Broccoli-cheese soup is a cold-weather remedy that hits all the right notes—creamy, cheesy, and soothing, a comfort that warms you from the belly out. The classic version is a near 500-calorie indulgence of not only cheese, but also butter and cream, providing a day's worth of sat fat in one serving.
We made several trade-offs in our lightened version, but we drew the line with the cheese. A nifty little trick with instant brown rice made our cheesy wishes come true. When overcooked in chicken stock, the rice becomes silky, savory, and soft—perfect for a puree when blended with low-fat milk. The result is a thick, nutty, whole-grain "cream" that eliminates the need for heavy cream, butter, or refined white flour, leaving room for plenty of cheese.
We sauté the broccoli with a little garlic and onion for depth, then simmer everything together until tender. A third of the mixture gets pureed to add another layer of creaminess—but not so much that we lose those chunky bits of broccoli. Then the soup is finished with plenty of extra-sharp cheddar cheese.
Classic: 486 calories per cup 40 grams total fat 24.6 grams saturated fat
Makeover: 210 calories per cup 10.3 grams total fat 5.5 grams saturated fat
Here's the one time you should overcook rice. Boil in unsalted chicken stock until soft and blown out. The more liquid the rice absorbs, the creamier and silkier it will become when blended. Bonus: Unsalted stock saves 531mg sodium.