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Category Archives: Broccoli

Warm Up with Broccoli Cheese Soup

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Fall is a season of change here in Michigan. As the green leaves begin transforming into their colorful grand finale, we gradually swap out our flip flops for real shoes and our shorts for long pants (except for that odd breed of man who stubbornly sports pasty legs all winter long). We also cycle through five or more jackets of varying weights–sometimes all in a single day.

My body has never tolerated the cold very well. As the temperatures grow cooler, I cling to any little bit of warmth I can get, rejoicing in mild Indian Summer days, evenings by a flickering campfire and warm dogs curled up next to me on the couch. I have childhood memories of hanging out with a book in front of the heating vent in my parents’ bedroom. In high school, I wore my jacket all day and sat on the heat registers in my classrooms until the teachers shooed me off.

However messed up my internal temperature may naturally be, I realized yesterday that something was not quite right when I absolutely could not get warm. I was dressed in my work clothes: pants, a light shirt and a cardigan sweater. They failed to ward off the chill, so I fashionably topped them off with my bathrobe and my heaviest winter down jacket. I was still shivering…on a 60 degree day. I was getting sick.

Unfortunately, fall is also the time when we trade our relatively vibrant summer health for sniffling, sneezing, body aches and fevers. We teachers spend our days in a veritable petri dish of creepy crawlies, and within the first few weeks of school, many of us succumb to one bug or another. Realizing that this time had come, I temporarily ditched the bathrobe and dragged my cold achy self to the grocery store to pick up the one key ingredient that I did not have on hand to make at least my tummy warm and happy: a block of name-brand processed cheese-food. (A departure from my usual preference for real cheese). I was determined to cook up a big vat of creamy, rich broccoli cheese soup before I reached the point where I would have take to the couch and further accessorize my outfit with a tissue inserted into both nostrils.

The timing was perfect. I had some broccoli from the garden waiting in the fridge, and with Bill’s help, Project Broccoli Soup was finished and greedily consumed before 6:00 p.m. The tissue made its debut at exactly 8:30 p.m. Today, home from work and feeling miserable, the leftover soup was just what I needed.

It’s super-cheesy and ridiculously comforting. I would highly recommend giving this recipe a whirl. Click here to find it.

Celebrate the Green

St. Patrick’s day is all about the green: shamrocks, leprechauns, and a sea of people in green clothing and beads downing green beer. (And celebrating a win for Michigan State in the March Madness tournament last night–go Sparty!).  For me, today was also about the green thumb and Opening Day of gardening season. Our unusually warm weather here in Michigan for the past week or so has caused my yard to begin greening up.  Tufts of grass several inches long have appeared in the backyard, and the grass has sent invasive runners into my flower beds.  I spent a good couple of hours this afternoon out in the glorious sunshine weeding a few of the beds and turning the soil.  I was tempted to keep going, but since my city does not offer yard waste pick-up for another couple of weeks, I decided just to fill up one good-sized container with weeds, and wait on pulling out some of the bigger stuff, like last year’s broccoli.  I didn’t pull it up in the fall, because on occasion I have had broccoli produce through January.  Although we had an exceptionally mild winter this year, the broccoli decided enough was enough and stopped producing right after Thanksgiving.   I was thrilled to have freshly picked broccoli to put on a veggie tray for Thanksgiving dinner, though, giving it just a quick rinse under the faucet before packing it up to bring to my sister’s house.  Who knew that small green bugs exactly the color of broccoli are still around in November?  I sure didn’t.  My dad was the lucky one to figure it out while munching on the crudités.  Twice.

The broccoli is a bleached-out, twisted skeleton of its former self, but other future edibles are greening up in the garden already.  A fresh tangle of chives has emerged from beneath last year’s growth, and my pot of mint is covered in a fragrant carpet of tiny leaves.  The garlic is getting tall, and the raspberry canes are beginning to sprout leaves.   I took a few minutes to sow some early lettuce seeds and sugar snap peas, which I didn’t get a chance to do last spring because the weather was so lousy.  I’m hoping this warm weather continues, even if it means having to cut the lawn while it is still technically winter.

