruce as annie sweet potato soup

NOT Andrea McArdle

In today’s performance‘ it read…

the role of Annie usually played by Andrea McArdle‘….

NO…

will be played by Shelley Bruce‘.

WHAT?!?!?!? Who the …is Shelley Bruce????

Shattered. And, I’ve been shattered ever since. Sure, I enjoyed the show (I mean, they sing a whole song about how great Annie is, duh) – but, certainly not as much.

You know I’m a little (read a lot) superstitious. So when a friend offered to give me tickets to Annie (now back on Broadway 35 years later), I wanted to do everything I could to send good ju-ju to the show. I mean, I couldn’t bear to experience the same disappointment again. So to honor Annie, Andrea McArdle, Lilla Crawford (current Annie) and red-headed orphans everywhere, I decided to eat only red, orange and orphan-affordable foods the entire day of the show.

Sweet Potato Soup (Serves 6)

Tiny Apartment Tip: Get a hand held immersion blender. It’s changed my life.

Ingredients:

  • 2 TBSP butter
  • 2 Carrots, peeled and diced small
  • 2 Celery Stalks, peeled and diced small
  • 1 large Sweet Potato, peeled and diced small
  • 1 Sweet Onion, diced smallish
  • 3/4 or so Cup Diced Cherry Tomatoes
  • 1 TBSP all purpose flour
  • 1/4 Cup Parsley chopped
  • 1 TSP freshly grated ginger – remember, you have some in the freezer
  • 1/4 TSP Ground Nutmeg
  • 4 Cups of Chicken Stock – I actually for the first time used 2 Knorr Chicken Bouillon cubes and it was AOK
  • 1/4 Cup of heavy cream (optional….)
  • Salt and Pepper

1. Bring 4 Cups of water to a boil and dissolve 2 Knorr’s Chicken Bouillon Cubes

sweet potato soup chicken bouillon cubes for stock

Just as good as stock in a box

2. In a separate pot, heat 2 TBSP of butter over med/low

3. Add the onions, carrots and celery and saute until very soft – about :15mins depending upon how small you diced

saute vegetables sweet potato soup

Saute Veggies

4. Add the tomatoes stir for about a minute

vegetarian soup dinner sweet potatoes annie musical

Add tomatoes, red like Annie’s Hair

5. Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and cook :02 mins

sweet potato soup flour as thickener

Adding flour to help thicken soup

6. Sprinkle the Nutmeg and Ginger over the vegetables and stir

7. Add the diced sweet potatoes and stir just to combine

super food sweet potato soup

Super Sweet Potatoes – same color as Annie’s hair

8. Pour in the chicken stock and the parsley and BTB, RTS (bring to boil, reduce to simmer)

vegetarian sweet potato soup simmer

Soup A-Simmer

9. Simmer covered for :35 minutes – until the sweet potatoes are super soft

10. Remove from heat and using your brand new Cuisinart hand held immersion blender, blend the soup until very smooth….this takes a while because the tomatoes are pesky and escape the blades. Can’t blame ’em.

sweet potato soup puree hand held immersion blender

Pretty Pink Immersion Blender. Thank you Cuisinart!

11. Optional: Stir in the cream

sweet potato soup dinner recipe

Pureed and creamed and ready to serve

12. Serve with a garnish of parsley and a lovely dollop of sour cream

sweet potato soup vegetarian dinner recipe

Love a little dollop of sour cream…

Annie the musical sweet potato soup

The Exceptional Lilla Crawford

It may have been a silly and superstitious exercise, but I do think making the auburn colored soup helped.

Last night. 6:45pm.

I arrive at the theatre, wind my way through 45,000 or so 8-10 year old girls seeing their first show. I’m greeted by the first usher, she is holding the program, but doesn’t give us one. Instead, she directs us to a second usher….I’m anxious fearing the worst. I finally receive the program and in an attempt to delay the potential despair, hold onto it, clutched in my hand, closed until I reach my seat.

Then….I don’t open the program. Instead, I just flip it over and shake it, hoping no evil paper falls…..AND NONE DID!

