Friday, February 27, 2015

Broccoli-Cheddar Chowder and Whole-Grain Cheese Muffins

I've got your back. Especially if what's on your back is 100 falling-off buttons, and you need them sewn on in the single minute before your wedding starts. Just saying. #iamagoodfriend
My darlings. I have been a negligent recipe offerer. So I'm compensating with two, which are favorites, and which I've been making again lately, what with the bitter cold and the snow and the snow falling, snow on snow on snow, and also the cold. My oldest, dearest friend is dying in a hospice in Coney Island. I have wanted not to mention that because, well, you know, she is a loyal reader, and who really wants to read that, especially about one's own self? But I think she will not be reading this. And Ben and Birdy have been sweetly teasing me that I have a kind of grieving-Tourette's right now: Hi. I'm Catherine. Nice to meet you. My best friend of 43 years is dying. 

Enough said. Because soup and muffins. Comfort. Love. Lots of cheese. xo

I garnished with "reserved broccoli florets" that I forgot to mention. Texturally, butter-fried breadcrumbs is an even better choice.

Broccoli Cheddar Chowder
Serves 6
Active time: 10 minutes; total time: 45 minutes

Thickened simply with potatoes, this wholesome green soup is easy, delicious, and velvety-rich. Also: broccoli!
1 tablespoon each butter and olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 pound of  potatoes (any kind), peeled and diced
1 quart chicken or vegetable broth
2 cups whole milk
pinch of dried thyme or marjoram or mint (if you've got fresh herbs--cilantro, mint, or basil--use more, and add them just before pureeing)
1 large head broccoli (1 ½ pounds), stems peeled, stems and florets chopped
Juice and grated zest of ½ a lemon
8 ounces sharp cheddar, grated
Salt and pepper

Heat the butter and oil in a soup pot over medium-low heat, and sauté the onion and garlic for five or so minutes, until the onion is translucent. Add the potatoes, broth, milk, and herbs, bring to a boil over high heat, then turn the heat down and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes, until the potatoes are very tender. Add the broccoli, and simmer another 10 minutes or so, until the broccoli is tender but still green. Puree, using a stick blender (or carefully, in batches, in a blender), then stir in the lemon juice, zest, and cheese, and add salt and pepper to taste.

Whole-Grain Cheese Muffins
Makes 12

This is a recipe I adapted from The Pioneer Woman Cooks, but I use whole-grain flour instead of white flour and buttermilk instead of milk. Also sharp cheddar instead of Colby jack. The muffins are quick and easy to put together, crunchy-edged, and outrageously savory. Heavily season any soup you eat alongside or it will taste flat by comparison.

1 1/2 cups flour
 (I use 1 cup spelt, and ½ cup whole-wheat)
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon garlic powder
3 cups shredded cheddar cheese

1/2 cup milk

1/2 cup buttermilk
1 egg

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) melted butter (I use salted)

Heat the oven to 375 and grease and flour a 12-well muffin tin.
Whisk together the dry ingredients, then stir in the cheese.
In a separate bowl (or large measuring cup), whisk the egg, milk, and butter together.
Pour the milk mixture into the dry ingredients and stir with a spoon just to combine.
Bake for 20-25 minutes until they are deeply golden and firm to the touch.


  1. Anonymous3:31 PM

    So sorry about your friend, I guess she´s the one in the picture. All the best


  2. I am so, so sorry about your friend.

  3. Broccoli soup looks perfect for our upcoming snowstorm. Also, sending hugs.

  4. I can only imagine what a gift your friendship has been to her all these years. Thinking of you at this heart-wrenching time.

  5. Anonymous5:23 PM

    Oh, Catherine. I am so sorry...

  6. Tracey5:25 PM

    My heart is with you, Catherine.

  7. What a beautiful photo at the beginning of the post.

    I am very sorry about your friend.

    I am going to make that soup.

