1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme or parsley
8 cups chopped broccoli (stems and florets)
2 cups water
4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth, “no-chicken” broth (see Note) or vegetable broth
1/2 cup half-and-half (optional)
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste


Add chopped onions, carrots, and garlic in nonstick pan and cook for 5 minutes with a little olive oil, stirring occasionally until softened.
In a medium-sized cooking pot, add 4 cups water and chicken bouillon granules and bring to boil. Add precooked onion mixture to soup pot. Add broccoli florets, reserving a few pieces to be added near the end of cooking time. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 15 to 20 minutes or until broccoli is just tender.
In a blender or food processor, puree soup in batches and return to pot. Stir in skim milk and remaining broccoli florets.
In a cup, mix flour with 1/4 cup cold water to form a thin liquid.
Bring soup to boil; add flour mixture slowly, stirring constantly to thicken soup as desired. Add soy sauce, black pepper, chili pepper and stir well.

Garnish with parsley or carrot curls. Serve soup hot or cold.