Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Cheese Soup, gluten free with carrots, peas and potatoes

I woke up this morning to cold rain, dark skies and wind.  There were snowflakes mixing with the rain.  It is soup weather!  I felt like welcoming fall.  There’s nothing better than hot soup, hot fresh bread and warm apple cider on a cold, wet fall day.

When I was young, I thought I hated soup, and I still hate the soup that comes out of a can.  As an adult I have learned to love a thick hearty soup or stew loaded with veggies and flavor.  My mom used to make a cheese chowder, potatoes and onions in a cream soup base with cheddar cheese.  I got married and moved away and started cooking for my own family.  A sweet old lady in my new neighborhood taught me how to make her cheese soup.  It’s really a thick chowder, but she called it soup and I’ve stuck with it.

Over the years, I’ve changed and adapted the recipe to meet my family’s tastes and my goals in cooking.  One of the things I feel strongly about in a soup or stew is vegetables.  When I make soup for dinner, I don’t want to also make a plate of veggies.  I want to feel like my family is getting good nutrition with their good flavor and I’d prefer not to wash any extra dishes!  I also love color.  I think food should look good as well as taste good and smell good and be good for you.
I like to make a big crock full and freeze the extra so that I have a handy dinner for a crazy day.  It’s easy to scale it down to a smaller batch if this is too much for you, just use proportions.  I like to dice my veggies fairly small, that way I can have a bit of everything in every bite.
(printable recipe)
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First spray the inside of the crock pot with Non-Stick spray to make clean up easier
6-8 Medium potatoes peeled and diced.  (This will fill not quite half my crock pot.)
2 lbs of Carrots, peeled and diced. (about ¼ of my crock pot)
10-15 stalks of celery diced. (about the same amount as the carrots)
1 onion, finely diced
1-2 Tablespoons salt to taste
1-2 teaspoons to taste

Add chicken broth to fill the pot halfway.  I like to use Better Than Bullion in place of canned broth or stock, it lets me adjust the flavor to my taste and is gluten free.  I use 1-2 Tablespoons and 2-3 cups water.

Put the lid on the crock and turn the pot on low if you are cooking it all day, high if you need it done sooner.  It will take 5-6 hours on high.

When the vegetables are tender, 30-60 minutes before serving, combine 1/3 cup Clear Jel (Modified corn starch) with about 2 cups of milk, stir well and then stir into the vegetables.  Stir it for a few minutes and when it has thickened you can adjust the thickness by adding more Clear Jel to make it thicker or plain milk to thin it out.   Remember when adding milk that you will still be putting in cheese and peas and leave yourself room.

*note- I use Clear Jel because it doesn’t separate out and get lumpy when it’s refrigerated or frozen.  You can usually find it at kitchen stores and you can buy it online.  There are different forms, I prefer the regular Clear Jel over the instant for this application.
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10 Minutes before serving stir in about 12 oz shredded cheddar cheese.  Keep a little out to garnish bowls with.  Right before serving, stir in one small bag of frozen peas.  The peas will cook without getting mushy and they will bring the temperature of the soup down to eat immediately.  Top with a small dollop of sour cream and some bacon crumbles and cheese and enjoy!
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While the soup was cooking, I remembered the bread bowls my mom used to serve the cheese chowder in, and I was wishing I had some gluten free, so I decided to tackle it, and as you can see, they came out great, so I will post the recipe!