  8. Paula9:28 PM

    If you're like me, you hold it together until people start expressing their sympathies and now you're crying. I virtually give you a soft shoulder to cry on, and I won't mind if you get snot on my shirt. Sending you both my love. <3

  9. Anonymous10:56 PM

    Peace and love to you.

    Sarah in NS

  10. I am sorry your friend won't be reading the post and seeing the picture, but thank you for sharing with us! May her memory be a blessing!

  11. What a lovely picture! My best thoughts are with you and your friend.

  12. I am so very, very sorry.

  13. Missy McCarthy6:53 AM

    I am so sorry Catherine....

  14. What a lovely photo. Sending hugs.

  15. I am so sorry.

    I am going to make that soup dairy-free and serve the cheese on the side.

  16. Jennifer LB4:51 PM

    Sympathies from a long-time reader......

  17. Stacey5:58 PM

    Sending love and light to you and your friend

  18. Allyson9:20 PM

    Oh, God, Catherine. I'm so sorry. I've been reading since Baby Center-- is it your friend who became a mom a few months after you had Birdy? Losing a friend is such a brutally horrible thing. Sending love your way.

  19. Oh. Oh, oh... no. I wanted to write yesterday to say that I heard you name-checked on a Slate podcast and had a moment of glee about my cultural worlds colliding but, of course, that is so utterly insignificant in light of present circumstances. Of course you have grieving-Tourette's. What a natural way to respond to what must be the thing that just never leaves your mind to want other people to just know. I hope that you (and your friend) are surrounded by comfort and connection and love.

  20. Comfort, warmth and cheese to you too. College friend died last year. This sucks. I'm so sorry

  21. Sweet peace to you both.

  22. Anonymous4:21 PM

    I've been checking over here, and worrying that something was wrong... Well, yes. It is, isn't it? I am so sorry. Wishing your friend peace, and to you, and to your families. Sending gratitude for everything you do and are. What a lucky friend. What a lucky you. Love from Istanbul - kj

  23. Anonymous9:38 PM

    So sorry. Sending love.

  24. Claire12:28 AM

    So terribly sorry, Catherine. Love to you all.

  25. Catherine, I'm so terribly sorry. I don't know what else to offer, but I wanted to say that much. How wonderful to have a friend of 43 years.
    Sending comfort and love your way...

  26. I am so sorry. How lucky you both are to have such a friendship. I lost my mom (she was only 59) after a six year battle with cancer and it left a huge fucking hole in my heart for years. Time, wine, the love of family and friends helped but it felt like it would never heal. I hope you find peace eventually.

    1. Allyson10:31 AM

      I'm sorry for your loss. That hole gets smaller, but never quite goes away, does it? I lost my mom to cancer at 58. Fuck cancer.

    2. Janna1:13 PM

      Fuck cancer indeed. I have a dear friend who's been battling it for years and I just hate it. Catherine, I'm so sorry about your friend. I think I join others in saying I'd love to hear more about her if and when you ever want to tell us.

  27. Anonymous10:53 AM

    I'm sorry for what your going through. I know what you mean about the grieving-Tourettes. It's like it just itches to be acknowledged and butts itself into regular conversation. I really do get it. --Cathy K

  28. Wishing you gentleness and memories. And anger and grief as needed.

  29. dale in denver11:06 AM

    I am so sorry. You've got an army out here that has your back. Not quite the same as you and your friend. I read something the other day that really resonated for me. "It doesn't get easier. You get stronger." You do. And you will. Love, strength, warmth, and sunshine from Colorado.

  30. Catherine, I am so sorry. Tears all over my keyboard. I have been enjoying your blog for the last two years and I am sure that any best friend of yours must be a wonderful person. Thinking of her and you, sending you both wishes of comfort and good memories.

  31. Anonymous11:50 AM

    Catherine, my what a loyal and lovely group you have here. We are all feeling grieved and saddened on your behalf. I can only say that I feel your anguish, and I hope you can feel our love and comfort.
    Much Love from Montana

  32. Catherine, I'm so sorry about your friend. I wish all of you peace.

  33. Jeanne1:05 PM

    It may be my age but I seems to have seen a lot of loss since Christmas and I am always looking for the perfect way to express sincere sympathy to those who are left behind. I read all of these comments and it seems the best words are so simple: I am so sorry.

