Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Creamless "Creamy" Soups

By now you've all read me go on and on (and on and on) about trying to make my favorite creamy soups and pastas without using cream, which gives me (and apparently more than half of the adult population) tummy yuckies. I usually use other forms of dairy with less lactose, like cream cheese or yogurt. But I recently discovered I could make the most common vegan form at home super easily using my beloved Blendtec: raw cashew cream. I have nothing against dairy, but this is such a nutritious and versatile substitution. It has protein, the same types of healthy oils as olive oil, less than half the fat and calories as heavy cream, and yet tastes and behaves JUST LIKE CREAM in recipes. I now always have baggies of cashew cream in my freezer for anytime I need it.

I'll share a delicious pasta sauce I've created using cashew cream soon (I'm packing for a move and my recipe is taped up in a box stacked somewhere). First I'll share how I've used cashew cream as a direct substitute in creamy soup recipes with excellent results. Earthy, velvety "cream" of mushroom:

And smooth, tart "creamy" tomato:

I swear you can't tell the difference!

Tonight I gave cashew cream a true test: reducing the calories in cheesy broccoli soup without reducing the flavor. This is a fun, easy one, that turned out surprisingly satisfying while saving over 200 calories (nearly cut in half!) and 25 grams of fat (19 of those saturated) per bowl. A warning for those avoiding cream for different reasons than me: this is NOT a dairy free, vegan recipe!

"Creamy" Broccoli Cheese Soup

Serves 4-6.

1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
2 14oz packages frozen broccoli, thawed
4 cups low sodium chicken broth
1 cup cashew cream
1 cup 1% cottage cheese
1 1/2 cups 2% cheddar cheese, shredded

In a large, heavy bottomed pot or Dutch oven sprayed with cooking spray, cook onion over medium-high heat until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add broccoli florets and chicken broth, cover, and simmer until broccoli is tender, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, puree cashew cream with cottage cheese and set aside. Once broccoli is tender, puree soup in two batches, return to pot, and whisk in cashew cream and cottage cheese mixture. Return to simmer, then slowly whisk in shredded reduced-fat cheddar cheese. Season liberally with salt and pepper to taste. Optional: top with croutons or shredded Parmesan cheese.

Next, the ultimate test to see if cashew cream has really returned all my favorites to me: Clam Chowder. I hardly dare hope, yet I'm giddily optimistic!