Recipe: Cheesy Broccoli Soup

I like broccoli, but I love broccoli when it’s covered in cheese. Even better, cheesy soup that has broccoli in it. Though everyone some label me a snob, I will eat my fake, block cheese on everything from a cheesesteak with wiz to this soup recipe I’m about to share with you all. Coming from a copy of Southern Living from the late 70s, this recipe has been adapted by my family over time. While the original called for green peppers and some water, ours focuses on the broccoli and adds chicken broth. For those looking for something truly vegetarian, the cream of chicken soup and chicken broth could easily be substituted for their veggie equivalents. However, I like the way we make it just fine, and will probably be consuming some in the next few days. With the weather we’ve been having, there are few things that sound as good to me as a warm, heavy bowl of soup to forget about the cold. If you are also stuck inside with inches of snow outside, I bet you feel the same!

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Cheesy Broccoli Soup

Yield: 5 1/2 cups

1 bag (10-16 oz.) broccoli florets

1/2 cup chopped onion

2 tbsp. butter, melted

1 (10 3/4 oz.) can of cream of chicken soup, undiluted

1 1/2 cup milk

1 cup chicken broth

3/4 lb. processed American cheese (preferably Velveeta)

Handful Parmesan cheese

1. Sauté onion with butter in medium pot. Add broccoli and chicken broth to pot and cook until broccoli is tender.

2. Add milk and cream of chicken, followed by Velveeta and Parmesan.

3. Cook over medium-low until cheese melts, stirring often. Puree with stick blender until the soup is mostly smooth. Serve and enjoy.

 

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Dinner at Kapnos Taverna (Arlington, VA)

My posts in February were few and far between compared to January, but now that it’s March, I’m hoping to get back on schedule! First up, a review of a location at which I dined while visiting my aunt and uncle in Virginia. We ended up trying the new Kapnos Taverna, a restaurant I later learned is owned by Top Chef alum Mike Isabella.

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Decorated simply in a palette of blues and grays, the restaurant gave off an air of being calm, open, and large. Seated in the bar area, our waiter was fairly hands-off yet still thorough and willing to answer any questions we had. I don’t need to be coddled throughout my meal, so this worked perfectly for me. Of the two drinks I tried that evening, the one that I adored was The Shepherd, an herbaceous gin cocktail that featured oregano and tart lemon juice. It was a cocktail made for me. I do know some crazies don’t enjoy gin though, and the vodka-based Sunset Spritz was also good, particularly for those who love citrus. The thought put into the cocktail list was impressive and there was something for everyone on there, which should be the basic standard for any restaurant crafting a decent drink list.

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These cocktails were a solid way to begin the evening, but before long, plate after plate of food came out. The Roasted Crimini Mushrooms were easily the best thing we tried that night. Featuring a hefty serving of garlic and a zing of lemon, the mushrooms were the star of the evening. These plump veggies packed a lot of flavor, but certainly weren’t enough to keep us satisfied. On the freezing Sunday out, the Cheese Saganaki was what hit the spot. Bubbling, salty, and balanced out by a touch of honey, I couldn’t get enough of this stuff. We quickly devoured everything on the hot skillet, picking it all up with the feather-light flatbread. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one at the table who burned my tongue due to impatience.

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Another dish of note was the meaty Spit-Roasted Lamb, a tender, succulent option that was served with tzatziki and a surprisingly spicy red chili sauce. For those who can’t take the heat, the Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail was a lightly-dressed option that boasted of both subtlety and lingering flavor. If you’re like me and really enjoy tasting the seafood, I’d say to leave the cocktail sauce untouched and relish in the flavor of the shrimp. Much like the cocktail list, there was a little something for everyone on the menu. All of these choices were very different and provided a unique experience, highlighting the benefits of mezze. Those who can’t share should look elsewhere in Arlington for their next meal.