  34. I am so, so sorry, Catherine. Love and prayers for peace and comfort coming your way...

  35. Elizabeth B3:31 PM

    I'm so sorry about your friend.

  36. Jennifer8:28 PM

    I am so sorry about your friend. How wonderful to have her for 43 years. But, still, I am so sorry.

  37. I am sorry, for her and you and everyone. I hope the end is peaceful.

  38. WV Mama10:09 PM

    darling darling Catherine N,
    I have a friend of 43 years. She is not dying. I can't imagine (except I can, actually) how horrible would be that case. All strength and love to you to get through this. Maybe time to read _Truth and Beauty_ again and cry and cry. And eat cheesey soup.

    Thank you for the recipes.

    WV Mama

  39. Anonymous11:32 PM

    Dear Catherine, Just wanted to send caring thoughts your way. I am very sorry to hear about your friend. Michele

  40. Deirdre11:20 AM

    I am so very sorry, Catherine. Big hug.

  41. Peace to all, and healing. Comfort from family friends and food like this helps... Thank you for giving even as you're in a time of need

  42. Anonymous3:13 PM

    Sending you light and warmth.

  43. Anonymous4:13 PM

    I am so very sorry, Catherine. Sending love and light.
    Sarah Gibson in Ohio

  44. I'm so very sorry for your loss.

  45. Dear Catherine -- I'm so sorry to read about your friend.
    Sending love,

  46. Anonymous8:49 PM

    Dearest Catherine, my heart goes out to you. I lost my best friend of 42 years 6 months ago tomorrow. The suddenness and permanance of it have been so rough. It's okay to share what's happened to you. I think it's a way to honor and acknowledge what your friend means to you. I wish you love and comfort as you grieve.

  47. I've been thinking since 2/27 about how to say just the right, comforting thing. I don't think there is a right thing, unfortunately, because this is so wrong, and yet unerasable. I'm so sorry for your loss.

  48. Catherine, I sent you my thoughts/prayers of condolence while I was preparing this broccoli soup the other day. I had a feeling of many of your readers doing the same as we all carefully peeled the broccoli stems for the recipe. This little tip (the stem-peeling) is one of so many I've learned from you and has made broccoli- unloved by me for so long- taste delicious. It's just a tiny example of one of the many ways you've positively impacted my own life, so I can only imagine what a wonderful friend you must be in the real world. I'm sure your friend has known how lucky she's been to know you for so long. I am so, so sorry for your loss.

  49. Anonymous8:32 AM

    I am so sorry. Sending you love and peace. Beth

  50. Anonymous12:34 PM

    What a beautiful woman. It's awful you have to say goodbye.

  51. Sending love and sad to hear this, dear Catherine

  52. I'm so sorry. Wishing you peace and healing.

  53. casio3:19 PM

    I am making Whole Grain Cheese Muffins to go with supper and praying for you and your friend.

  54. Sending you so much love, Catherine. Your friend, her family and your family are all in my thoughts. <3

  55. I missed this post... I am so very sorry about your friend. I wish I had better words, but I don't. Sending you blessings and comfort...Take care. <3

  56. Alesia11:03 AM

    I'm so, so sorry. Sending love and strength to you.

  57. Oh, Catherine. This sad news has split my heart wide open. I am sorry for your unimaginable loss. All my love and tears, prayers and thoughts are with you. Bless you, bless you. xox

  58. KyCat5:53 PM

    In the face of deep grief, small talk can be nearly impossible and certainly is insufferable. The only defense mechanism is grief tourette's. Since it is impossible to go more than 5 minutes without thinking about it, talking about anything else wouldn't be true and wouldn't be you, sweet lady. I'm so sorry that your friend is dying too young and that you and all who love her are having to suffer through losing her. God bless and keep you.

  59. Catherine, I am so sorry.