Soup’s On! Mostly-Veggie Cheddar Broccoli!

Be honest. You came here expecting bad news. Something stomach-turning, probably. Am I right?

Tonight, there shall be no bad news. No food woes, no grocery store jitters. Nope. Tonight, the Cleaner Plate Club is all about comfort.

It’s been cold today, and snowing. Not a big snowstorm — something less dramatic and yet more relentless. Icky roads from morning until nightfall. Wiper blades that kept gathering ice and smearing slush across my winshield. By this point in February, frankly, I’m a little worn down from the cold, from the grey skies. It’s time for something cozy. Something warm.

So put a pot on the stove, light the kindling in your fireplace, shut the doors against the elements, and let’s settle in for the ultimate in a comfort food dinner: cheddar broccoli soup. Shall we?

This recipe was inspired by one of the Middle Earth recipes I found when I decided to become a hobbit — I took a stab at my own version of the cheddar stew mentioned over at the Lord of the Rings fan site.

A confession: I’ve always been a little afraid of cheddar-type soups. It always just seemed so milky, so…artery-hardening, somehow. That’s why I was delighted, absolutely delighted, to discover that you can make a cheddar soup — heck, maybe all cheddar soup is this way — that is almost entirely comprised of vegetables. Mostly vegetables! And yet it tastes just like cheddar cheese!

It does feel like there’s a little Elvin magic at work somehow. Plus it’s easy! And, friends, it is just the perfect thing for a cold, snowy February day.

And? Kids love it.

Update: see Anna’s notes about making it more friendly for diabetics and low-carb types, in the comments section! Thanks, Anna!
4 small carrots
2 small-ish potatoes
1 large leek
1 stalk celery
1/2 teaspoon thyme
pinch of sage
1 clove garlic, chopped
4 cups of veggie broth
1-2 cups water
1 cup milk
big hunk o’ cheddar (about a quarter pound)
florets of 1 head broccoli, steamed

Okay, chop your leeks, potatoes, carrots, and celery:


Melt some butter in a pot. Add garlic and stir. Add your chopped veggies, thyme, and sage. Sautee them for about 3-4 minutes on medium heat. Then vegetable broth (for those of you using the Imagine boxes, it’s 1 large box). Add a cup of water if you want very thick soup, or 2 cups if you like your soup to be a little thinner. Let simmer away:


I’ll just point out: Tain’t nothin’ in that pot that’s not a vegetable! Not yet, anyway. Feel virtuous. Once the veggies are very soft (15 minutes if you sliced the veggies thin, longer if the pieces were larger), add a cup of milk. Then you need to run the whole thing through a blender. I used my hand-held “immersion blender”, the kind that you dip right into the pot. It might not be as effective as blending in an actual blender, but it works fine and oh-so-dramatically cuts down on the mess. (don’t have one? lots of options, many of them inexpensive. We have a cheapo, a Sunbeam, and it’s served us well for years).

Anyhow, then it starts looking more like this:


At about this point, you’ll want to have some broccoli florets steaming away. Add cheese. I started grating the cheese, then I realized “Hey, this is a waste of my time, because it’s all gonna’ melt anyway.” So then I took the lazy cook’s shortcut, and just started breaking it into little pieces. The total quantity filled a 1-cup measuring cup to the top, half of it grated, half broken. It looked like this:


Stir it in until melted, remove pot from heat, and dump the now-steamed broccoli in:


Add salt and pepper to taste. I didn’t add much, because the soup tasted pretty darned good without. In the end, it looked like this:


Actually, it looked much better than that, particularly with a big hunk of crusty bread. But my camera was running low on batteries, and that’s the only photo I was able to snap before the camera shut angrily on me, leaving me with inexplicable feelings of inadequacy and shame. Electronics can do that to me.

My kids loved this soup. And so did Blair. And you know what? I did too, and it helped me put years of cheddar-soup-skepticism behind me. I don’t mean to go all Jessica Seinfeld on you — I’m not a fan of the stealth-vegetable tactic — but it was nice knowing that this soup was far more veggie-rich than it appeared.

It was filling, cheap, and pretty darned easy. And it was comfy-cozy. The perfect thing to fend off midwinter’s chill.

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12 Responses to “Soup’s On! Mostly-Veggie Cheddar Broccoli!”

  1. 1 wendy p February 23, 2008 at 2:29 am

    Sounds yummy!

    Two questions-

    1. Do you think skim milk would work OK?

    2. About how many servings did this make?


  2. 2 Anna February 23, 2008 at 2:43 am

    Don’t be afraid of cheddar (provided is it real aged cheddar and not processed cheddar flavored cheese product). Saturated fat does not clog up your arteries ( a simplification and inapt metaphor if there ever was one). Arteries are *not* really like plumbing pipes that clog from sticky grease. Excessive carbohydrates are partly responsible for the plaque that accumulates in arteries. Much of the plaque is the result of repair of inflammation. Saturated fat raises your HDL, which is generally considered a good thing for your arteries.

