Like salads, soups provide an easy way, in my opinion, to get great nutrition and taste in one healthy package. Further, soups are one of my favorite foods to prepare because they are almost always make-ahead, ingredient-flexible, easy to reheat, many times freezable and—in winter—warm and comforting. You can prepare soup on the weekend when you have time; then, enjoy the perfect mid-week quick supper—so no excuse to grab that expensive, health-compromising takeout. Soups only get better with time.
Cream of broccoli soup is common and pretty standard fare as most recipes go, so why not shake it up by trying to pack in more nutrition and flavor? You might even win over those broccoli-phobes, who swear it’s just like eating turfgrass (a.k.a. my husband).
For this recipe, I switched out white potatoes for more nutritious sweet potatoes. They thicken just the same, but are low in carbs and sugars (despite their name) and high in fiber and antioxidants. Further, they add incredible flavor. Slow cooking them and pureeing them will retain most of their nutritional benefit.
Wondering how you can add an interesting topping while avoiding gluten, dairy and fat—like no croutons or shredded cheese that could make the following recipe just pop with flavor? Try pan-toasted pumpkin seeds—those green ones in bulk at the health food store, also called pepitas. You’ll not only avoid what you don’t want, you’ll gain a little protein!
- One large organic yellow onion
- A quarter cup organic extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil, whichever you prefer
- Some of your favorite spices—you can take this to India with a combination of curry powder, black charnushka, turmeric, and/or Garam Masala or to the Southwest with cumin, pure chili powder and coriander. Choose two tablespoons of whatever you like—maybe even a half-teaspoon of Harissa or a chopped fresh or frozen hot pepper. Just be aware of the level of heat you are beginning to introduce.
- Two to three cloves organic garlic, chopped (If you have garlic scapes in your freezer from last spring, you can use two or three of these, chopped small, in place of cloves, but you will need to start them first in your pot and give them some extra cooking time before adding the onions.)
- Two large or three medium organic sweet potatoes, washed but not peeled and diced
- Two to three cups organic fresh or frozen broccoli flowers and stems (Mine came from the freezer because I was a careful little ant this past fall.)
- Four cups homemade or commercial vegetable stock
- One to one and a half cups plain, unsweetened almond milk, rice milk or coconut milk (Keep in mind that coconut milk will color the flavor of this soup more than either almond or rice milk will. If that’s what you’re after—go for it! Also, if dairy is not an issue for you, organic whole milk or cream would be delightful.)
- Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
- Heat your oil in a large soup or stock pot. Add the onion and garlic with a pinch or two of sea salt and sauté until the vegetables soften and become somewhat translucent. About five minutes.
- Add the spices and allow them to cook until they become fragrant. About two to three minutes, stirring frequently.
- Add the sweet potatoes and get them going in the pot, stirring frequently and adding just a pinch more salt. Once they begin to barely soften, add the broccoli—frozen cooks faster than fresh, so introduce fresh broccoli sooner.
- Once the vegetables have cooked down a little, add the vegetable stock. Give it all a good stir and bring to a boil. Then, reduce the heat and simmer on low for about an hour, until everything is soft and the liquid has reduced and the flavors have married.
- Using an emulsion wand or a blender, puree the soup. Then, stir in your choice of “milk.” Heat thoroughly but gently, and it’s ready to serve. Just salt and pepper to taste.
- For that extra little pizazz on top, dry toast a half cup of raw pumpkin seeds in a cast iron skillet over medium heat. I actually toss my pumpkin seeds in a very, very tiny bit of olive oil and sea salt before they go in the skillet. The salt sticks to the seeds and their flavor plays well off the subtle sweetness of this soup.
See the end of this post for some tips on preparation.
Here are a few tips to help make cooking stress-free:
Have all the ingredients prepped and ready to go in the pot before you start.
Keep the faith when adding the spices. You do need to watch carefully and keep stirring in this step so the spices don’t burn, but don’t rush this step—it’s where all the flavor really begins.
This soup needs to cook down slowly so the flavors concentrate. I guess the best way to think about it is to decide when the vegetables are slightly overdone.
And, notice I keep stressing organic ingredients here. There’s no point in cleaning the floor by using dirty water and a dirty mop. The food in your recipe should be as clean as your intentions for healthy eating.
Also, the rules for a soup like this are really loose. Feel like adding kale or spinach? Throw in a handful of chopped leaves near the end of the cooking, just before puréeing and adding your “milk.” Really don’t like broccoli—what about cauliflower? Give it a try! And, let us know how it all turns out.