Cheddar Ale Soup with Bacon and Garlic Croutons

There will come a time, approximately 72 hours from now, that the thought of another piece of turkey will make you want to cry. The idea of one more bite of stuffing, or another mountain of mashed potatoes smothered in gravy, will make you groan in discomfort. I CAN’T TAKE ANY MORE GREEN BEAN CASSEROLE, you’ll think. And at that point, you’ll be thankful for this recipe – for something warm, comforting, and cheesy, that has NOTHING to do with a Thanksgiving table. It’ll be perfect to make on Saturday morning, and keep warm on the stove while you decorate the Christmas tree… and then to heat up the leftovers on Sunday afternoon, when you’re so burned out on cooking that you can barely even LOOK at food. Pick up the ingredients when you make that last run to the grocery store on Thursday morning, because you forgot chicken stock… you’ll be glad you did.

Cheddar Ale Soup with Bacon and Garlic Croutons

Cheddar Ale Soup with Bacon and Garlic Croutons
serves 4-6

4 T butter
2 medium leeks
2 medium carrots, diced small
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups chicken stock
2 cups whole milk
12oz bottle of ale
1 T worcestershire
1.5 t ground mustard
8oz sharp white cheddar, grated
8oz monterey jack, grated*
6 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
6oz bread, cubed
olive oil
garlic powder
kosher salt
black pepper

*Two notes about the cheese. First: DO NOT use pre-grated cheese. You definitely want to grate your own cheese for this soup, so you get a nice, smooth texture. Second: if you LOVE sharp cheddar cheese, you can certainly use all cheddar cheese in the soup. I found it to be a bit too sharp for my taste that way, so next time I’ll make it with half sharp cheddar and half monterey jack, as indicated in this recipe.

Cheddar Ale Soup with Bacon and Garlic Croutons

1.) First, you need to clean your leeks. Grab a large bowl, and fill it 3/4 of the way with cold water. Cut the roots and dark green parts off the leeks, then cut them in half lengthwise. Cut those halves into 1/4″ thick half moon slices, and toss them into the bowl of water. Use your hands to break up the leaves and swish them around. Allow the leeks to sit in the water for about 5 minutes longer, without disturbing them.

2.) Heat a large pot over medium heat. Add the butter; once it has melted and browned just slightly, add the carrots, and stir to coat with the butter. Gently grab handfuls of the leeks from the water (being careful not to disturb the water too much), squeeze as much excess water out as you can, and add them to the pot. Discard the dirty water left behind by the leeks.

3.) While the vegetables cook, prep your croutons. Preheat your oven to 375°; line a baking sheet with foil, and add the cubed bread to it. Toss the bread with a couple teaspoons of olive oil, a couple good shakes of garlic powder, and a good pinch of kosher salt. Spread the bread into a single layer on the baking sheet, and bake for about 10 minutes, until golden brown.

4.) Allow the vegetables to sweat and cook down for about 5 minutes, seasoning with a pinch each of salt and pepper. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about a minute.

5.) Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables, and stir to coat. Let the vegetable and flour mixture cook for about 2 minutes, so the raw flour taste can cook out. Pour in the beer, and scrape the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon, to lift any browned bits.

Cheddar Ale Soup with Bacon and Garlic Croutons

6.) Slowly pour in the milk and stock, whisking as you do. Once all the liquids have been added, add the worcestershire and ground mustard, and another pinch each of salt and pepper. Allow the soup to come to a simmer, and let it simmer til it thickens slightly, about 5-10 minutes.

7.) Turn the heat to low, and add the cheese to the soup in 4 or 5 batches, whisking each addition into the soup completely before adding the next. When all the cheese had been added, allow the soup to heat back through over low heat (about 5 minutes), and then serve topped with bacon and croutons.

Cheddar Ale Soup with Bacon and Garlic Croutons

Not much better in life than a soup with an entire pound of cheese in it, am I right?? This soup is velvety and rich and cheesy, but somehow it manages not to be super heavy. The croutons add a nice crunch, and the bacon lends some smoke… and the cheese makes it cheesy, because cheese was sent to us directly from heaven, to make us happy, and so we should use it at every available opportunity. Or something like that. Either way, this soup is fantastic and super tasty, and it contains no trace of turkey or stuffing or cranberry sauce, so it’s the perfect way to reintroduce yourself to the world of non-Thanksgiving food. You’re welcome.

