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.