Monday, February 23, 2009

Soup That Feeds Your Tastebuds...And Your Soul.

Every Sunday I have been trying to take a few hours to cook up Tommy's meals for the can be anything from coming up with interesting fruit blends to steaming fresh veggies. Making a pasta or rice mix or mushing up meats for his dinners…I’ve really been trying to make it fresh, make it tasty, and make it as healthy as possible for our little man. The biggest upside is that I get to try out some of these food blends myself while I enjoy a little time on my own cooking and blending foods together – it inspires me to cook healthy foods for Tony and I as well…and serves as a reminder that just because its healthy does not mean it isn’t delicious. It’s also been great for Tony and Tommy. They get the time to bond and just “be the guys.” Sometimes, Tony and I will both be cooking (he is a master at grilling – especially seafood), and Tommy will sit there beside us in his high chair, munching on fruit or veggie puffs, and watching us with his always observing and curious eyes.
Here he's helping Daddy put his toys into one of his new toy boxes, and one of him laughing while playing with his fire engine ride-along.On Saturday morning, we stopped over at the market for some much needed weekly necessities (I needed soy milk for my coffee!), and I was inspired to pick up some veggies to make a really tasty soup. I know several people who can make one soup or casserole, really really well (like my Mom’s Tuna Casserole – I LOVE it!!). A signature dish that when thought of, immediately makes you think of them, of sharing a nice meal together, and of family/friendship. Well – I WANT that! Ha Ha. I’ve been searching for a soup that screams ME. Something I can make in bulk and freeze for some individual meals, to pull out when I’m in the mood for some comfort food, and a recipe I can call my own to share with the people I love.

Often I’ve been to Panera Bread and have had their broccoli and cheese soup. I’m actually not a fan of Broccoli…something about the texture turns me off…but when it comes to that soup, I just can’t get enough. So…I used the ever handy internet, and searched for a few related recipes, then I came up with my own version. I spent about 3 or 4 hours from start (getting all the ingredients together & cooking veggies) to finish making up a double batch of this DELICIOUS recipe. So…I hope you give it a try, even if you aren’t normally a fan of broccoli, carrots, or of soups in general. I promise, you will not be disappointed.

First off let me give some Luv to fresh vegetables. I know its takes a little more time to cook and prepare them…but when you decide to take the time to do it, I truly feel it adds a little something extra special to the finished product. If you’re like me, and (for convenience sake) aren’t use to cooking fresh veggies…I’ll explain what I did with them. I am sure there are other ways…but since I like to figure things out on my own…here’s what I did to prepare the broccoli and carrots before starting the soup.
Broccoli: I picked up two big bunches of broccoli. I took them home and rinsed them really really well, then laid them on a paper towel to dry. I set up my steamer with about an inch of water (it’s a large metal pot with a separate steamer pot that has tiny holes on the bottom and rests inside the larger pot – great for steaming veggies and crab legs!). Once the water in the steamer was boiling, I put the broccoli bunches into the steamer pot, and that into the larger metal pot, covered it with the glass lid, then I set the clock for 4 minutes. While they were steaming up, I grabbed a large bowl which I filled with ice water. After the timer chimed, I picked up the entire steamer part of the pot with the broccoli inside, and dunked it into the bowl of ice water three times (each time for about 5 seconds). The reasons I’ve heard for doing this is to help the broccoli keep their brilliant green color, and also to ensure they will have a nice crisp crunch. Next, I dumped them onto a giant cutting board, and removed ALL of the stems. If you like broccoli you may not want to go to this extreme, but I don’t normally like it, so I wanted it to be in small enough bunches that I would not be biting into the broccoli stems. (I thought it would be nice if all of the veggies in the soup sort of disappeared into it, making a flavorful and thick mixture, without clumps in it.)

Carrots: I carefully added about 3 cups of hot tap water into the still semi-boiling pot I had used for steaming the broccoli. While I waited for that to boil, I removed the outside “skin” of the carrots with a potato peeler, and cut off the ends of each one. Once the water was boiling, I put the carrots into the pot and let it simmer for about 10 to 15 mins. Once they were fully cooked, I carefully pulled them out of the pot, and chopped them into ¼ inch cubes. The recipe called for julienned carrots…but the ¼ inch pieces worked just fine…they were so tender that you didn’t even notice them in the soup – it blended really well, and added an extra bit of flavor!

(NOTE: Since I made WAY more carrots than I needed for this recipe, I set some aside to make babyfood for Tommy, and some aside for a nice pork tenderloin roast I will be making later on in the week. Several great meals out of fresh vegetables! Can’t beat that!)
After the veggies were all prepped and ready to go, I set the rest of the ingredients for the soup out on the counter, and got started. Here are the directions for my adaptation of the various recipes I researched (and some notes). It’s a keeper!
Bobbi's Broccoli and Cheese Soup
2 tablespoons butter with 1/4 chopped onion
(I used a red Spanish onion for a little color)
½ stick of butter – cut into tbsps/
1/4 cup flour
2 cups fat free half-and-half cream
(could probably have used Soymilk)
2 cups chicken stock (or 1 can if you don’t have any one hand)
1/2 lb fresh broccoli
1 cup carrot, julienned (the ¼ chunks worked just fine)
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
10 ounces grated sharp cheddar cheese - I used Kraft.
(It actually calls for 8 oz. but I thought it needed that extra bit.)
Salt and Pepper to taste (I used 2 tsps of salt and 3 tsps of pepper.)

1. Sauté onion with butter on lowest setting so that the butter does not overcook. Set aside.
2. Cook ½ stick of butter and flour using a whisk over low heat for 3-5
minutes. Stir constantly and slowly add in the half & half.
3. Add the chicken stock. Simmer on Low/Medium-Low for 20 minutes. Stir occasionally.
4. Stir in nutmeg, salt, and pepper, mix well.
5. Add the broccoli, carrots and onions. Cook over LOW heat 25-30 minutes.
6. Serve with your favorite crusty, dunkable bread and enjoy!
Other adaptations: Several recipes I found online also included 1 cup of fully cooked, minced cauliflower, and several recipes called for serving the soup in a bread bowl. I plan to add the cauliflower into the mix the next time I make this soup.

Since I made a double batch we were able to freeze a few containers full of soup, plus we each have a couple containers to enjoy throughout the week.

Oh…and in case you’re wondering…I mixed some of the carrots with a little bit of the broccoli in the blender for Tommy – he LOVED it. I have glass jars [reusing babyfood jars] full for him of the carrots and broccoli mix for this week. I also made a fresh mango/orange puree, and baked up a butternut squash for him this week. He had a bit of the mango/orange puree with his oatmeal this morning – and he said “mmm” after each bite. So Cute!)

No comments: