Thursday, March 24, 2011

Low-Fat Cream of Broccoli Soup

Goodness! The weather is atrocious! A rain storm has been playing the role of the uninvited guest in Northern California and will continue to do so for a few more days. It's been awful driving on the streets and worse on the freeways. Running errands around town became much more difficult; I trekked around town getting wet and feeling very cold. As soon as I returned home, I changed out of my wet jeans and gleefully jumped into cozy sweats.

It's no surprise that when the weather is unpleasantly cold and stormy, I get a big hankering for big warm bowls of comforting soup and alongside wholesome and crusty bread. I should have expected that I'd cook up a large pot for dinner--with plenty for leftovers!

This super flavorful creamy broccoli soup not only satisfied my cold-weather cravings, but it made me think twice about how little fat was in it. The body of the soup was quite rich and very creamy. Unlike most creamy soups, however, I didn't use any heavy cream or a great deal of butter. Instead, the addition of a few Yukon Gold potatoes and fat-free milk did the trick.

Another healthy and yummy success in my book! :)

Low-Fat Cream of Broccoli Soup

makes about 6 cups

4 tbsp. unsalted butter

1 1/2 cups celery, coarsely chopped

1 cup white onion, coarsely chopped

3 small Yukon gold potatoes, diced

7 cups trimmed broccoli florets, coarsely chopped

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

4 cups low-sodium vegetable stock

3/4 cup fat-free milk

1/3 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

salt and pepper

1. In a large pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the celery and onions, season lightly with salt and pepper, and cook  for about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally, just until they are slightly tender. Add the potatoes, and cook for another 3-4 minutes, stirring often to avoid browning (reduce the heat if necessary). Add the broccoli, lightly season with salt and pepper, stir, and cook the mixture for 5 minutes. Add the flour and mix it in with the vegetables. Continue to cook for an extra 2 minutes.

2. Add the vegetable broth into the pot, increase the heat to high, and bring the soup to a boil. Cover the pot, reduce the heat to a medium simmer, and allow the soup to cook for about 20-25 minutes or until the broccoli is very tender. Turn off the heat and carefully pour the soup into a food processor and process until smooth (do this in batches if you need to). Pour the soup back into the pot and turn the heat back on medium. Stir in the milk, parmesan cheese, and about 3/4 tsp of salt and 1/2 tsp of pepper (you can always change the amount of salt and pepper to taste). Allow the soup to lightly simmer for another 4-5 minutes. Serve and garnish with bread and/or extra parmesan or cheese of choice, if desired.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Green Tea Shortbread Cookies

I baked these sweet heart shaped green tea shortbread cookies with hopes of creating a cheerful contrast to the gloomy and blustery weather I have experienced lately where I live. I had three packs of Japanese green tea powder left in my cupboard and thought I would give the idea a shot.

As soon as the batch came out of the oven, I impatiently plucked one off the cooling rack, gently tossed it back and forth between my hands in an attempt to cool it down more, and then devoured it. Although I felt foolish for stuffing a hot cookie into my mouth (my slightly scorched tongue didn't let it go), I was very pleased with the perfectly sweet, crisp and buttery flavor that preceded delicate notes of green tea with a finishing crunch from a sugary crystal coating. These green tea shortbread cookies were a definite success and provided a burst of brightness into the house on a rainy day.

Green Tea Shortbread Cookies

makes about 2 dozen (using 3" heart shaped cookie cutter)

1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp salt

3 tbsp Japanese green tea powder (found in Asian markets; Matcha green tea powder may also work)

1 cup powdered sugar

1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick), cold and cut into small cubes

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

3 large egg yolks

1 cup course granulated sugar or turbinado sugar

1. In a food processor, pulse together the flour, salt, green tea powder, and powdered sugar until well combined. Add the cubed butter and pulse a few times just until the mixture resembles small pebbles.

2. In a small bowl, gently whisk together the vanilla and egg yolks; add the egg mixture into the food processor and pulse until the dough starts to form. Take out the dough and place it on a lightly floured surface. Knead all the bits together a few times until a mass of dough comes together. Pat the dough into a disk, wrap it in plastic, and allow it to chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.

3. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. While the oven is warming up, take out the dough and place it on a lightly floured surface. Sprinkle a little flour on the dough and on a rolling-pin. Roll the dough out until it is about 1/3-inch in thickness. Use a cookie cutter to cut out the dough and then gently toss it in the sugar to coat boat sides. Place the cut cookies on prepared baking sheets lined with parchment paper and bake for 13-15 minutes. When the baking is complete, place the cookies on a wire rack and allow them cool.