I'm sick and tired of this winter weather, y'all. My city of Nashville feels like it's been encased in a block of ice for the past two weeks--making getting out of the house nearly impossible. I'm sure many of you throughout the South share my pain.

Instead of allowing the winter blues to set in, I instead took the opportunity to invite over friends for a hearty and comforting meal. I suppose misery loves company--and in our case, a bowl of homemade Broccoli + Cheddar Soup (along with a few cold beers) was the perfect cure to the monotony of snow days. It's amazing how a warm meal, conversation, and fellowship can turn the day around.

This simple dish is quick to prepare, and it relies solely on ingredients that you probably already have on hand. Make it for dinner tonight, and forget all about that impending cold front on the horizon!

Broccoli + Cheddar Soup

1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil 1 onion, diced 1 carrot, finely diced 2 cloves garlic, minced 1 tsp. kosher salt 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper (optional) 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg (optional) 1 Tbsp. minced fresh dill (optional) 2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour 4 cups 2% milk 1 dash hot sauce (optional) 10 oz. frozen cut broccoli 4 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese

1. Heat a Dutch oven over medium high heat, add oil. Next, add onions and carrots and saute until tender - about 5 minutes.

2. Add garlic, followed by the next four ingredients. Sprinkle in flour and cook for a minute or so, while stirring, to cook out the flour taste and incorporate with the softened vegetables.

3. While whisking, stir in the milk and a dash of hot sauce, reduce heat to medium and add broccoli. Allow the mixture to come to a slow simmer, while stirring, until the broccoli is tender and the mixture has actually reached a simmer (full thickening power from the flour). Reduce heat to medium low.

4. Use an immersion blender, or work in batches with a standard blender, and puree mixture until smooth and consistent. Fold in cheese until melted, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve.

*You can heft up this dish with 2 cups milk and 2 cups heavy cream. Or you could sub chicken stock for 2 cups of the milk, and finish with 2 cups cream/milk. Your choice since it all gets blended together.