Lightened Up Broccoli-Cheddar Soup

Wasn’t it just two days ago I was talking about 70-degree weather? I feel a little silly bringing soup back into the mix here, but don’t blame me, it’s Mother Nature’s fault! She just can’t seem to make up her mind about April’s weather. We’re back down to the 40′s for the end of the week and that’s totally soup weather in my book.

I already have a broccoli-cheddar soup recipe on the blog, and I love it, but it’s just a little too decadent for the way I’ve been trying to eat lately. No need to blow all my calories for the day on one meal :) I was really craving this flavor combo though, so I went in search of a lighter option and came across this one, which most definitely fit the bill.

Lightened Up Broccoli-Cheddar Soup

You can immediately see the difference between the two versions of this soup just by looking at the pictures. The richer soup is lighter in color, where this slimmed down version is a vibrant green, leaving no doubt that the broccoli is the star ingredient. Leeks, one of my favorite veggies (I need to remember to use them more!), are also featured prominently. Rather than half-and-half or heavy cream, fat-free evaporated milk is used to make this soup creamy. The amount of butter is drastically less in this recipe, and there’s also less cheese.

Lightened Up Broccoli-Cheddar Soup

The result is no less delicious though! It’s smooth and creamy, though maybe slightly thicker than most broccoli-cheddar soups I’ve had. While the broccoli is most definitely the star, the flavor of the cheese doesn’t get completely lost in the mix. I think using extra-sharp cheddar is probably key to ensuring you still get the cheesiness you expect from a broccoli-cheddar soup. I made a big pot of this soup early in the week and reheated it for a fast and easy lunch for many days afterward. Given how much I’ve struggled to come up with healthy, filling lunch ideas, that may have been my favorite part of all :)

PS – Today’s the last day to enter my cookbook giveaway, be sure to check it out if you haven’t already!

Lightened Up Broccoli-Cheddar Soup
from America’s Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook

1 lb leeks
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 1/2 lb broccoli, florets cut into 1-inch pieces and stems thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup water
3/4 cup fat-free evaporated milk
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
4 oz extra-sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

To prep the leeks: Cut the root and dark green tops off, then cut the remaining portion in half lengthwise. Slice the leeks into 1/2-inch pieces. Add to a large bowl and cover with cold water to wash the dirt and sand out. Drain and repeat until the leeks are clean.

Add the butter to a large Dutch oven and set over medium heat. Allow the butter to melt, then add the leeks and the stems of the broccoli. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the veggies have softened slightly, about 8-10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds to 1 minute, just until fragrant. Mix in the chicken broth and water, and bring the mixture to a simmer. Cover and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook until the broccoli stems are completely tender, about 8 minutes. Add the broccoli florets and continue cooking (covered) until they are tender, about 5 more minutes.

Transfer the soup to your blender, and puree along with the evaporated milk, mustard, and cheese until smooth and creamy. Return to the pot and set over medium-low heat just to warm through completely. Season to taste with salt and pepper.