Creamy Broccoli Soup with Cheddar and Bits of Ham

One of my favorite soups: Creamy Broccoli with Sharp Cheddar and Bits of Niman Ranch Ham! (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Creamy Broccoli Soup with Cheddar and Bits of Ham. My husband loves broccoli. He could eat it every single day and probably at every meal. I like broccoli but don’t share the same love that he does. My Creamy Broccoli Soup with Cheddar and Bits of Ham keeps both my husband and me happy while enjoying broccoli together. And it might help you get your kids to eat broccoli, too.

One of my favorite soups:  Creamy Broccoli with Sharp Cheddar and Bits of Niman Ranch Ham!  (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)
One of my favorite soups: Creamy Broccoli with Sharp Cheddar and Bits of Niman Ranch Ham! (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Birds Eye’s “convenient” frozen broccoli spears with cheese sauce was popular in the 1970s and probably is still gracing tables these days. The clear bag of broccoli spears and cheese sauce was boiled in hot water, cut open with scissors, and poured into a serving dish. The college dorm cafeterias boasted lots of pre-made vegetable dishes with cheese sauce to lure students into eating more veggies. Didn’t work well for me.

Boiled in the Bag -- Broccoli and Cheese Sauce (Photo Credit: myhomemdelife.blogspot.com)
Boiled in the Bag — Broccoli and Cheese Sauce (Photo Credit: myhomemdelife.blogspot.com)

Some cooks heat Cheez Whiz in the microwave and pour the hot cheese sauce over boiled broccoli spears. It wasn’t until I started cooking on my own that steamed fresh broccoli appeared fairly regularly on my menus, and I preferred it to the boiled broccoli with cheese sauce bag version.

Fresh Broccoli -- one of my husband's favorite foods  (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)
Fresh Broccoli — one of my husband’s favorite foods (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

This Creamy Broccoli Soup recipe is a compilation of several recipes that I’ve loved over the years. I’ve lightened the usual “3 cups of cream” to using some two percent milk and just a small amount of shredded sharp cheddar cheese. Sharp cheddar has a stronger flavor than regular cheddar — so it has more impact in the soup in a smaller amount. To replace my usual crispy bacon bits, bits of Niman Ranch ham add lots of smoky flavor. You can use any ham that is thickly sliced and dice it to add to the soup.

Niman Ranch Ham -- except I rate it FOUR FORKS!  (Photo Credit: Epicurious.com)
Niman Ranch Ham — except I rate it FOUR FORKS! (Photo Credit: Epicurious.com)

Start out by dicing a yellow onion.

Diced yellow onion (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)
Diced yellow onion (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Reserve a few broccoli florets for garnish and coarsely chop some broccoli.

Coarsely chopped broccoli for the Creamy Broccoli Soup  (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)
Coarsely chopped broccoli for the Creamy Broccoli Soup (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Dice some ham into 1/4 inch pieces.

Diced Ham (Photo Credit: Kayln's Kitchen)
Diced Ham (Photo Credit: Kayln’s Kitchen)

Shred some sharp cheddar cheese.

Shred the sharp cheddar cheese (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)
Shred the sharp cheddar cheese (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Saute the onion in some butter or olive oil. And add some flour.

Stir the flour into the sauteed onions (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)
Stir the flour into the sauteed onions (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Add the chopped broccoli to the onion-flour mixture and saute a few minutes.

Add the chopped broccoli to the pan and saute with the onions for a few minutes (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)
Add the chopped broccoli to the pan and saute with the onions for a few minutes (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Add some chicken broth. You can also use a vegetable broth if you prefer.

Pacific organic free range low sodium chicken broth is a favorite soup ingredient (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)
Pacific organic free range low sodium chicken broth is a favorite soup ingredient (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Also, add some dried thyme and lemon juice.

Add the vegetable or chicken broth, dried thyme, and lemon juice to the broccoli mixture (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)
Add the vegetable or chicken broth, dried thyme, and lemon juice to the broccoli mixture (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Let the soup simmer, covered, for about 20 minutes. When the broccoli is tender, remove the soup pot from the heat. Puree the soup with a hand blender or use a regular blender.

Puree the broccoli soup with a hand blender (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)
Puree the broccoli soup with a hand blender (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Return the soup to the burner and add the milk and the diced ham.

Add the milk to the pureed broccoli soup (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)
Add the milk and diced ham to the pureed broccoli soup (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Simmer until heated through. Add most of the shredded cheese, stirring until the cheese melts.

Steam or use the microwave to cook the reserved broccoli florets in a covered glass dish.

Steam the reserved broccoli florets for a nice garnish to the soup (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)
Steam the reserved broccoli florets for a nice garnish to the soup (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Ladle the soup into serving bowls, sprinkle with some sharp cheddar cheese, and arrange the cooked broccoli florets on top. The soup is ready to serve!

Creamy Broccoli Soup with Cheddar and Ham (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)
Creamy Broccoli Soup with Cheddar and Ham (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

If you are growing your own broccoli and have an abundant harvest, you can make this soup and freeze it for consumption at a later date! Just hold off on adding the shredded cheddar, and freeze the soup for up to 3 months. When it’s time to eat the soup, thaw and let it heat a bit before adding the shredded cheddar. Once the cheddar has melted, serve as noted below!

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From the kitchen of A Food Lover’s Delight….

Creamy Broccoli Soup with Cheddar and Bits of Ham

Ingredients:

2 lb fresh broccoli, washed, tough stems peeled, and chopped coarsely (reserve a few broccoli florets for garnish)
3 T butter or olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1/4 c flour
4 c chicken or vegetable stock/broth
1 t dried thyme
1 T lemon juice
1 c milk (I use 2%)
4 oz ham chunk, diced
1 1/2 c shredded sharp cheddar cheese, divided, with 1/4 c for garnish
salt and pepper to taste

Method:

1. Set aside a few nice broccoli florets for garnish.
2. Heat the butter or olive oil over medium heat in an 8 qt. stockpot.
3. Saute the chopped onion in the butter until the onion is translucent and the butter is slightly browned.
4. Sprinkle in the flour and saute for 3 minutes.
5. Add the broccoli, chicken or vegetable stock/broth, dried thyme, and lemon juice to the pan. Cover, reduce heat, and let simmer for 20 minutes or until the broccoli is soft.
6. Remove the pan from the heat. Using a hand blender or regular blender, puree the broccoli mixture. You may prefer a chunkier texture, or a smoother texture. Your choice.
7. Return the pan to the heat. Add the milk and the diced ham. Warm through.
8. Mix in 1 1/4 cups of the sharp cheddar cheese and stir until it melts into the soup.
9. Season with salt and pepper.
10. Steam the reserved broccoli florets until tender, or cook in the microwave in a covered glass bowl for 60 seconds.
11. Ladle into soup bowls, sprinkle with the remaining cheddar cheese, and place the cooked broccoli florets on top.

Serves 4 – 6. Offer as a soup course for 6. As a main course for 4, offer crusty bread and my Tomato and Cucumber Salad with Peppered Goat Cheese.

Variations: Substitute crushed crispy bacon for the ham. Use 1% milk instead of 2%. For a creamier consistency, add 1 cup of heavy cream along with the milk. For a vegetarian version, omit the ham and use vegetable stock/broth.

www.afoodloversdelight.com (Copyright Adroit Ideals 2013)

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