So, with some hard work done for the day, it’s time to shower up, don some green garb and beads, and head out to celebrate the rest of St. Patrick’s day.  Cheers!

Broccoli and Cheese: A Favorite Combo

As a prelude to today’s recipes, I thought I’d haul out a little bit of fiction that’s been hiding on a CD of my old writing from 2004:

A Detective’s Tale

“Lemme tell you a little story about a dame named Madame Gruyere.  Brianne Gruyere to be exact.  She’s known as Brie to her friends, although I doubt she’d consider me a friend.  She was the main suspect in a case I was working on a couple of months ago.  I was investigating a burglary at the Sargento Cafe.  Made me real upset, cuz it’s my favorite pizza joint.  Anyway, the owners, they claimed a masked lady with a French accent was the perpetrator, so I hauled in one of their regular customers, this Madame Gruyere, for questioning.

I get her into the interrogation room, and give her the once-over. She’s the kind of broad who probably used to be a knockout: long legs, creamy skin, but she’s not aging all that great. She has stringy over-processed yellow hair, and her orange polyester dress is straight out of the 70’s —really cheesy.  I suppose not everyone’s born with good taste.  But there’s something about her–her eyes, I guess–that kinda makes me melt. 

I got a job to do, though, so I try to get her to talk.  Turns out she’s a smart-aleck with a sharp wit, and a grating laugh that makes my blood curdle. She mocks me for being American, and says she doesn’t understand our culture. Her sarcasm is so thick you can slice it with a knife. Finally, she opens up a bit and tells me she’s been feeling blue lately, ever since her boyfriend, Jack, moved across the country to Monterey.  She’s been flying between Philadelphia and there whenever she can afford it, and has also been hanging out at the cottage of a friend in Pinconning, Michigan.  She then proceeds to lay out a pathetic alibi for the night in question, and right away I can tell her story is full of holes.  I mean, it really stinks.

So after I’ve milked everything I can out of her, I do some digging into her affairs.  She’s got a clean record, although she seems to be pretty cozy with the Romano crime family.  And she used to have a rep as quite a whiz-kid.  That genius IQ means this lady should have some smarts —at least enough to make up a stronger alibi.  I manage to convince a judge to give me a warrant to search her house, but that turns out to be a bust.  Nothing suspicious there, except some statements from a Swiss bank account, which I skim though.  Nothing.  She’s already shredded any evidence of the crime, I’m sure of it.

So now it’s part of my cold case files.  And unless I can think of another way to approach this crime, it’ll remain unsolved. Who would want to steal a hundred pounds of mozzarella anyway?”

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As you may have noticed, there is a bit of a theme running through the entire story.  Can you find all 31 cheese-related references?  Some of them are admittedly a bit of a reach, but they are in there nonetheless.

Oh, how I adore cheese!  When I was little, my mom would drench most vegetables in Cheese Whiz to get my sister and me to eat them.  Even our Thanksgiving dinner at my parents’ house–to this day–features a broccoli, rice and Cheese Whiz casserole.  As I have gotten older, I still love to enhance my veggies with cheese, although I no longer rely on pasteurized processed cheese-food products.  Rather, I prefer to make a sauce with the real stuff, preferably a nice sharp cheddar. The recipe that’s linked below is a cinch to whip up, and can be poured over broccoli, asparagus, cauliflower…you name it.

Broccoli with Onion Cheese Sauce

BROCCOLI WITH ONION CHEESE SAUCE:  http://www.food.com/recipe/broccoli-with-onion-cheese-sauce-133517

Also, I’ve included a link to a recipe for a Chicken and Broccoli Braid, which I tried out last week in my attempt to use some of the vast amounts of broccoli that I’ve picked from the garden lately.  I cut the recipe in half, since I was just cooking for two and used walnuts for crunch instead of almonds, because that’s what I happened to have.  I also did not have dill, so I used celery salt, as suggested by one reviewer.  Purple peppers from the garden stood in for the red peppers.   Truthfully, the whole thing looked like a toddler’s art project gone wrong before I put it in the oven, because the crescent roll dough was not braiding prettily as I had hoped.  It stretched and broke a lot, so I ended up just pinching it together haphazardly.  But when I took it out of the oven, it was actually appealing to look at–a nice golden brown with a bit of shine from the egg white.  And best of all, it was wonderfully cheesy!