  3. 3 Anna February 23, 2008 at 2:46 am

    So I guess if I was making this, I would leave out the potatoes (or use turnips because they are lower in starch), change the milk to heavy cream or half & half, and increase the amount of cheese. Hmmm, lunch tomorrow looks planned. Everything is in the larder ready to go.

  4. 4 Anna February 23, 2008 at 2:47 am

    Oh yeah, I would use homemade chicken bone broth because it is full of minerals.

  5. 5 cleanerplateclub February 23, 2008 at 3:32 pm

    Anna, thanks so much. You are always so great with your food insights. I updated to encourage people to read your notes.

    Wendy – I think skim milk should work. I used rice milk, which is pretty thin. But you could also do milk instead of water – if you don’t have dairy issues, I think that would work fine.

    As for servings: hmm. it was enough to feed all 4 of us with some bread comfortably. And we are not a 1-mini-serving-a-piece type of family. We are a Bring It On, chow-down sort of family. Except for Charlotte – but she actually ate this one (“Mo’ boc-li! Mo’ boc-li peeese!”). So…six? A guess. But it was definitely dinner.

  6. 6 MamaBird February 23, 2008 at 8:04 pm

    Awesome recipe and post, love the Hobbit reference, that’s what actually made me say I will *make* this… And also agreed on dislike of stealth-vegetable madness. But this soup looks yuuuuummmy. My DD is sort of anti soup but I think she might like this. Tx!

  7. 7 Anna February 23, 2008 at 9:11 pm

    Lunch is a little delayed today, but broccoli cheddar soup will be served at dinner tonight. I have much too much chicken broth in the fridge and freezer, a leek driving me mad everytime I open the veg crisper drawer, and lots of broccoli from our latest CSA box. And we are definitely a soup loving family.

    And whoever said it doesn’t rain in Southern California lied. It’s been been cool (ok, only in the 50s) and rainy nearly all week. Good soup-for-dinner weather.

    Glad to hear you don’t mind my, um, alterations to your recipe. Sometimes I feel like the “low carb wet blanket”, but I know too many cooks who fear altering recipes sooo…

  8. 8 Anna February 24, 2008 at 3:48 am

    Aaaaahhhhhh! Great soup, Ali!. Son wanted to know if he could have it for lunch tomorrow, so that is high praise, indeed.

    I made your lovely soup with my low carb, higher fat preferences as stated in an earlier comment.

    My soup came out a bit more green after pureeing with the handheld blender Yours looked more orange. I only used one carrot, and one turnip, and I added some flat leaf parsley (I have an abundance at the moment). And my cheese was more white, not golden colored. But green soup was fine.

    But aaacccckkkkk! I discovered my lovely block of cheddar was gone (cheddar fiends live in my house), so I used the block of Asiago that remained. Worked great! I would have tried Stilton, but son doesn’t like Bleu Cheese. I also put a plate of grated Asiago on the table, which everyone used to generously garnish the soup. Creme fraiche would be nice, too, but that was out of stock, too. Can you tell we like dairy?

    I had chatted too long with a neighbor (looking for her kid) while the veggies cooked, so the broth level was too low. I added another 4 cup container of chicken broth and simmered a few minutes longer. My son complained there wasn’t enough broccoli, though (note to self). With the heavy cream, it was quite filling for dinner (adults had two bowls, plus a serving of Leek & Pancetta Gratin each (I sliced too many leeks so I had to find an easy use for them).

    This is a great recipe, and based on my alterations, very forgiving recipe. Thanks!

  9. 9 planningqueen February 24, 2008 at 1:30 pm

    Looks tasty. Will file this away for when our winter in a few months.

  10. 10 greg February 25, 2008 at 1:07 pm

    While the soup certainly looks tasty, let me be the first on your blog to congratulate you on your sister’s Oscar win. Holy Crap! I know somebody who’s related to somebody who won an Oscar!

  11. 11 nono February 25, 2008 at 6:51 pm

    OMG!!! Ali, I was laying in bed last night watching the Academy Awards, and listening as they announced the winner for the short documentary. I watched both women accept it, so obviously thrilled. But it didn’t click until they paid tribute to the woman auto mechanic sitting in the audience….then my mind went 100 miles an hour as I remembered the relationship!!!

    Congratulations!!! I can’t imagine how much fun YOU must have had last night, if I was smiling here at home… Greg stated above…..knowing that I knew someone who was related to an Oscar winner!!!

    Enjoy the ride!

    Oh, and I actually bought leeks for the first time ever, (with Swiss Chard too) along with a fresh baked loaf of bread, so I can attempt this soup recipe. Wish me luck! :o)

  12. 12 the Mater February 25, 2008 at 10:59 pm

    Your readers are right – the soup was great BUT now it’s time to OPEN THE CHAMPAGNE! Jenn and I were leaping for joy and Cynthia was a class act at the podium!

    KUDOS to the whole family!!!

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