For the first few months of this year, I got on a soup kick with my crock pot, trying out different soups from Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook and The Gourmet Slow Cooker: Simple and Sophisticated Meals from Around the World. The recipe I made on February 10 was from Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook: Slow-Cooked Broccoli Soup with Garlic and Olive Oil. The cookbook describes this recipe as an "Italian peasant soup," so I figured it must be cheap to make!
It was also really easy to make because after chopping the broccoli florets and thinly slicing the stems, you just throw all the other ingredients into the slow cooker: olive oil, sliced garlic, fresh thyme (the recipe says you can use fresh or dried, thyme or marjoram -- I chose to use fresh thyme), vegetable or chicken broth, dry white wine, and lemon juice. Then, you mix it all together and cook on low for five to six hours. You really can't get any easier than that!
I actually made the soup twice, once with the chicken broth and once with vegetable broth, because I bought too much broccoli the first time. It ended up being a pretty good soup both times. Now, after it's done cooking, you're supposed to mash the broccoli against the side, but honestly after I did that once or twice I said, "This is going to take too long, forget it." It didn't really matter all that much that I hadn't mashed the broccoli. But, I would like to try this soup with the immersion blender that my fiance and I received as a wedding gift, which the cookbook lists as another option if you want a smoother soup.
Before serving the soup, you season it with salt and pepper to taste and top it with grated Parmesan cheese. Overall, I really enjoyed this soup, but I found it necessary to add a bunch of the Parmesan cheese to really get a good flavor -- it's a bit bland otherwise. The other complaint I had is that you don't get enough protein with this meal and even with a large salad (as you see to the right), I found myself still hungry an hour or so after eating this soup. I think it might be better as an appetizer than as a full meal.
Now, this recipe says that it serves six and I got exactly six servings out of each batch I made. Using the chicken broth, that comes out to about 238 calories per serving; using the vegetable broth, 215 calories per serving. I'd also estimate that I added 75-90 calories per serving with the cheese that I added, but since I didn't measure exactly, I can't really tell. But actually, the largest calorie item is the olive oil!
In terms of cost, since I had many of the ingredients already, this fit really well into my budget. I already had olive oil, garlic, chicken broth, and lemon on hand, and I had the Parmesan cheese and fresh thyme left over from the Tuscan White Bean Soup. So, it actually only cost me about $1.46 per serving for the chicken broth version and $2.33 per serving for the vegetable broth version! Of course, those numbers don't really give an accurate picture of the cost of the soup as a whole. I'd estimate $3.79 per serving for the chicken broth version and $4.12 per serving for the vegetable broth version! Overall, not bad on a budget if you're eating this as a meal, but I'd recommend only having it as an appetizer or side.