My first year living in China was hard. Disastrous. Filled with tears. Begging my husband to take our family back home. Wondering why we had been very specifically called here. Wondering how in the world I would learn to love these people who were so very different from me.
And then I tried to cook. I’m sure the rats outside ate well that year because we sure didn’t! Countless meals—entire meals—went into the trash. The recipes I had a handle on after “learning how to cook” (aka throw some cans of this and a bag of frozen that together, and you have a meal!) in the 3 years I had been married were thrown out the window. For real. I threw those recipe cards away. No canned things here! Well, unless you count cans of scary things I can’t pronounce. No pre-made anything that tasted like home.
So I started from scratch. Literally. Everything I’ve learned how to make in the past 3+ years of living here is from scratch. It hasn’t been easy. There are still tears. I still make the rats happy some days. But I’m learning. I keep experimenting. I have to, or I would still be one unhappy Momma. Cooking and baking successfully brings a lot of satisfaction to this soul. Eating well and feeding my family makes living in this hard place more doable.
A pretty quick go-to recipe for me, especially this time of year is Broccoli Cheddar Soup. It’s always a hit whenever I serve it to others. It’s good enough to transport you back to your favorite deli. Now, if you only had a bread bowl.
The first step is making a roux. Yeah, I didn’t know what that was either. It’s basically the base and thickener for your soup. A crucial step! But don’t fear, it’s not too hard!
Ignore the burnt pieces of onion in this pic. I’m not perfect. First you sauté your onions and remove. Then melt your butter and slowly mix in the flour. This is what the roux will look like. Whisk constantly or it’ll burn!
Then you’ll add the cream, milk, and chicken stock. Once that’s cooked down, add the veggies., salt and pepper. (Sorry for the lack of pics…still practicing!) I probably have way more than 1/2 pound of broccoli in here. This recipe is flexible! Just like me. Uhh…sometimes.
Once veggies are tender and soup is thick, add in the delicious cheese. If your cheese supplier is like mine has been lately, providing sub-par cheese, you don’t even have to shred it! Just crumble it because it has been frozen and re-frozen a few too many times. The taste is still good, though. And that’s all that matters.
Once it’s all melty and delicious, try to take a cool picture while your 4-year-old photo bombs. What kid doesn’t love watching steam?
Broccoli Cheddar Soup
Adapted from Market2Meal
1 Tbs butter (or oil)
½ medium onion, chopped
¼ cup butter
¼ cup flour
2 cups half and half*
2 cups chicken stock
½ lb broccoli, chopped finely (or blend in food processor to save time!)
1 medium carrot, finely grated
salt and pepper to taste (about 1 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp. pepper)
8 oz grated cheddar cheese
In a large pot, saute onion in 1 Tbs butter. Set aside. In the same pot, melt butter over medium heat, then gradually add flour using a whisk to stir constantly. Cook 2-3 minutes, still stirring. Continue whisking, adding the half and half. Add the chicken stock, whisking until blended well. Simmer 10 minutes. Stir occasionally so the half and half doesn’t burn on the bottom.
Add the broccoli, carrots, onions, salt and pepper. Cook over low heat until veggies are tender, about 15-20 minutes and soup is thickened. (At this point, if you want a smooth soup, you could pour in batches into a blender and puree. I usually skip this step because I’m too excited to eat it!)
Add cheese and stir until melted. Be sure to taste it to see if it needs more salt or pepper.
*I usually use 1 cup of whipping cream (small box of Nestle brand) and 1 cup milk. I have used all milk before, but it wasn’t as thick and creamy. Use what you can get or what you have on hand!
So has anyone else wrestled with major kitchen flops in your overseas kitchen? If you have a favorite (overseas-friendly) Thanksgiving recipe, share with us!