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Still, everything was not sunshine and daisies at this busy spot. The biggest disappointment was the East Coast Oysters we ordered. Shucked poorly with all of that briny oyster liquor gone, they felt dry and lifeless. I’m always a bit reticent to order oysters in a restaurant that simply labels them ‘east coast’ or ‘west coast,’ and these babies were a prime example why. Nothing else sank quite as low as these oysters, but there were still dishes I would pass over on a second visit, including the generally lackluster Cumin Yogurt Marinated Chicken Souvlaki and the Crispy Eggplant, which could have been lovely if the orange zest hadn’t overpowered the rest of the dish.

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Though Kapnos Taverna has some kinks to work out, the vegetable mezze and cocktails were strong enough to encourage my return. I don’t visit Arlington often (my uncle either hates me, can only take so much of my awesomeness, or has a secret wife he doesn’t want me to meet), but I now look forward to going to the Kapnos in D.C., too. A must-visit for anyone who loves Greek food, Kapnos Taverna was a spot that provided diversity and fulfillment, and I can’t wait to see what else Mike Isabella comes up with as his empire grows.
Kapnos Taverna on Urbanspoon

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F.A.Qs: Jaleh Najafali of A Famished Foodie

A Famished Foodie:

Here’s an interview I recently did with Anthony over at Flavorful World. If you think you need some more Jaleh in your life (and who doesn’t), go check it out!

Originally posted on Flavorful World: a Food, Wine, and Spirits Blog:

Image credit: Jaleh Najafali Image credit: Jaleh Najafali

Anyone who’s been following this blog for more than fifteen minutes knows by now how much I respect and admire the passions of a well-traveled eater. Jaleh Najafali, creator of food blog A Famished Foodie, is someone whose foodie passions I respect and admire a great deal. This, one could attribute to the fact that her love of food is strong enough that she hopes to build a future career around it. One could chalk my enthusiasm about her site up to her having eaten, lived, and studied in many parts of the world that I have not, despite her being quite young. Then again, my excitement over the interview she recently granted me might as easily be attributed to her being a fellow wine-loving comics fan like me, and I’ve found wine-loving comics fans to be pretty awesome people more often than not. We…

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Plans Derail When Wine Fails

I have officially become the “wine person” of my family. This baffles me as I am still just twenty-two and my knowledge of wine has mainly stemmed from some bumbling around, reading, and drinking. The upside of fooling people into thinking that I “know stuff” about wine is that I am often gifted this treat. If there’s one thing I enjoy more than a nice glass of wine, it’s an okay glass of wine that I don’t have to pay for. That being said, every so often the wine I am gifted is pretty darn awful. This was the case with the Rosemount Estate‘s 2000 Shiraz.

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A rusty red color, thinner than Fiji water, and somehow smelling like day-old salsa, this was just plain bad. Admittedly, this wine shouldn’t have been aged, and I still have no idea how it was stored, where the hell it came from before someone passed it off to me, or when it was in its prime, but I’d guess that all three of these unknowns led to this wine’s demise. Scrunching up my face a bit with the two sips I managed to swallow, I marked this one down as a loss. My dad stuck his nose in the glass, declared that it smelled like vinegar, and then refused to try it. Afterwards, he told me that he knew more about wine than I did since he didn’t even have to take a sip to know it was bad. Considering the fact that the man drinks glasses of cognac as if they’re Pepsi, I have no doubt that he is well-versed in booze. However, I still believe if I hadn’t made a face of disgust when I first sipped the Shiraz, he wouldn’t have been so confident in his original assessment of it.

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Opening up a wine and realizing it is bad is akin to going to the movies to see Guardians of the Galaxy and then discovering the theater is solely playing rom-coms. There’s disappointment, despair, and the chilling realization that you may just have to suffer through the worst evening ever. Luckily, with this misstep, we just placed the bottle aside, mixed up some cocktails, and proceeded with our Friday night family time. It wasn’t the way I intended to spend my evening, but this was a great learning experience on the caution with which to approach gifted wines. Hopefully, it’s one I won’t have to learn twice.

