Monday, March 29, 2010

HALLELUJAH! Cheddar Ale Soup!

I'm finally feeling better! I'm sure that one of these days, I'll get myself back into a regular schedule with blogging. I've been cooking again and doing a GREAT BIG craft project that I just finished this weekend and will post later this week.

If you've been hanging around here longer than a few months, you know I've been on a pretty successful weight loss journey (thanks to Weight Watchers) since November of 2008. Before I found out I was pregnant, I had lost 46 pounds. By the end of my first trimester, I lost another ten pounds--that's how gross I felt!! In some ways, it was quite exciting to see that number keep dropping, but also a bit horrifying. My doctor wasn't worried (and I still have at least another 20 pounds to lose in addition to whatever I gain once I deliver baby number two), so I tried not to be worried either.

I'm still trying to make good food choices a majority of the time, since I am determined not to wind up where I started. But I am allowing myself to indulge every once in a while and that's where this recipe comes in. It is UBER delicious, but not even close to a recipe I'd normally eat anything more than an itty bitty cup once a month! But for now, I shall eat a cup for lunch and a cup for dinner and maybe even a cup for breakfast. Uh, bleh, garp, urg. Nope. Still a little sensitive at times.

Now, without further ado...

Cheddar Ale Soup

1 tsp vegetable or extra light olive oil
1 large onion, chopped finely
4 carrots, chopped finely
4 celery ribs, chopped finely
3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 stick butter
1/2 cup flour
16 oz pale ale, such as Bass or Sierra Nevada
3 cups chicken stock
1 tsp salt
1 quart (4 cups) half & half
6 cups sharp cheddar cheese (block cheese that you buy and shred yourself melts MUCH better than pre-shredded cheese—it’s totally worth the work)
1/4 cup flour
optional toppings: sliced green onions, crumbled bacon, popped popcorn, crackers, croutons, whatever!

Heat oil in skillet over medium to medium-high heat. Add carrots, onions, celery, and a pinch of salt. Sweat the vegetables for 8 –10 minutes or until the vegetables are soft. Add garlic and cook for another 2 minutes. Remove veggies and puree in a blender or food processor, if desired. I like a little bit of texture, so I just used an immersion blender once the veggies were added back into the soup.

Melt butter over medium-high heat in the same pan. Add flour and cook for 5 to 7 minutes or until the roux is a golden color. Slowly add the chicken stock and beer, wisking to combine. Add salt, cooked vegetables, and stir.

Shred cheese and toss with 1/4 cup flour. This helps the cheese melt properly.

Add half and half to pan, stirring constantly and heat until the mixture is hot, but DO NOT BOIL. Remove from heat and stir in the cheese, one handful at a time, stirring after each handful to incorporate.

Ta-daaaaa! Your delicious soup is ready to eat, but tastes even better reheated! Top with whatever your heart desires and enjoy!

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