I admit I have yet to find a way to cut our grocery spending without giving in to processed foods and conventional produce. I can’t tell you how many tips, tricks and meal plan budgets I’ve read, only to find out that I would have to either buy half a cow at once to make it work or eat rice and beans every week . Or grow all of my own and keep chickens in the backyard. Well, those two are actually on my wish list but not feasible right now.
So until I find a way to slash our food costs, I will have to keep buying organic broccoli at $5 a bunch. With prices like that it pains me to throw away the uneaten stalks, so we keep them for slaw (recipe here), or soup. It’s actually a good idea to keep all your odd ends of veggies and freeze them until you have enough for a hearty vegetable soup or to make vegetable stock.
My kids love broccoli. Thank goodness! That and cauliflower are the 2 veggies that they will steal off the kitchen counter and request for their lunches week after week. What’s not to love? they’re perfect finger foods and packed with nutrients. But last night I wanted to mix it up a little and make soup for dinner, using all those leftover broccoli stalks in my freezer. Dinner had to be quick though because it was already 6pm so chop-chop!!
I was kind of high-fiving myself for managing this dinner in less than an hour. 45 minutes to be exact! It’s soup after all and that can take a little while, especially when you start with frozen ingredients: I had to thaw the chicken stock in the microwave (Yuck, I know) for a minute and then plopped the icy chunks together with the frozen broccoli stems, but eventually it all came to a boil
You can totally use vegetable broth and leave out all the dairy and animal fats to make this soup vegetarian or vegan. I’ll put those modifications in green below. So, here’s what you need for about 6 cups of soup:
1 small onion
4 garlic cloves
4 sprigs of fresh thyme (or 1-2 tsp dried)
5 strips of uncured bacon, chopped (Veg: replace with 2 tbsp olive or coconut oil, and 1/2 cup of walnuts)
2 cups chicken broth (Veg: use vegetable broth)
2 small potatoes, peeled and cut in chunks
3 large broccoli stems, cut in 2″ pieces
1.5 cups broccoli florets
1 handful of fresh spinach
1 tbsp butter (Veg: replace with Olive oil or vegan fat of your choice)
1 tbsp flour
1 cup whole milk (Veg: replace with non dairy milk)
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese, divided (3/4 and 1/4) (Veg: replace with vegan cheese product)
1/2 tsp sea salt or Kosher salt
1/4 tsp nutmeg
freshly cracked black pepper to taste
In a large pot, heat the bacon pieces until they’re crisp. Drain and set aside the crisped bacon for garnish later. Keep about 2 tbsp bacon fat in the pot. (Veg: heat the oil over med-high heat and toast the walnuts until slightly browned; set aside for soup garnish later)
Toss the chopped onion in the pot and cook for 2-3 minutes, then add the crushed garlic and chopped thyme and cook until fragrant but not burnt.
Add the stock, potatoes and broccoli stems. Cook until almost fork tender (about 25 minutes).
In the meantime, make your cheesy cream:
Melt the butter/oil in a small saucepan over med-high heat
Add the flour and whisk to combine evenly. Cook the flour mixture under constant stirring for 1 minute, and then slowly add the milk. Keep stirring and cook until it thickens, then take off the heat.
Add 3/4 cup of the cheese and stir until melted. Set aside.
Add the broccoli florets to the soup mixture and cook those for just 3-4 minutes until tender and remove half of them. Keep those aside for garnish – leave the rest in the pot.
Pour the soup mix in your blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Now here’s the trick for a vibrant green soup: add the fresh spinach now and puree again. Bam! Super fresh green color
Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg and then stir this up. And that’s it! Pour the goodness in your favorite soup bowl, throw in all the yummy add-ons of broccoli florets, crispy bacon (Veg: toasted nuts) and some extra cheese and then eat!
This recipe made enough for the 4 bowls here plus another 2 cups that my kids took to school today in their thermos. With a little pack of cheese that they can sprinkle on top at lunchtime.
It doesn’t need the bacon but I love the salty crunch it brings to this dish. The toasted walnuts (or pine nuts, or almonds) work well for the vegetarian version of this soup.
So next time you have some leftover broccoli stems, don’t throw them out! They’re worth at least $1 a piece