Eating for Life | Fat-free half-and-half adds creamy texture to potato soup

10/09/2012 1:00 PM

05/16/2014 7:55 PM

Editor’s note: This column originally ran in 2008.

Choosing a tall, cool glass of skim milk is a smart move that can significantly reduce your saturated fat intake over time. But when it comes to a cream-based soup, skim milk just doesn’t have enough heft.

The Star’s

Potato, Leek and Cheese Soup

relies on fat-free half-and-half to cut the fat yet maintain a silken texture that glides over the tongue.

Half-and-half is a luxurious combination of whole milk and cream. According to the USDA, whole milk contains 3.5 percent fat and heavy cream contains 36 percent fat. Half-and-half typically contains 10.5 percent to 18 percent fat.

But in recent years, fat-free versions of half-and-half have become available. Like reduced-fat cheeses, initial reactions to the taste and texture have been mixed.

In “The Food Lover’s Companion” (Barron’s), Sharon Tyler Herbst describes fat-free half-and-half as “an oxymoronically named product” that combines skim milk with corn syrup and thickeners such as carrageenan to give it the texture of cream. Compared to the real deal, the calories are cut in half but the sodium doubles.

At one point inquiring minds at America’s Test Kitchen, creators of Cook’s Illustrated Magazine and

, wanted to know if a fat-free version could serve as a plausible stand-in.

Their tasters decided it could, with one important caveat: Choose Land O’Lakes Fat Free Half Half. The tasters found other brands had a chemical aftertaste and curdled when added to cream of broccoli soup.

• Preparation tips:

Leeks resemble green onions on steroids. Grown in sandy soil, they often have dirt trapped between the layers.

To remove grit, slice leek lengthwise, without cutting through the bottom layer. Place leeks in a bowl of water and fan the layers, swishing until the grit settles to the bottom of bowl.

If you use a blender instead of a food processor, be sure to allow the soup to cool before pureeing.  

Potato, Leek and Cheese Soup

Makes 6 servings 1 tablespoon canola oil 3 medium leeks, thinly sliced (white and light green parts) 1 pound russet potatoes, peeled and chopped into 1/2 -inch cubes 2 (14.5-ounce) cans fat-free reduced-sodium chicken broth 1/3 cup fat-free half-and-half 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard 1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper 1 1/2 cups shredded 2 percent Cheddar cheese Chives or chopped flat-leaf parsley (for garnish)

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium high heat. Add leeks and cook 3 to 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add potatoes, chicken broth, half-and-half, mustard and pepper. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to simmer and cook 15 minutes or until potatoes are tender.

Add cheese and stir until melted. Transfer soup in small batches to a food processor and blend until smooth. Keep soup warm until ready to serve. Just before serving, garnish with chives or chopped flat-leaf parsley.

Per 1-cup serving: 193 calories (19 percent from fat), 4 grams total fat (1 gram saturated), 6 milligrams cholesterol, 23 grams carbohydrates, 15 grams protein, 384 milligrams sodium, 2 grams dietary fiber.


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