Cheese is my copilot,

tortellini sausage soup.

Greeting from the half of South Carolina that has shut down in anticipation for a huge snow storm! We are very busy watching overcast skies in 40 degree weather, awaiting snow. And so, I thought I’d share a tasty soup you might want to make in the middle of your own polar vortex. Yes, I’m sharing a soup. Try to contain your shock.

tortellini sausage soup.

Tortellini Sausage Soup.
via Mel’s Kitchen Cafe

3 links Italian sausage
4 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 onion, diced
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup apple cider
1 15oz can diced tomatoes
1 8oz can tomato sauce
1 cup chopped carrots
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
2 medium zucchini, grated
2 tbsp dried parsley
8-10 oz package refrigerated or frozen cheese tortellini

Heat a large pot over medium heat. Remove sausage from casings and add to skillet, breaking it up and getting it nice and brown. Add onion and garlic, and cook until onions are translucent and the sausage is cooked through.

Add chicken broth, cider, tomatoes, sauce, carrots, basil and oregano. Bring to a simmer, cover, and let simmer for 30 minutes. Stir in zucchini and parsley, and simmer another 10 minutes. Add tortellini and cook another 5-6 minutes, or until tortellini are done. Serve immediately.

I know, I know: you’re turning your nose up at the grated zucchini, but don’t leave these out. Grating them takes 2 minutes and it’s a great way to bulk up the soup!

Where’s the snow?

Baked Potato Soup

Well, friends… 2014 is upon us. Crazy that yet another year has passed, isn’t it?! Regardless of your plans for this evening – whether you’re going to dance and drink the night away, or order some pizzas and watch a few movies, or crawl into bed at 9:30, waving goodbye to 2013 as you do – I feel like New Year’s Day is a day designed for laying around the house, being lazy, and relaxing. And what goes better with a day spent on the couch, than comfort food?? This baked potato soup is warm, and rich, and filling – and not terribly labor intensive, either. So, whip up a batch of this soup this evening, put it in the fridge – and then, when you roll out of bed around 11am tomorrow (or 6am, for those of you with kids – ouch), pop it back on to the stove to warm up while you dress yourself in your finest sweatpants and thickest, warmest socks. Relax, and enjoy!

Baked Potato Soup

Baked Potato Soup
serves 4-6

6 slices bacon
6 medium russet potatoes (about 2.5 pounds total), diced
2 medium carrots, diced
1 medium yellow onion, diced
4 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup heavy cream
salt and pepper

Sour cream/greek yogurt
grated cheddar cheese
sliced green onions
hot sauce

Baked Potato Soup

1.) Chop the bacon into 1/2″ pieces, and add to a cold, heavy-bottomed pot. Place the pot over medium heat, and cook the bacon until crisp. Remove the bacon to a paper-towel lined plate with a slotted spoon, and drain off all but 2 tablespoons of the bacon grease.

2.) Add the carrots to the hot pot; allow them to cook for 3-4 minutes, until the edges are browned and the carrots are beginning to soften. Then, add the onion, and saute for another 2-3 minutes. Season with a pinch each of kosher salt and pepper.

3.) Add the potatoes and chicken stock to the pot, along with a heaping teaspoon of kosher salt. Bring the soup to a boil, then lower to a simmer, cover the pot, and simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.

4.) Once the vegetables and potatoes are nice and tender, you can either choose to leave the soup chunky, or to blend it; personally, I prefer to blend it. I use an immersion blender, but you can also transfer it in batches to a regular blender (be sure to leave at least 1/3 of the blender carafe empty to allow for expansion, and take the round disk out of the center of the lid; cover the hole with a dish towel).

5.) When you’ve blended the soup, return it to the heat; add the cream, stir to combine, and taste for seasoning. If it tastes a bit bland, you need more salt!

