Last week one of my daughters tried an easy potato soup recipe that she'd found on Pinterest, one of those open-a-couple-of-cans-and-pour-them-in-the-crockpot type recipes. It's definitely easy, but I thought I'd work on a healthier, but still pretty easy, version for her.
The original recipe consisted of half a package of frozen hash-brown potatoes, a can of cream of chicken soup, a container of chicken broth, a package of shredded cheddar cheese and a block of cream cheese. Dump it all in the crockpot and cook for three hours. Definitely easy. My healthier version is still be an easy meal to fix, although it requires making a cream base from scratch, a little more time-consuming but still easy once you know how.
I started by swapping the frozen hash browns for a quart of home-canned potatoes, but frozen potatoes (either hash browns or chunks) would still be acceptable. Homemade chicken broth was used instead of a purchased container of broth. I grated a block of cheddar cheese. I opted not to use cream cheese but if I did, I'd cut it into smaller chunks before adding to the crockpot. And since I don't use "cream of" soups, I made a cream base instead.
In a small skillet, I melted two tablespoons of butter. When the butter melted I added a quarter cup of flour and whisked the two together until smooth.
I resisted buying a whisk for so many years. I'm not sure why, maybe because I was "being frugal". I wish I'd bought one earlier, it's so much easier to make soups and sauces with one.
I let the butter and flour cook a bit to remove the "raw flour" taste: letting this brown slightly will give it a deeper, nutty flavor, but don't let it burn. Next I added a cup of cream and used the whisk to blend it well and prevent any lumps. Once this was bubbly I added another cup of milk and the homemade chicken broth and whisked it all together. This was simmered and stirred until it began to bubble and became thick.
I transferred the mixture to the crockpot and added the shredded cheese. This is when I would add the cream cheese, if I were including it. My daughter said that the cream cheese didn't melt evenly in the original version of the soup, and it couldn't be stirred vigorously because of the potatoes. We decided that the potatoes could be added after the cream cheese and cheddar cheese melted and the soup was stirred and combined well. Frozen hash browns are pre-cooked so the length of time they cook in the soup isn't critical. If you're using home-canned potatoes, they've already been partially cooked in the pressure-canning process.
So, let all the ingredients except the potatoes cook until the cream cheese is melted, then stir it all extremely well so the cream cheese and grated cheddar cheese are completely melted and combined, and then gently stir in the potatoes. If it's a bit too thick, you can stir in more chicken broth or milk to thin it to the right consistency before adding the potatoes. Continue to cook in the crockpot for 2-3 hours on Low, then serve.
Of course, the addition of sea salt, pepper, crumbled bacon, a garnish of a little more shredded cheddar cheese, and a dollop of sour cream would make any bowl of potato soup taste incredible.
Potatoes, either a quart of home-canned potatoes or a small package of frozen potatoes
Chicken broth, a quart of homemade or a container of store-bought
2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
8 oz cream cheese, cut into small pieces
2 Tbsp butter
1/4 cup flour
1 cup cream
1 cup milk
Sea salt and pepper to taste
Melt the butter in a small skillet, then add the flour. Whisk till smooth and cook for a minute or two, stirring constantly. Whisk in the cream. Add milk and chicken broth and stir, using whisk.
Transfer to crockpot. Add cheddar cheese and cream cheese. Cook on Low until the cream cheese melts. Stir until the cream cheese is incorporated. Thin if needed with milk or additional chicken broth. Gently add potatoes, cook for 2-3 hours on Low. Add sea salt and pepper to taste and serve. Garnish with crumbled cooked bacon, grated cheese, and a dollop of sour cream.
Variations: Substitute half-and-half or milk for the cream if you wish. You could also add chopped onions and carrots to the melted butter and cook until soft, then add the flour and proceed with the directions. If you add onions and carrots you'll need to cook the soup longer, until the carrots are done.
Soup Recipe Roundup
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