I’ve always loved cooking and baking so my perspective on making dinner is one that includes deep enjoyment and satisfaction in the process of cooking. Because of my love of cooking, I read a lot about cooking on blogs and I join discussions about it on blogging forums. Frustration in getting people to cook from scratch is a common issue that is raised. Something that does bother me when I see threads on forums on this topic is the amount of judgement directed to people who do not have home cooked food on a regular basis.
As someone who loves to cook, it is so easy to forget that cooking is a loathed chore for many people. This happens to me now and then as well. There are many days where cooking is the last thing I want to do and my van has graced many a drive-thru for takeout. Despite these occasional lapses I’m always drawn back to the kitchen and I can spend the whole day cooking, and loving every minute of it. My sister is one of those people who hates to cook and basically thinks I’m nuts for liking it so much.
Not everyone who doesn’t do much home cooking hates the chore. I think that a lot of people never had the opportunity to learn the skills of cooking without having to follow a recipe word for word and meal planning which hampers their efforts to have a sit down, from scratch meal with their families.
I’m a little tired of the judgemental lament about the breakdown of the traditional evening meal that means dinner at 6 with everyone at home being served a la June Cleaver. Lately I’ve been trying to be much more relaxed about the style of meal I present for my little family. There have been nights where I can’t pull it all together so we have sandwiches and I make a huge blender full of a smoothie as our veggie portion. I try to make decent dinners the majority of the week but I have no compunction whatsoever with serving waffles with oodles of fresh fruit the odd night. I make a meal and we eat together at the counter most nights because the kitchen table is covered with junk that has been sitting there for a week.
I am a stay-at-home mom but a constrained view of dinner time perfection is something that I’m just not interested in. What I believe in is making most of my food at home with real ingredients. I make food that I enjoy. Period. Some nights that includes a huge salad but other nights it is the aforementioned waffles. I don’t want to eat a whole bunch of junk food or pre-made meals because they are usually too sweet or too salty, and just make me feel gross.
Recipes like this soup are the perfect balance for me. It is full of two of the healthiest vegetables but feels indulgent because of the cheese and little bit of cream. Making a soup is one of my favourite things to cook as well because it is flexible and I end up feeling like I’ve created something much more impressive than the effort I put forth warrants.
I encourage homemade meals and I don’t pretend it is easy all the time. Sometimes the need to get some food on the table overtakes the desire to take pleasure in cooking a meal for the family because bedtime is looming. A household with young children can descend to Bedlam with the majority of the people in the house either yelling in rage or crying mighty fast if the combination of hungry and tired take hold of the children. Make this soup or some other of your favourite recipes some days and go ahead and join me in my unorthodox meals of sandwiches and smoothies for those days you just can’t get it all together.
- 2 slices bacon
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 bunch broccoli (2 or 3 stalks)
- 2 small sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed (2 cups approx.)
- 4 cups chicken broth
- 1 cup water
- 3 tbsp corn starch
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp pepper
- 2 cups grated cheddar cheese (5 oz approx.)
- 1/2 cup whipping cream (optional)
- To prepare the broccoli, cut the thick stalks off the broccoli crowns. Cut the dry end off the stalk and peel the thick stalk with a vegetable peeler or paring knife. Cut the stalks into small chunks and set aside. Cut the florets off the thicker stems and put the small florets in a bowl and add the stems to the previously cut up stalk. The broccoli florets will go in last so keep them separated from the rest of the broccoli stalks and stems.
- Cut bacon into paper clip size pieces and cook over a medium heat in a large pot (at least 3 or 4 quarts).
- When bacon is crisp, remove it from the pot and set it aside on a plate for garnish later.
- Add the chopped onion and garlic and cook over a medium low heat for 3-4 minutes.
- Peel and cube the sweet potatoes and add them to the pot along with the broccoli stalks, stems, and the chicken broth. Stir with a wooden spatula and use it to get any bits off the bottom of the pot that are stuck.
- Add half a teaspoon of salt (or less if you prefer less seasoning) and 1/4 tsp pepper, stir and cover the pot with the lid and let it simmer for 15 minutes or until the broccoli stalk pieces and sweet potato are very soft.
- Use an immersion blender to puree the soup. You could also use a blender, working in batches and pouring the blended soup into a large bowl as you ladle out the soup from the pot before transferring the pureed soup back into the pot when it has all been pureed with the blender.
- Once the soup is pureed smooth, mix the corn starch with 1 cup of water and whisk the corn starch slurry into the soup. Bring the soup to a simmer again.
- Whisk in the cheddar cheese and keep whisking as it melts and combines with the soup.
- Whisk in the cream (you can leave it out or use half and half cream if you prefer) and check to see if you need to add any more salt or pepper.
- Bring the soup back to a steady simmer and add in all the broccoli florets. Simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure that the thickened soup does form a film on the bottom of the pot. You can either add all the reserved bacon now or use it as a garnish when serving.
- Serve hot with a nice big piece of crusty bread.