Chicken and Broccoli Braid

CHICKEN AND BROCCOLI BRAID:  http://allrecipes.com/recipe/chicken-and-broccoli-braid/detail.aspx

Choppin’ Broccoliiiiiiiii

Our broccoli has broccoli-fied!  This joyful occurrence led me to page through our recipes in search of a dish with specific criteria:

  1. It had to contain broccoli, naturally.
  2. It needed to be a main course.  Bill was up to his elbows in cucumbers making pickles (recipe to come) and had not taken out any meat to cook for dinner, nor was he intending to do so.  This meant that I was in charge of the full meal, rather than just the usual side dish.
  3. It had to contain ingredients that we had on hand.

Criterion #3 is always a bit tricky.  It’s annoying to find a fun recipe, and then have to make a special trip to the store to buy a bunch of ingredients.  Especially if they are weird ingredients that are unlikely to be used again.  A friend of mine had a solution to this all-too-common problem, and told me about this cool cookbook, The Stocked Kitchen by Sarah Kallio and Stacey Krastins.  It contains over 300 recipes that can be made using one grocery list.  The idea is to keep your kitchen stocked with the items on the list and never have to worry about what to make.   Sounded perfect for us!  So, I bought a copy from amazon.com as a Christmas gift for Bill.  We have yet to use it.  Why?  Because in order to have a well-stocked pantry, having an actual pantry is kind of a necessity.

The “pantry” in our miniscule kitchen consists of three shelves in the cupboards above our microwave (see picture).   The only other spot we have to store food is a small cupboard above the stove, which is where the TALL ITEMS, such as cereal boxes and gallon-sized rum bottles are kept.  We keep many non-refrigerator foods in the refrigerator–such as flour and sugar–just because we have room in there.  And to keep bugs out.  If we don’t have a pantry, then we shouldn’t have to worry about pantry pests, right?  So, although we already have many of the things on The Stocked Pantry grocery list, we simply do not have room for the rest of them.  I hope to figure out something soon, though, since I would like to try the recipes.  For the time being, I have to do some artful arranging to fit everything inside of the cupboard, and then dodge falling items with my cat-like reflexes when I am searching for something.

Last night, I settled on a recipe for Chicken Broccoli Supper, and while I was exploring the “pantry” to see what kind of noodles we had, I was attacked by a bottle of barbecue sauce that decided to jump from the top shelf.  Missing my temple by mere centimeters, it bounced off the edge of my Salad Spinner and sent a chunk of the Salad Spinner’s lid flying clear across the kitchen (I found it later in the fruit bowl).  This made me very cranky, since my Salad Spinner is one of my Highly Regarded kitchen tools that I use often. But at least dinner turned out OK, even if it was not particularly photogenic.

I’ve attached a link to the inspirational recipe below, but if you follow it, it really won’t be what I made because I changed a lot of things.  First of all, I measured nothing. When scavenging, I found some pasta shells, so I used up what I had left and thawed a few chicken tenders in the microwave.  I used cream of mushroom soup, rather than cream of chicken and vegetable stock instead of chicken broth.  After 30 minutes in the oven, when I took it out to stir it, everything was cooked through but it tasted a bit bland.  So I hit it with some Tabasco sauce and topped it with a four cheese Italian blend.  After a few more minutes in the oven to melt the cheese, it was ready to go.  It was tasty and cheesy, but a bit beige. If I were to make this again, I think I would steam the broccoli to a pretty green color and serve it on top of the pasta and chicken, just to add some brightness.  Baking the broccoli makes it kind of dull and lifeless to look at, and I prefer my broccoli happy, green and crunchy.

CHICKEN BROCCOLI SUPPER

http://allrecipes.com/recipe/chicken-broccoli-supper/detail.aspx