QUICK AND EASY: SKINNY CREAM OF BROCCOLI SOUP WITH CHEDDAR AND CROUTONS

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Here’s a dish that proves you don’t have to give up your favorite “chef crushes” to lose weight, you just have to re-define your relationships: Skinny Cream of Broccoli Soup with Cheddar and Croutons.

The original recipe –which I used to make regularly–came from my old pal and former Good Morning America colleague, Emeril Lagasse…and it was delicious.

But that recipe (for just four servings) calls for 5 Tablespoons of butter (510 calories and 55 grams of fat), 3 Tablespoons of flour (90 calories), a half cup of cream (410 calories and 44 grams of fat) and a cup and a half of cheddar cheese (680 calories and another 58 grams of fat!)  After figuring in the innocent broccoli, onion and broth, that means each two cup bowl of soup has almost 500 calories and 40 grams of mostly heart clogging saturated fats...almost a third of the calories and more saturated fat than a healthy 5’5 woman should have in a day!

But by making a few clever choices–like skipping the butter and flour, using fat-free half and half, store bought fat free croutons, and a pinch of cheddar to finish (rather than a brick of it melted in)–this skinny-fied version of Emeril’s delicious soup delivers almost the same taste..but has just 100 calories a bowl instead of 500 and just a whisper of fat!

So, as you make yourself (and your family) thinner and healthier, don’t think you have to break up with your favorite chefs…

You can still buy their cookbooks, cheer for them on T.V. and be inspired by all of their recipes…but make them in a new way that YOU control…

A way that will make you just as happy but much more healthy!

I don’t think any of your favorite chefs (including Emeril) would have a problem with that..

SKINNY CREAM OF BROCCOLI SOUP WITH CHEDDAR AND CROUTONS

(NOTE: This recipe makes 12-16 cups (6 to 8 servings) depending on how thick or thin you like it.  If you’re single, you can cut the recipe in half OR just make it all and freeze what you can’t use right away in 2 cup portions. And though I use fresh broccoli here because it’s in season in California from October to April, if it’s not fresh in your area, frozen broccoli works just as well. Frozen broccoli does cook more quickly than fresh, so you’ll want to reduce the cooking time to retain its bright color and go easy on the broth since there will be less evaporation.)

1 large yellow onion, roughly chopped (about 2 cups)

2 1/2 pounds broccoli, stems peeled and separated from florets, all roughly chopped. (If using frozen broccoli, two 16-ounce bags will do, no need to separate the stems.)

1 T fresh garlic, chopped

1 t dried thyme

1 t kosher salt

1/2 t pepper (black, white or red pepper all work fine)

8-10 c low-fat or non-fat chicken broth

1 c fat-free half and half

GARNISHES FOR SERVING:

Though I really recommend that pinch of cheese and the flavorful croutons to mimic Emeril’s original recipe, all of these garnishes are optional….and since there are so few calories at stake, you should omit or combine them any way you like.

finely grated sharp cheddar cheese (1 t per bowl)

fat-free seasoned croutons (5-6 per bowl)

fat-free Greek yogurt (a nice dollop per bowl, optional)

Pepitas (toasted squash seeds), sunflower seeds, pine nuts or sliced almonds (1/2 t per bowl)

Spray a non-stick soup pot with cooking oil and, over medium heat, cook the onion and the chopped broccoli stems for a minute or two.  Add the garlic and stir another 2 minutes…being careful not to let the garlic brown or it will turn bitter.

Toss in the thyme, salt and pepper and stir a another minute until the dried thyme begins to release its aroma.

Pour in 8 cups of broth, turn to medium high so that it reaches a full boil, then return to medium heat and cook at a strong simmer, covered, for 10 or 15 minutes.  Add the more tender florets, cover again, and cook 10-15 minutes more. (If using frozen bags of broccoli, add it in when you pour in the broth and cook for a total of 15 minutes.)

Remove from the heat and use your immersion blender to puree to a thick soup consistency.

Add in the cup of fat free half and half and puree again.

(If it still seems to thick for your liking, you can always add in another cup or two of broth here.)

Taste for seasonings, adding more salt and pepper if you like.

TO SERVE:

Ladle two cups of soup into each serving bowl and top with 5 or 6 croutons and a teaspoon of sharp cheddar.

Or…if you’d like to add more creaminess, a little tang and a bit of protein, add a dollop of fat-free Greek yogurt….

And if you’d like more crunch, rather than using extra croutons (which have no nutritional value), you can add a pinch of pepitas, sunflower seeds and/or sliced toasted almonds which also offer a bit of protein as well as taste and texture.

RE-USE, RE-PURPOSE, RE-CYCLE

This is a soup that freezes beautifully.  Wait until it cools and store it in freezer safe glass containers or freezer-safe baggies. If using baggies, pop it out of the plastic and into a bowl and microwave. Or, if you don’t use a microwave, let the soup thaw in the bags, pour into a small pot and heat gently on the stove…adding more broth if you need to.

About Lisa McRee

After 25 years as a local and network anchor, Lisa was just another American mother struggling, and failing, to lose weight. Finally, she cracked the code, and lost 30 pounds, quickly and for good, by doing what she loves: reporting, cooking and eating! The Skinny is the inside story on how she did it, and how you can, too!
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