On the strawberry patch: A soup to ward off burnout

Even for me the mental labor of cooking is exhausting and sometimes overwhelming.

It feels like I am always thinking about food.

At any time of the day, I am either cooking a meal, feeding my toddler, doing dishes, searching for all the bits of food he chucked from his highchair, serving snacks or thinking about what I’m going to cook next.

Even for me, someone who has a culinary education and genuinely loves to cook and plan menus, the mental labor is exhausting and sometimes overwhelming. So even my son occasionally gets boxed macaroni and cheese with frozen peas for dinner when I just don’t have it in me to face it all again.

When the lunch lady burnout strikes and I need a little motivation vacation, I fall back on a handful of easy, satisfying staples that can be prepared with little thought, minimal dishes, and from often at-hand ingredients like potatoes, onions, cream and corn.

My slow cooker is my best friend during these times because I can prepare dinner while I’m making breakfast or lunch, which means less playtime interruptions and less time spent doing dishes with tiny arms wrapped around my legs.

This potato corn chowder takes 10 minutes to prepare and can be customized with different toppings to satisfy everyone at the table. This recipe fits my 2.5-quart crock pot and feeds two and a toddler with enough left over for my lunch the next day.


2 cups of peeled, diced russet potatoes

1 cup diced white onion

½ cup diced celery

½ cup frozen corn

2 tablespoons minced garlic

¼ cup fresh parsley, minced (or 1 tablespoon dried), plus a bit for garnish

2 cups vegetable or chicken stock

½ cup heavy cream

Salt and pepper to taste


Put all the solid ingredients into your slow cooker.

Pour in your stock and add water until it reaches about an inch from the top of the crock.

Set your cooker either on low for six hours or on high for three hours.

15 minutes before you plan to eat, remove about 1 cup of the potatoes, mash and return to the crock.

Turn off the heat, add the heavy cream, stir and cover for 10 minutes.

Taste and season with salt and pepper immediately before serving.

This is a vegetarian version, but bacon or ham makes a delicious addition to this soup.

If you’re using bacon, I suggest cooking it very crispy and using it as a topping instead of cooking it in the pot to keep the bacon from getting soggy. Ham can be included at the very beginning, approximately ½ cup diced would work.

Popular toppings include shredded cheddar cheese, chopped chives, sour cream, hot sauce and diced jalapenos. I served my soup with a garden salad.

I can’t remember the first time I heard the spoon theory, but it basically goes like this: Each of us have a certain number of spoons that represent all the mental and emotional energy we have available to give in a day, and each task we must complete, no matter how mundane or simple, takes up a certain number of our spoons.

How many spoons each task costs is different for each person, but we all occasionally run out.

On the days when I have run out of spoons, this comforting soup gives me a little breathing room away from the kitchen and some time for an extra trip to the playground.