The Civilized Minute

a minute of manners and musings

what the recipe doesn’t tell you

Southern Living is known for publishing great recipes, right? In fact, I tried one from their October issue last night.


Creamy Chicken Divan Soup. It was really really good! And, while I most certainly will cook it again, I learned some things that the recipe doesn’t tell you. Here’s the recipe:

Creamy Chicken Divan Soup


Total: 47 minutes
Yield: Makes 12 cups


  • 2  tablespoons  butter
  • 1  medium-size sweet onion, chopped
  • 1  garlic clove, chopped
  • 1/4  teaspoon  dried crushed red pepper
  • 1  (48-oz.) container chicken broth
  • 2  (12-oz.) packages fresh broccoli florets (about 12 cups)
  • 1  (8-oz.) package cream cheese, cut into cubes
  • 4  cups  chopped cooked chicken
  • 1  (8-oz.) block sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Toasted slivered almonds (optional)


1. Melt butter in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat; add onion, and sauté 5 to 6 minutes or until tender. Add garlic and red pepper, and cook 2 minutes. Stir in chicken broth and broccoli. Cover and bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium, and cook 10 to 15 minutes or until broccoli is tender. Stir in cream cheese.

2. Process mixture with a handheld blender until smooth. Add chicken and shredded cheese. Cook, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes or until cheese is melted. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately with almonds, if desired.

Note: If you don’t have a handheld immersion blender, let mixture cool slightly; process mixture, in batches, in a regular blender until smooth, stopping to scrape down sides as needed. Return mixture to Dutch oven, and proceed as directed.

These are things no cookbook tells you, but should.

1) It smells terrible while it’s cooking. This recipe says you should boil the broccoli in chicken broth with the sauteed onions and garlic. Now, as adults, we know it’s going to turn out scrumptious, but you should know that it will make your house smell perfectly awful. That means you should get prepared for the comments your regular diners. They can be a prickly bunch. But, take this opportunity to talk to your kids about not blurting out their observations at someone else’s house. Also, if you plan on serving this at a party, cook it a day ahead and open all the windows.

2) “This looks pretty gross, but it tastes pretty good.” That was Ben. He’s brutally honest. Because of this, I’m not sure I would serve it to company. If I did, I would use a small ramekin-type bowl on a plate with a salad. Visually, a little of this soup goes a long way. Also, this is another opportunity to tell your children to think before they speak. Don’t get discouraged. Repetition is good. This particular recipe works well for this lesson because Ben was right. It doesn’t look hugely appetizing. See?

Soup for blog

3) Some may not recognize this as a soup. In fact, one little person at my table began eating this with his fork. Again, if I were serving this at a dinner party, I would either puree the broccoli more or add more broth so it wouldn’t be confused for…goulash? Serving something that people will struggle to eat will put a damper on the good times, so be sure to make things as easy as possible on your guests.

4) The broccoli pieces will get in somebody’s teeth. I get questioned about this particular dinner table conundrum often. Do I tell the person sitting beside me they have pepper in their teeth?  Wouldn’t you want to know if you were telling a story the entire table was listening to with a piece of lettuce front and center? Yes, tell them! Just do it quietly so no one else will hear.

These are the kinds of things I wish every cookbook would include. I want to know how to dish up something savory, but I also want to know if I’m going to smell up the neighborhood, if I’m going to need to cuss out my kids while we are at someone’s house or if I’m likely to embarrass myself…well, and others.

ps…on they offer wine pairing suggestions. I didn’t see that in the magazine. Maybe that’s where I got off course.



One response to “what the recipe doesn’t tell you

  1. Marti Tolleson September 28, 2010 at 10:28 am

    Girl…you make me laugh!!! I made a similar soup last night and had a lot of the same comments. You do have to puree really good I think!

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