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Thirsty Thursday: Lingonberry Dream

The first time I saw lingonberry concentrate, my first thought was “What the hell is a lingonberry?” I was in high school and had never heard of it, mostly because I didn’t frequent stores like IKEA where lingonberry products abound. Popular in Scandinavian dishes, it’s no surprise that I now go to IKEA to pick it up whenever I’m feeling a cocktail that’s a little different. This particular creation is one that I thoroughly enjoyed the first time I tried it; it can be served straight up or on the rocks, as it’s strong enough to hold its own against some melting ice cubes. I think both the color and flavor make it perfect for this time of year, though for those of you who are always looking for fruity drinks that aren’t too sweet, this is a dream all year round. No sugary Appletinis to be found here. Try it out and let me know what you think!

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Lingonberry Dream

Yield: 1 cocktail

1 1/2 oz. Grey Goose Citron

1 oz. Grand Marnier

1/2 oz. lingonberry juice concentrate (found at IKEA)

1/2 oz. Sprite or tonic water

1/2 oz. homemade sweet and sour mix (recipe here)

1. If you know early on that you’ll be making this cocktail, stick shaker and vodka in the freezer a few hours ahead of time to get them well chilled.

2. Take your shaker and vodka out of the freezer. Fill up the shaker and cocktail glass with ice to keep them chilled while assembling your cocktail.

3. Measure out and pour all ingredients into shaker. Cover shaker and shake well for five to ten seconds.

4. Dump all ice out of cocktail glass. If serving on the rocks, refill glass with three to four ice cubes. Strain liquid into glass. Enjoy.

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Lunch at DiFebo’s (Bethany Beach, DE)

The main benefit of having a grandma with a condo at the beach is the ability to use it during the off-season. It’s quiet, the beach is still pretty, and I don’t have to wait for two hours to each some mediocre ribs and overcooked fries alongside screaming children. In an effort to try my favorites before the masses storm Delaware, I checked out DiFebo’s one overcast afternoon before heading back to Baltimore. Having only started lunch service back in June, I wasn’t sure what to expect from my family’s favorite spot this time around. From eleven to four, the menu runs the gamut, offering a number of warm panini and large pasta options guaranteed to fulfill the hungry. The only problem for me during lunch was trying to decide which of these choices I would opt for.

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While looking over the menu, I started off my meal with a Chianti Classico, which was okay though not memorable enough for me to recall the producer.  Light enough for lunch yet still have some grip to it, this wasn’t a bad wine, but I still haven’t quite got the hang of this region. Most of the time, the Chianti I’ve tried has been lackluster and underwhelming. This particular choice didn’t sway my opinion in either a positive or negative direction, but maybe one day I will find the Chianti for me.

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Despite the miss of the wine front, the meal took a turn for the better when we were presented with White Bean Dip and Lavash Bread. The dip was delicate with a punch of garlic to it, while the bread was crisp, well-seasoned, and balanced by the creamy dip. I just loved that they sent this out instead of cold, day-old bread on which to break my teeth. How many places are that thoughtful during lunch service? I can’t think of many.

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After priming our stomachs a bit for what was to come, we waited for our main courses and eavesdropped on other diners. If you don’t like listening in on other people’s conversations while dining, then I don’t know if we’d ever get along. Just listening in on the few tables around us, I learned that most of the diners were regulars over the age of forty, at least one person in Delaware knows how to properly order a cheesesteak, and that our waitress had just gotten back from a comped weekend in Atlantic City. I always think it’s fun to go use what I know and imagine the lives of these people. However, since most of you probably don’t care about the scenarios I created in my head, I’ll just tell you about the Veggie Panini I was presented.

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Served on fresh white bread, this panini was filled with asparagus, arugula, roasted red peppers, pesto, and mozzarella. The menu stated that the panini would be served with goat’s cheese, which I was looking forward to, but I didn’t mind the substitution as I don’t discriminate against any type of cheese. I was a bit nervous to bite into the asparagus, anticipating either something with too much crunch or stringiness similar to string cheese, but thankfully they came out perfectly. Asparagus can be one of the trickier veggies to cook, so it was nice to enjoy a sandwich that was well executed. By the time I finished this, I could hardly touch the mayo-based cole slaw or the bag of chips; still, I did snag a box to take them home. It was a flavorful choice that was surprisingly filling, a decision I would make again.

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Even though I’ve always thought of DiFebo’s as a dinner spot, I may be adding it to my lunch queue as well. It might be an even better option for lunch during the summer since the waits for dinner can quickly change from minutes to hours on a warm night. An inviting spot painted in hues that scream ‘Tuscany,’ DiFebo’s is one of the most welcoming restaurants in Bethany Beach and is certainly a spot you should check out if you’re ever in the area.
Di Febo's Italian Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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Book Review: Provence, 1970

I’ve been really behind on my blogging this month, but I finally had some time to sit down and review a book that brings together a number of my interests, Provence, 1970. While I’m not particularly interested in the ’70s, I do love anything that involves M.F.K. Fisher, Julia Child, James Beard, or France. So, a book that deals with all four is one that I am more than happy to spend my time reading.

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Written by Luke Barr, the grandnephew of M.F.K., this book centers on a time when changes ran rampant around the food world. While France essentially owned the American food scene for the better part of the 1960s, by the time the 70s rolled around, people were ready for something new. This is the basic thesis of Barr’s book, though his analysis of these changes falls wayside to his behind-the-scenes look into the lives of these foodie frenemies. The goal may have been to illustrate the evolution of American food, but it’s mostly full of the gossip, backhanded compliments, and menus that these bigwigs dished out to one another. With this in mind, it’s still an enjoyable book, just not right for every food geek.

M.F.K., Julia, and Beard all follow a path that probably feels familiar to most of us; they go to France filled with nostalgia, only to discover that France is no longer what they need. Their interests have changed, they’re different people than they were in the early 60s, and they’re finally ready to spend some quality time with their American home. How French one seems is no longer the litmus test for class, and these three adjust their work accordingly. They may be ready to change, but I question how much of an influence they actually have on modern cookery. M.F.K. is hardly a well-known name outside of the food world, people flock to Mastering the Art of French Cooking over more modern works like Julia’s Kitchen Wisdom, and  Barr explains that Beard’s painstakingly-researched book flops when it is released. It seems as if 1970s America, as it evolved, may not have taken to these three changing as much as Barr believes.

Even though the facts Barr details are important, the words are what bring the book to life. There are gorgeous descriptions of Provence, food being thoughtfully made, and people. However, though the sentences have a great cadence to them, there are moments where things just don’t click. There will be a lyrical line about the efficient Olney passionately taking all day to fashion a fluid meal filled with leeks and red wine, and then the next sentence will jar every reader back to reality. Barr gets caught up in nostalgia, and it works, but when he comes back down to earth, his prose suffers. Overall, though, he does command words in an engaging way, and that’s more than I can say for most authors these days (*cough* 50 Shades of Grey *cough*).

What makes this book so interesting isn’t just the beautiful descriptions of food or scenery, but also the relationships between these food heavyweights. Everyone loves Julia Child, right? Wrong. Apparently, to some she’s an undeserving upstart. Beard loves her, but Simca doesn’t. In addition to this feud, M.F.K. is sick of France in general and Richard Olney totes around a superiority complex while boldly judging everyone else. He probably gets the short end of the stick as Barr is naturally predisposed to be on M.F.K.’s side, but it’s undeniable that his cattiness and desire to gossip are what keep portions of this book afloat. He’s the kind of guy you love to hate and the only thing that’s missing is a mustache for him to twirl as he walks all over these other Americans. By the end of the book, the biggest question is: Is Richard Olney the Mean Girl of the food world? Probably yes, if you ask Luke Barr.

This is a good choice for anyone who needs to have their hands on everything to do with these visionary chefs, but for the average reader, this book will leave you wanting. It’s does make a point about the changes happening in 1970, but more so than that, it’s meant to satisfy the Bravo-lover in all foodies. As a girl who excitedly tunes in to both Mind of a Chef and Real Housewives, it’s perfect for me. Clocking in around 300 pages, this idea could have easily been fleshed out more, but as it stands, gossipmongers should flock to this book, while others go pick up something with a bit more substance to it.

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