Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Wonderful Winter Weekend

“Wonderful” and “winter” are not really words that I think belong together, except for the lovely alliteration. But then again, how can you look at the beaming smile of my stepdaughter with her two sons, and not smile yourself, whatever the weather?

Winter took a minor break this past weekend and allowed us to enjoy a great time with our two grandsons (and their parents, of course!) It was just the burst of sunshine we needed at the end of February when it seems that we’ve had winter for six months. Spring does not seem just around the corner, no matter what our neighbor Punxsutawney Phil might say.

We’ve had two feet of snow dumped on us in the past few weeks, we’ve had frigid temperatures, freezing rain, icicles that have to be measured with a yardstick, and far too much shoveling, scraping and plowing.

But the sun was kind last Saturday, the wind moderate, and no new snow. So the little traveling family made it to our house with no trouble. We had some inside play time while we caught up on each other’s news since our last get together a month or so ago and awed at the boys’ growth. They are almost 1 and almost 4, their birthdays one day after the other next month. The younger grandson is stretching out his little fireplug frame, sporting two more teeth, babbling more and on the verge of walking on his own. The older boy has quite an imagination (and a good memory) and regaled us with colorful stories of his emergency room visit the day before and the leaking roof at home.

I continually marvel at their busyness and curiosity and their happy temperaments and have to think it’s got a lot to do with their parents. I love watching them interact. Seeing loving discipline and playful affection in action is a delight. Although Grandpa and I might be just a little prejudiced, they’re great kids, all four of them!

We decided to have our lunch before we had our outside playtime. It was going to be a soup-and-sammy lunch. I had told everyone ahead of time that we were going to have grilled reubens for lunch, just in case anyone might not like them. (No objections.)

But I didn’t tell them we were going to have broccoli soup, too. As I headed to the kitchen, I announced that I was going to heat up the soup. I was almost out of earshot before I heard:

“Did she say soup?”
“Yes, didn’t she tell you that?”
“No. But YES! We said on the way up that we hoped there was soup, too.”

The reubens were great. It’s just assembly, after all; although I like making them at home because sometimes they’re kinda greasy ordered out. You can control all that at home. And the kids liked the soup so much, they asked for the recipe. Ooops! It was one of those make-up-as-you-go-with-what-you-have-on-hand-with-just-kind-of-a-game-plan.

I did my best to re-create the concoction:

Broccoli Soup
The February 20, 2010 Version

2 T flour
2 T butter
1 cup milk
4 oz mild cheddar cheese, shredded
½ cup chopped carrot
½ cup chopped celery
½ cup chopped onion
1 T olive oil
1 bunch broccoli, chopped
1 32 oz box chicken broth
½ cup uncooked instant rice
1 8-ounce brick Neufchatel cheese, softened
1 t dried tarragon
Salt & pepper to taste

1. Make a light cheese sauce: In a saucepan, melt the butter. Blend in the flour. Slowly pour in the milk, stirring. Keep stirring until thickened. Add the cheese and stir until it’s melted. Remove from heat.
2. Place the oil in a stockpot on medium heat. Add the carrot, celery and onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are softened.
3. Add the broccoli and rice. Add chicken broth to cover. (Add more broth if needed.) Bring to boil and then turn down to simmer, cover and cook 8-10 minutes until broccoli and rice are tender.
4. Again, add more broth if needed.
5. Add the cheese sauce and stir till blended. Then add the Neufchatel cheese and stir until melted. Makes 6-8 ample servings.

Later, my husband told me that the sandwiches were great and the soup was good; but he likes his soup a little thicker and cheesier. I took it as I do all his critiques: thought for food!

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