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Dec 28, 2016 04:21PM

Soup du jour: Broccoli cheddar soup that hits the spot

By Todd Welvaert
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Todd Welvaert / Radish
Broccoli Cheddar Soup
Cold, wet and dreary after months of warm holiday cheer, January usually lands like a punch in the gut. One bright spot in the slog to spring is that it's easy to make comforting foods like soup. Nothing is better on a cold, wintry day than a warm, filling soup, like broccoli cheddar.

January also marks a time when many of us are trying to avoid or limit all of the things that make broccoli cheddar soup the comfort food it is. Heavy cream, cheese, milk and butter all make for a great, comforting soup in the bowl, but are tough on resolutions to eat healthier.

This soup has all the elements of a classic broccoli cheddar soup, including great taste, with a healthier take by swapping out just a few common ingredients.

For instance, this recipe swaps the cream for cooked, pureed white beans to give the soup a creamy, thick, flavor-neutral base, with a boost of minerals, fiber and antioxidants. Beans are an inexpensive source of protein, especially when compared to fresh meat. Aside from protein, complex carbs and fiber, beans also contain a powerhouse of nutrients including antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, such as copper, folate, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorous, potassium and zinc.

Beans are filling, too, so the soup really hits the spot. Rich in slow-digesting carbohydrates with a low score on the glycemic index, beans do not have a big impact on blood sugar levels, which is one way to keep your appetite and hunger in check.

Besides vitamin C, broccoli also contains vitamins E and B6, as well as sulphoraphane, which is believed by some to be a cancer fighter. Broccoli also is one of the best sources of calcium, which plays a big role in weight loss. Broccoli is rich in anti-oxidants and contains glutathione, which is known to enhance the immune system. Plus, it's packed with soluble fiber that helps bring down the cholesterol in your body.

A small amount of grated, extra-sharp cheddar cheese that is added during the simmering phase of the soup punches up the flavor, and adding a sprinkling of the same cheese after the soup is put into a bowl gives it a creamy, satisfying finishing touch.

The soup also is pretty easy to make. When I make it, I steam a little extra broccoli to give it more body, and add it to the puree after the soup is simmering on the stove top.

The total cook time is about 30 minutes.

Serve it with a handful of soda crackers or an artisan bread, and you've got a great-tasting, filling, warming meal still in the realm of healthy eating that isn't going to break any New Year's resolutions. And, it makes for great leftovers, too!

Broccoli Cheddar Soup
Makes 4 servings • about 6 cups
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 large head broccoli, florets and tender part of stems, chopped
3 cups no-salt-added chicken or vegetable broth
1 cup canned, no-salt-added Great Northern beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup low-fat (1 percent) milk
1 cup shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese (3 ounces)
1 teaspoon powdered mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more as needed

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Once the oil is shimmering, stir in the onion and cook for about 4 minutes, until tender but not browned.
Add the broccoli, broth and beans; increase the heat to high and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover and cook for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Let the soup cool for 15 minutes, then puree it in a blender in batches, until smooth. Wipe out the saucepan as needed.
Return the blended soup to the saucepan over medium heat. Once the soup is bubbling at the edges, reduce the heat to low. Stir in the milk, 3/4 cup of the cheese, the powdered mustard and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Cook until just warmed through.
Taste and add more salt as needed. Serve hot and garnish with the remaining 1/4 cup of cheese.
Recipe Source: The Washington Post
Todd Welvaert is a regular Radish contributor.

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