During the COVID-19 pandemic and quarantine circumstances, our relationship with food and cooking has gone through many phases.
First was grocery store panic followed by anxiety over whether it the food was even safe to eat. Next came unhealthy stress-eating, comfort food baking and the dread of preparing yet another family dinner. (Seriously, didn’t we just clean up from lunchtime?) I found one of the most difficult parts was how any joy I used to get from grocery shopping and meal planning seemed to be stripped away instantly. It’s no longer fun when you are waiting to get into the store with a mask on, unsure of what items on your list you’ll even find. For a few weeks, I was in a food funk about all this, but I found my way back to remembering all the joy I have always found with cooking, eating and feeding my family.
Food is much more than fuel for the body. It is sustenance for our very existence. It is warmth, love, nurturing and even hope amid uncertainty. During all of this unclear darkness, it’s the lifeblood to keep ourselves and our family going. For all the days I thought I was going crazy trying to supervise my son’s online learning and being unsure of how to supplement the in school education he was missing out on, I knew that at the end of the day sometimes all that mattered was feeding him–literally. To feed and to love our children are sometimes the only constants we should focus on. And for me, continuing to be excited about cooking and planning meals was also the self-love and self-care I needed.
Comfort food will always be necessary, even during times of stability and peace. It’s important to honor how much healing, happiness and security can be found in a special meal. I’ve love to share with you one of my favorite comfort meals that is hearty and full of offerings of love, but with much more nutritious components than junk processed food. And, it copycats a certain very infamous bread bowl soup that provides lots of comfort at one of our favorite fast casual restaurants! I hope you enjoy replicating it as much as I have and feeding it to yourself and your loved ones to share your comfort and love!
Broccoli Cheese Soup in a Bread Bowl
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 cups half and half or light cream
- 3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 4 small rounded sourdough bread
- 4 cups broccoli florets (about 1 head)
- 1 large carrot, diced
- 2 1/2 cups grated sharp yellow cheddar
In a large Dutch oven or pot, melt butter over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Whisk in the flour and cook until golden, then gradually whisk in the half-and-half or cream until smooth. Add the chicken broth, season with salt and pepper and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until thickened, about 20 minutes.
Using a sharp knife, cut a circle into the top of each bread loaf, leaving a 1-inch border all around. Remove the bread top, then hollow out the middle with a fork or your fingers, leaving a thick bread shell.
Add the broccoli and carrot to the broth mixture and simmer until tender, about 20 more minutes. Using an immersion blender or blender, puree the soup in batches or until smooth but still with flecks of carrot and broccoli.
Add the cheese to the soup and whisk over medium heat until melted. Ladle into the bread bowls and garnish with extra cheese, if desired.