The role of Annie would, indeed, be played by the exceptional Lilla Crawford!

OK, I can’t be sure that the soup had anything to do with it…but, 35 Years later….The sun DID come out and the curse of an understudy Annie is lifted!

Sweet Potatoes, A Super SuperFood

Baked Super Sweet Potato Fries (in hand thrown bowl by DG)

I am not normal. And, I think that’s just they way it is. I’ve grown to accept it. I didn’t always like the stuff that everyone liked or want to wear the clothes that everyone wanted to wear – sometimes this was a good thing as no one can produce a photograph of me in bobby socks and MIA flats. I didn’t have a LeSportSac or wear enough makeup or even like the right foods…

I may have been, for example, the only kid who loved liverwurst (did not make me very popular in the fifth grade), Brussels sprouts (granted, I buttered and salted them to death back then) and cottage cheese. And I’ve always felt bad for these hated foods.

In more recent years, however, I have found redemption in the fact that Brussels Sprouts are like totally all the rage. OK, I know it’s still hard to find someone who loves cottage cheese beyond having to eat it for dietary reasons and I highly doubt that I can bring liverwurst into favor – do they even make it anymore? But, one out of three ain’t bad.

So, when I was working on Thanksgiving dinner a few years ago and people totally gasped when I wanted to make sweet potatoes, I was shocked. The first time, I was told that I could make sweet potatoes, but only if I did it ‘southern style’ – with a heap of sugar and melted baby marshmallows on top. The next time, it was only OK to include a sweet potato dish if I promised to make regular mashed potatoes and only if the regular mashed potato bowl was like four times the size of the sweet potato dish. I may have recently been given this as a directive for the upcoming Thanksgiving as well.

I get it. Sweet potatoes are not that easy to love. They’re different, after all.

But it is their difference that makes them so interesting…and, delicious. And, not just for Thanksgiving.

Plus…they’re a superfood! Sweet potatoes are high in fiber, Vitamin A, C and B6. Also they’re high in potassium and manganese. They can, according to Yahoo ‘help stabilize blood sugar…[and] they’re relatively low in calories’. WebMD recommends them and, as if that isn’t good enough…so does Doctor Oz!

So stop with the hate and find a way that works to enjoy this delicious superfood.

One option is:

Sweet Potato Baked Fries with, if you must, a Maple Mayo Dipping Sauce (serves 4)

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees

1. Peel 3 large sweet potatoes and then chop into 1/4 inch thick fries

Pretty Peeled Sweet Potato

Raw Sweet Potato in Fry Form

NOTE: getting the sweet potatoes peeled and cut into fry form is the hardest part. And, I’m a little klutzy with a knife. So have a sharp one and be careful.

2. Toss the sweet potato fries with olive oil, Jane’s Krazy Mixed Up Salt or Sea Salt and Pepper. Just enough to coat the fries. You can also add spicy spices here if you want them with a little kick – cayenne, paprika etc.

3. Arrange in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper

Sweet Potato Fries-To-Be Ready for Baking

4. Put into the oven for a total of :20 – :25 mins

BUT: toss the fries about every :05 minutes. This will help even cooking.

Sweet Potato Fries in the Oven

5. Remove from the oven and let cool for :03-:05 mins

   and since you’re not sure you really like sweet potatoes…serve with a Maple-Mayo dipping sauce

Maple Mayo Dipping Sauce

All you need for a Maple Mayo Dipping Sauce

Mix together 1/2 cup of mayonnaise, 1/8 cup of pure maple syrup and 1 1/4 TBSPs of brown sugar. And chill at least :15 mins before serving.

Super Sweet Potato Fries with Sweet Dipping Sauce

Sweet potatoes aren’t just a Superfood, they’re a Super SuperFood. Keep trying them until you find a way to love them. If nothing else, their bright orange color brings newness and energy to your table and can liven up the appearance of any plate.

Plus, they can become a fry – yes, you can actually fry them in hot fatty oil, but try not to negate the super-ness and just bake them – would you?

OK, off my soap box for the underrated and sometimes hated sweet potato. Just eat and enjoy. I mean I’m not asking you to love liverwurst…