Broccoli Cheese Soup: the beginning of a fall feast

I, like everyone else, look forward to the advent of fall for several reasons: boots, hoodies, fires and soup. Right? Those are the things everyone likes about fall. Wrong.

Not my husband. Mr. Meat and Potatoes likes fall because of football. That's it. As for the items on my list, he can go for a fire, he's ambivalent about the attire, and he's almost downright against soup. Wha?? Who doesn't like soup?

To be fair, it's not that he doesn't like soup, it's just that, as he puts it, "Soup is not a meal." So I guess it's not that he won't eat soup, or has declared some sort of war on food that comes in bowls, but that soup, to him, just doesn't cut it. He doesn't get excited about soup, because to him, it's like a garden salad. Sure, he'll eat it before a meal if you put it in front of him, but it doesn't really catch his attention.

But, because I am who I am, I charge ahead with my soup-making anyway, but I know I can't just call it dinner. I have to make something else to go with it. And this is where it gets even trickier. He eats two sandwiches EVERY DAY for lunch at work. So even if I put together a miraculous hot sandwich laden with special sauces and meats and grilled onions and fairy dust, he's a little "meh" about it, because, well, ANOTHER SANDWICH. So, soup and sandwich isn't really a great option either. But, soup and WHAT? Because I want my soup, so I have to find a way to make it a complete meal.

Last week, I made broccoli cheese soup. I wanted a meaty dinner complement my husband would enjoy, and I thought since the soup is creamy and mild, I'd do something with a little crunch and zip. To accompany our soup, then, we had some crusty French bread and some panko buffalo chicken tenders. So easy, so good.

simple and delicious

simple and delicious by meganstuke

My soup recipe makes a lot because I like to have enough for several lunches and maybe a dinner leftover. Please feel free to halve it.

Broccoli Cheese Soup

4 Tablespoons butter
1/2 cup flour
4 cups milk
2 cups chicken broth
3 cups shredded cheese (cheddar or Colby jack is best)
4 cups fresh broccoli, chopped
1 cup chopped onion (I use frozen for this)
2 teaspoons dried mustard
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2/3 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon garlic powder
salt and pepper

Start by melting the butter in the bottom of a large stock pot. Add the flour and whisk together to make a paste. Then, over medium high heat, start slowly adding in chicken broth and whisking to make sure there are no lumps. Next. add the chopped onions, the milk, and the broccoli. Stir, and (leaving the lid off) simmer at an almost-boil until the broccoli is tender, about 20 minutes, whisking regularly. The mixture should be thickening so be sure you're not getting lumps.

Once the broccoli is tender, it's time to blend. You can use a food processor or a traditional blender but I really like my immersion blender for this application.

Once you have effectively removed all lumps, you can add in the cheese and stir until it is melted. If you don't think your soup is thick enough, you can make a slurry of 1/2 cup of water and 1 tablespoon of cornstarch to add in and simmer to add extra thickness.

As for the panko chicken tenders, it's a cinch and it's a great complement to the meal. A little spicy, a little crunchy. Just what Mr. Meat and Potatoes needs to round out dinner.

Panko Chicken Tenders

12 chicken tenders
2 cups panko
1 cup Frank's Red Hot
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
cooking spray
salt and pepper

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

Mix the Panko with a teaspoon of salt, a few cranks of cracked black pepper, and the Parmesan cheese. Put it in a pie pan or a shallow bowl.

Prepare a glass baking dish with cooking spray.

Then, put the hot sauce in a second bowl.

Dip the chicken in the hot sauce and then roll in panko mix until it's thoroughly covered. Lay in the baking dish. Repeat.

Bake for twenty minutes and then turn on the broiler for about two minutes to get the tops nice and brown and crispy. That's it!

I love this meal. I made a few tenders without the hot sauce for the 3-year-old, and we had enough leftover for a complete second meal. Served with some crusty bread and a pile of grapes, it was a meal everyone could agree was great for early fall.

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