There’s something about comfort food that just seems to solve all kinds of problems. Do you have the sniffles? Are you feeling stressed? Did you get a little too carried away at the Target $1 aisle? Did you lose your fifth pair of reading glasses in the last week? Well let me tell you something. Comfort food cures it all. It’s an instant pick me up.
This week while I am on the road at the International Quilt Festival in Houston, I’m out of my routine (but having so much fun!). It got me thinking about what I want to do when I get home. I think I’ve narrowed it down. Cuddle my dog, Showgirl, wrap myself in the comfiest quilt of all time, slip on some divine house slippers, burn a Christmas-y candle, light the fire, read for hours, and enjoy a homemade bowl of the coziest, comfiest soup I can think of. Broccoli Cheddar soup has always been one of my favorites.
But it’s basically just vegetables swimming in a giant pool of cheese. So…not exactly the healthiest. Now, I can’t wave my magic wand and make this a zero point Weight Watchers miracle. But I decided I could take some steps to make this a little healthier. For one, if I add protein if will keep me full longer (hello, chicken!). Using butter flavored olive oil infuses that delightful buttery taste without the calories, and adding skim milk at the end is a better alternative than say, heavy cream. While there’s still cheese in this recipe, at least I put less in than most recipes call for. I find that when I use a sharp cheddar, I can get away with a little less. The bold flavor just goes a lot further.
Here’s the recipe!
I was trying to make this healthier than normal, so the added punch of protein for the chicken, the skim milk, and the butter flavored olive oil really help slim this down. I also find that you can get away with using less cheese with you use a sharp cheddar.
3 tablespoons butter-flavored olive oil (or plain olive oil)
3/4 pound chicken thighs (boneless, skinless)
1 white onion, chopped
4 carrots, chopped
6 thyme sprigs
1/2 cup apple cider
6 cups low sodium chicken broth (use homemade if you can!)
4 cups broccoli florets
1/2 cup skim milk
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg (freshly grated, if possible)
Kick of Cayenne, optional
2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded, plus more for garnish
kosher salt + pepper
Over high heat, sear chicken on each side for about two minutes each, and season with salt and pepper. Remove from the pan.
Add the onions and season with a little more salt and pepper. Cook until caramelized, about 7 minutes. Add the chopped carrots and thyme and cook fo an additional 7 minutes.
Slowly pour apple cider and chicken broth and bring to a low boil. Add the chicken thighs and broccoli and cook, covered, for about 20 minutes until the chicken and broccoli are cooked.
Using tongs, remove the chicken from the pot and shred with forks. Remove any thyme sprigs from the pot.
Use an immersion blender to chop up the veggies in the pot. If you don’t have an immersion blender, you can let everything cool and then use a blender. Just be really careful with hot soup in blenders! (Things can go south really fast. I know this from personal experience).
Add the skim milk, nutmeg, optional sprinkle of cayenne, and cheddar cheese. Simmer about 5 minutes more until the cheese is melted and then it’s ready to serve!
Pour into bowls, top of with a few shreds of cheddar and chopped thyme.
Keywords: broccoli cheddar chicken, winter soups