Baked Potato Soup

Portion the soup into bowls, and add your choice of toppings! I like to go with a classic baked potato style – greek yogurt, shredded cheddar, crumbled bacon, and some sliced green onions – but this soup is a great base for all kinds of additions. You could try some roasted broccoli and cheddar cheese, some bacon and pickled jalapeños, or whatever else you can dream up!

Soup and sweatpants: a marriage made in heaven,

White Bean Minestrone with Parmesan and Garlicky Croutons

Well, friends, I have been sick for over a week now. And I tell you what – I am sick and tired of being sick and tired! I’ve alternated between making comfort foods (like this tomato soup), snacking on whatever sounded good when I had no appetite, and ordering takeout on the days that cooking seemed an insurmountable task. Finally, I hauled myself to the grocery store on Sunday (my most sincere apologies to anyone who had to witness my sneezing, snotty, slightly-green-faced self), and loaded my cart up with all kinds of stuff to make a veggie-packed, comforting minestrone soup. I am not always much of a soup person, but a big bowl of soup filled with vegetables and pasta and lots of parmesan sounded like just the thing I needed.

White Bean Minestrone with Parmesan and Garlicky Croutons

Added bonus: it was pretty darn quick to make! So, about the time I felt the need to retire to my fainting couch for a rest, everything was in the pot and ready for a simmer. Excellent.

White Bean Minestrone with Parmesan and Garlicky Croutons
serves 4-6

5 slices of bacon, cut into 1/2″ pieces
3 medium carrots, peeled and diced small
1 large yellow onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
15oz can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
two 15oz cans petite diced tomatoes, with liquid
1/2 lb green beans, trimmed and cut into 1″ pieces
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 3-4″ parmesan rind*
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp kosher salt (or more, to taste)
1/2 tsp black pepper
8oz small pasta, cooked until al dente
Freshly grated parmesan

For the croutons:
one 3-4 oz ciabatta roll, cut into 1″ cubes
1 T olive oil
kosher salt
garlic powder

*Even if you are not in the habit of buying fresh chunks of parmesan, this soup would be a good reason to start. The rind of the parmesan adds a lot of flavor to the soup as it simmers, and it would be tough to pull comparable flavor from simply adding parmesan to the soup. As I go through parmesan, I just throw the rinds into a plastic ziploc bag, and keep them in the freezer for use later. If you don’t already have a rind waiting for you, just cut it off the fresh chunk of cheese you bring home from the store, and use it right away!

1.) Add the bacon pieces to a large, heavy-bottomed pot, and turn the heat to medium. Allow the bacon to cook until crisp, and then remove to a paper towel-lined plate with a slotted spoon. Drain off all but one tablespoon of the bacon grease.

2.) Add the carrots and onion to the pot, stirring to coat with the bacon grease. Season with a pinch of salt, and cook until softened, about 4-5 minutes. Add the garlic, and cook until fragrant, about one minute more.

3.) Pour the tomatoes and chicken stock into the pot, and bring the soup to a boil; immediately reduce to a simmer. Add the cannellini beans, green beans, parmesan rind, oregano, and pepper to the pot, and allow everything to simmer for about 15 minutes, until the green beans are bright green, and crisp-tender.

4.) While the soup simmers, make your croutons. Preheat your oven to 350°, and line a small baking sheet with foil. Pour the olive oil over the bread cubes, and toss until all the cubes are well coated. Sprinkle the croutons with the kosher salt and garlic powder, and bake until golden brown, about 10 minutes.

5.) When the soup is ready, spoon some pasta into the bottom of the bowls, and then ladle the soup over it. Top with some of the reserved bacon, croutons, and a sprinkle of freshly grated parmesan.

White Bean Minestrone with Parmesan and Garlicky Croutons

This soup covers a lot of bases: salty (parmesan and bacon), crispy (croutons), creamy (pasta and beans), and healthy (lots of veggies)! The crisp green beans lent a nice freshness to the soup, as well. One small side note: if you are planning to serve ALL of the soup immediately, you could add the pasta (already cooked) right into the soup a few minutes before serving, so it just warms through. However, if you’re planning on having leftovers, I find it’s best to keep the pasta separate from the soup, and just add it right before serving; that way, the pasta doesn’t get soggy and mushy from soaking in the soup.

Fingers crossed a few servings of this soup will kick the tail end of this illness,