Earlier this week, a farm in our town started their preliminary work for the growing season. They begin by readying their greenhouse and planting seeds for their crops (and they sell some of the started plants too). In a month or so, the first crops will be planted in the fields, and their garden center will be hopping with hopeful people with fanciful dreams of amazing gardens.
As I look outside at our disheveled gardens, I am struck with how much work will have to happen before we can grow anything this year. Rocks from our gravel driveway were pushed far onto our lawn this winter. They need to be moved back again. Leaves, long forgotten under the snow, wait to be raked up and moved to our compost pile. My fenced garden of raised beds for growing veggies needs to be cleaned up, fertilized and planned. And will this be the year that I turn the grassy paths in it to gravel ones? I’m not sure.
And all this has to happen fast — between rainy days and chilly winds — so that it’s all picked up before the first blades of grass and rapidly growing weeds start appearing. It’s a race against Mother Nature, and I’m cold and sore just thinking of it.
I never really thought much about growing seasons and yard prep and all that until I had kids. It’s amazing how those sweet little people can make you so much more mindful about everything — where your food comes from, how you eat and living kindly with nature.
While I am in the beginning stages of planning for spring, it’s still soup season. And heck, when it’s cold like it still is (even on lovely sunny days like today), soup is just about the best thing ever — warm, comforting and belly-filling.
This Potato Broccoli Cheddar Soup is a perfect late winter soup. It’s creamy, though it contains no cream, and flavorful, though the ingredients list is relatively short and simple. One of the greatest discoveries I ever made about soup making was that pureeing potatoes in a soup can give it that lovely creamy texture without the added fat of stirring in heavy cream.
The flavor reminds me of a broccoli and cheddar baked potato (which is especially good if you love broccoli … and broccoli and cheddar baked potatoes … like I do), except it’s in a comforting, warm soup.
Here I’ve topped it with some chopped roasted red peppers and Westminster Oyster Crackers. The cool, sweet peppers and crunchy, almost buttery crackers are a fabulous compliment to the soup.
A few months back, I received a box of these crackers in the mail, and was instantly smitten. Oyster crackers and I have a long relationship, dating back to my days in Catholic elementary school. I used to sneak them during band practice (I played the clarinet. Poorly. Um, yea. Might have helped if I didn’t eat during practice, I suppose).
So, these Westminster Oyster Crackers. They impressed me. First, there was the flavor and texture — an almost buttery flavor, and a satisfying puffy crunch. Then there was the ingredients list, which is simple and 100 percent pronounceable. They contain ingredients I have not only heard of, but own! So, we’ve been munching on these for a few months now — as snacks, in soups, etc. The kids love taking them for snack time at school.
It’s still chilly here, so this soup is perfect. With the crackers and roasted red peppers, of course.
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 large sweet onion, chopped
- 1 1/2 lbs russet potatoes, scrubbed and cubed
- 3 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 lb broccoli, cut into 1" pieces (including the stem!)
- 4 cups low sodium, or no salt chicken stock
- 1 1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
- salt and pepper, to taste
- In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and cook for 4-5 minutes, until translucent. Add the garlic, and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the onions begin to brown.
- Stir the potatoes and broccoli into the pot and cook for 1 minute. Add the chicken stock and stir it all up. Cover and cook for 30 minutes over medium heat (or until the broccoli and potatoes are tender).
- Remove the soup from the heat, and use an immersion blender to blend the soup until it's mostly smooth (a few chunks are a good thing). Stir in the cheddar a little at a time, until melted. Taste and salt and pepper, as needed.
- Serve immediately.
NOTE: The soup thickens as it cools, so if you have leftovers add a little extra chicken stock or broth to the soup when reheating for a looser consistency.
Sarah Walker Caron is a cookbook author, freelance writer and founder of Sarah’s Cucina Bella. She is the author of four cookbooks including The Super Easy 5-Ingredient Cookbook and One-Pot Pasta, both from Rockridge Press. A single mother to a tween and a teen, Sarah loves nightly family dinners, juicy tomatoes plucked fresh from the vine and lazy days on the beach. She also adores reading and traveling.