Broccoli Cheddar Stew (Get strep. Hit rock bottom. Eat this.)

Sometimes you just hit rock bottom. For me this moment arrived two weeks ago after 18 hrs of a strep induced coma. I woke up with an intense craving for chicken soup. If you've ever had strep, then you know that any food- even something like mashed potatoes- inevitably feels like Pirates of Penzance being performed in your throat. So any craving has to be really worth the pain of a million daggers. At this point many bloggers would probably share with you their great-great-grandmother's, freshly slaughtered chicken, garden picked carrot, hand rolled pasta, soup recipe. Since the idea of this blog is to be realistic, I have to tell you that this is not my reality.

When I am sick, I revel in the misery of it; I park myself on the couch in sweatpants approximately seven times my size, drink copious amounts of tea, binge on bad tv, all whilst making sure to inform any and all passerby's about my funeral plans. (A real pleasure to be around.) So I will honestly share with you that although my fridge held two gallons of chicken stock, 3 pounds of carrots, and a box of pasta- I chose instead to call the Chinese place across the street for delivery chicken noodle soup. Somehow it made more sense to pull on pants, exit my apartment, go downstairs to the lobby of my building, interact with the delivery guy, and pay for soup... than just prepare it fresh- pantless and comfortable- in the privacy of my own kitchen. Ultimately, this isn't even so much a question of food as it is of pants. No healthy person would pick pants over no pants. Like, I said. Rock bottom. 

I haven't posted in the last month because most of it was comprised of the above scenario. Sinus infections, strep, colds.... this autumn, it's been non- stop. At one point it got so bad that even Ian, whose immune system was forged from steel, succumbed and came down with a cold straight from hell. Somewhere between the beginning of October and a few weeks ago we switched from a relatively healthy, budget conscious lifestyle to delivery, tv binging, and more delivery.The only recipes or budget friendly tips I really have to share from the last month are:

1. Spring for the brand name Theraflu, CVS brand doesn't measure up.

2. Swallowing antibiotics with orange juice is much easier than water.

Groundbreaking stuff, I know. 

At some point in mid- October, our misery was interrupted by the promise of Halloween just around the corner. We both adore the holiday and make an annual effort to come up with creative costumes. This year, Ian proposed we go as Wild Things. In my NyQuil stupor I of course assumed that he meant the 1998 erotica thriller starring Neve Campbell and Denise Richards. Forever being a downer, I immediately pointed out that these costumes would cause numerous issues since we would probably both want to go as Neve, and it's freezing outside, and wearing bikinis when we already have colds seems like a bad idea, and.... Ian stopped my barrage of anxiety by explaining that he wanted to go as Wild Things the book, not the movie. Oh. Ooops.

                               THIS.                                                                             NOT THIS. 

Wild things book.jpg
wild things movie.jpg

We got to work making the costumes since buying is not in either of our vocabularies. Ian made the heads out of cardboard boxes and spent several post work evenings covering them in paper mache- made from strips of newspaper, water, and a big bag of flour I picked up at Safeway.

We painted the heads with acrylic paint and let them dry while I sewed fake fur onto old sweatpants and thrifted sweaters. Jack went as our Prince Max, complete with a crown and white onesie I ordered from the "very fat babies" section on Amazon.


We went out, took pictures, hid our congested selves underneath giant masks, and managed to stay out until 3am- a feat we had previously not performed for many months. (Thank you grad school and full time jobs: we are officially adults now.) The next morning I woke up hungover but feeling surprisingly better. When you've hit rock  bottom, eventually the time comes to make a choice between staying there or pulling yourself back up. I distinctly remember deciding to put on pants, march into my kitchen, and assert that I wasn't going to live like this anymore. Sometimes it takes something as little as sewing fake fur onto an old sweatshirt to change the status quo. That night, we didn't order out or just boil some pasta. Ian looked up the recipe for standard broccoli soup and decided to play it up and adapt it to make something a little more special. I chopped broccoli, Ian cooked the chicken, and in a little less than an hour we had a something of a broccoli cheddar stew. This recipe is a one pot, warm and comforting, serious kick in the pants. It's the perfect pick me up for a freezing late autumn day. Put it over rice or buckwheat for a super hearty lunch or do like we did and throw chunks of rosemary focaccia into it for a warm, reviving, and flavorful dinner. 

         Broccoli cheddar chicken stew



  • 4 cups broccoli florets
  • 2 lb chicken boneless/skinless breasts or thighs *
  • 1 large onion, chopped small
  • 2 medium potatoes, cubed
  • 2 parsnips, sliced
  • 4 cups sharp cheddar, grated
  • 1/4 cup flour**
  • 2 cups half & half
  • 4 cups milk
  • 2 tbsp. unsalted butter

* for a vegetarian alternative skip the chicken and/or substitute tofu

** for an even thicker consistency add a dash more flour or cornstarch

Click through for preparation: